Celebrating the diversity of digital comics with Mark Waid, Reilly Brown, Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber

This weeks we’re going to celebrate the diversity of digital comics with two titles that could not be more different, but each of which exemplify what is so great about the medium.

First up is Avengers vs X-Men #10 aka the 3rd Marvel Infinite title. Written by digital comics godfather Mark Waid and with art by Pipedream Comics favourite Reilly ‘Powerplay‘ Brown it features the kind of boombast and spectacle that comes from Marvel’s two top super teams duking it out in a summer crossover epic. Digital specific books often benefit from action rather than subtlety and AvsX #10 delivers this is spades thanks to Brown’s manga tinged artwork and his smart panel designs that he has clearly been honing in Powerplay. With a neat three tiered story that has Scarlet Witch simulating battle scenarios between the Avengers team and the Phoenix possessed Cyclops we get to see all three scenarios play out simultaneously with characters shifting in and out of shots simultaneously with some very neat transitions, giving the whole book an epic, cinematic feel. Brown still has some tricks up his sleeve for the talking head scenes though, and his use of layered pages (rather than sequential panels) along with clever use of eyes moving and heads turning within otherwise static panels give the book an animated feel, without taking away from the comic-ness of them. The balancing act of digital cleverness vs. readability is a always a tricky one but Waid and Brown and co do an excellent job here and have definitely created the best of the Infinite books so far.

At the other end of the spectrum is Thoughts from a Winter Morning by Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber. Published by MonkeyBrain Comics, there are no superhero slugfests or sophisticated digital trickery in this book, just a man,  a dog and his memories.  This autobiographical ‘slice of life’ book is a sublime slice of Americana that sees Busiek reminisce on childhood past and look forward to the future with the story brilliantly realised by Steve Lieber’s expert linework and subtle use of colour.

In days gone by this would simply have been one of many entries in an anthology that relied on Busiek’s name value (along with several others) to get it solicited and published. (In fact that was how this story first existed in NEGATIVE BURN published in 2004). However thanks to the growth of digital and the opportunities it now gives to smaller publishers like MonkeyBrain to release personal and intimate books without worrying about solicitation and distribution, it can now get to exist as its own entity and enjoyed as such. Sure it helps that it is written by a name talent like Busiek but for every book like this that does, it helps make it possible for other MonkeyBrain titles (like the brilliant Masks And Mobsters, also released this week) to get attention. And it is that open market where quality has room to breathe which is as exciting in the world of digital comics as the large scale advances at Marvel Infinite.

Both Avengers vs. X-Men #10 and Thoughts From A Winter Morning are available on ComiXology