The art of writing a Christmas special isn’t easy. Whatever medium you’re working in the need to avoid mawkishness, sentimentality or twee cliche is a tricky one to get right, so what do you do if you are Britain’s leading sci-fi comic? Well in the case of the 2000AD Christmas Special they have gone for quantity rather than seasonal themed merriment. This bumper issue features 100+ pages, to keep you going over the festive period, and is packed with the usual high quality action adventure you would expect. With several epic stories coming to their conclusion in the last few months,  new series and story arcs begin with this issue, and so there has never been a better time to get into 2000AD

Back in August we reviewed the sublime Thoughts on a Winter Morning from Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber and published by digital only imprint MonkeyBrain comics. This was one of those highly personal and deeply charming books that make you cherish the depth on offer in the world of digital comics and now MonkeyBrain have done it again and released another, equally wonderful, but delightfully simple book in the shape of The Stars Below by Zack Smith and Rich Ellis.

If I were to describe this as a dialogue free, black and white book about a pigeon, you would justifiably be a bit wary and think that sounds incredibly dull, but that is to do this book a huge disservice. Yes, it is a book about a pigeon, and yes it has no dialogue or colour, but it is utterly compelling and quite mesmerising. Smith’s pacing of the story is sublime, with subtle scene setting, dynamic action and a sweet ending. Meanwhile Ellis’s work oozes charm and character making the pigeon’s emotions clear without ever resorting to cartoonish anthropomorphism.  With some beautiful and clever layouts, including a splash page of the bird being chased through an office block by an eagle and a brilliant Will Eisner inspired final page, this is a real showcase for Ellis’s deft touch.

Although this book might not sound like everyones cup of tea, at the bargain price of 69p means it is well worth downloading and will charm and delight in equal measures while reminding you that not every comic has to be packed full of supernatural scares and superhero slugfests be utterly wonderful.

The Stars Below is available from MonkeyBrain comics on ComiXology for 69p

This week sees the debut of Dan Goldman’s Red Light Properties published via MonkeyBrain comics. This tripped out psychedelic supernatural sleuthing book, is a perfect fit for the MonkeyBrain imprint and sees the first four titles available to download in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

With its story of psychic estate agents who clean up previously haunted properties in order make them saleable (or green lighted) Red Light Properties is a haunting mix of supernatural whodunnit with a surreal drugged out quality – in a large part thanks to lead character Jude’s reliance on psychedelics in order to waken the spirits. It’s eclectic mix of styles makes it feel like a strange mix of classic UK TV show Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, mixed with Stephen Kings the Shining and given a Grant Morrison style psychedelic makeover under the hot Miami sun.  Goldman’s mixed media art style combines stylised line work with photographic backgrounds and digital rendering helps further the other worldly feel to the book, as does the use of landscape pages which allows Goldman’s layouts to have a real confidence to them and work brilliantly as a digital product.

Having graced the pages of 2000AD since 1977, Judge Dredd is a quintessentially British comic book creation, mixing bleak dystopian science-fiction with sharp satire and a black, often odd-ball, sense of humour. Getting the recipe right is a fine art that only a handful of greats have managed to do with aplomb. Which brings us to this, the first issue of a new ongoing Judge Dredd series from IDW Publishing. This is the second attempt at bringing the Mega City lawman to a wider (i.e. US) audience, after a short run with DC in the early 1990s. But as is often the case when Dredd is taken out of the safe confines of his homeland it is never quite the same, and with this new incarnation it looks like Dredd, it reads like Dredd, but there’s something missing.

Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder reminds you, that underneath their superhero hyperbole comics truly are still an art form, capable of telling intelligent, emotive and highly personal tales without resorting to twee cliche. On the surface this tale of the titular sub mariner is a Twilight Zone style supernatural mystery about a diver who discovers a mysterious pocket watch at the bottom of the ocean and the strange link it has to his past, in particular his missing father who disappeared on Halloween in mysterious circumstances. But this rather circumspect synopsis does not do the plot justice as under the surface are fathoms worth of hidden depths that make this a truly wonderful read.

You wait for ages for a book with a big blue cartoon guardian angel in and then two come along at once. However IDW’s Memorial: Imaginary Friends  by Chris Roberson and Rich Ellis could not be more different from Grant Morrison’s Happy, even though its main characters share a similar hue!

Imaginary Friends is the follow up to IDW’s charming Memorial series from last year and has a very classic fairy tale feel to it. Reminiscent of 80s classics like a Neverending Story or Labyrinth with a hint of the Narnia books and a generous dose of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman for good measure, this new instalment introduces Jonathan who is struggling to look after his senile mother and trying to figure out why she is drawing pictures of his childhood imaginary best friend, – an 8 foot blue dinosaur called Nox. When his daughter is kidnapped, Jonathan discovers Nox has entered the real world and they must set off to rescue  her with the help of Em, Peter and Schodinger the cat, who are alerted to this improbable arrival and offer to help rescue his daughter from the sinister world of Maybe

Although it doesn’t offer the reader anything particularly new and original, Memorial’s charming artwork and sweet, simple  story makes it a really fun read. Released fortnightly as digital exclusives these 10 page mini issues are a bargain  at 69p and really make the most of it’s simple adventure based plot which  will definitely keep you coming back for more as we learn yet more about Em and the world of Maybe.

Memorial: Imaginary Friends is available via the ComiXology app or via the IDW publishing app and the first Memorial story is available here.

With it being Halloween this month there could be only one choice for app of the month – the brilliant It’s The great Pumpkin Charlie Brown from Loud Crow Interactive. If like us, you grew up loving the comic strip adventures of Charles M Schultz’s Peanuts then this is the app you. Based on the classic 1960s cartoon version, this interactive book features all your favourites from Charlie Brown and Snoopy to Lucy and Linus and re-tells the classic ‘Great Pumpkin’ story as a sublime interactive storybook for your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

To celebrate Madefire’s inclusion in Apple’s iPad mini presentation this week,  we thought we’d round up the latest batch of titles from the current top dog in digital comics.  Regular readers will know we’re big fans of their app and following on from the initial prologue releases Liam Sharp and company have been steadily unleashing a menagerie of fantastic characters and new titles – from robot men, vampire girls and villainous kidnapper who steal children across time!

According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics. Although AR is not new in the world of apps (we’ve seen it on everything from arcade games to star chart apps) it is definitely at the cutting of edge of what can we be done in terms of digital comics. Marvel Comics have cut their teeth in the medium earlier this year, but with Anomaly we have one of the most ambitious projects  seen in recent months. This augmented reality graphic novel from writer Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin is epic in every sense of the word, and  literally sees the characters come to life from the page.

If like me, you love the darkness of classic horror movies – often the cheesier the better – then you might be interested in trying the first 3 chapters of Becoming by Brooke Burgess, published by Arcana Studio. As a fan of horror books, I don’t mind if they’re a little bit silly, in a foreign language, long or short. I can happily read pulpy, sexy shorts from the likes of Guy N. Smith and James Herbert or I can immerse myself in the longer, more thought-provoking tales of HP Loveraft and Brian Lumley. And I love a good horror comic. Whether it’s modern stuff like Dark Horse (my current favourite), Chaos! Comics‘s Evil Ernie and Lady Death, Glen Danzig’s Verotik series or legendary EC Comics from the 50s, I love horror, but something just doesn’t quite work with Becoming.