We’re going a bit retro for the pull list this week thanks to ComiXology‘s re-issue of the first 5 issues of early 90s classic Tank Girl. With its anarchic post-punk, new wave, art school spirit, Tank Girl was one of those books that seemed to transcend comics when I was a kid and became one of those characters (along with Death from the Sandman) that managed to appeal to comic fans and non-comic fans alike – especially amongst the gothy/emo teenage girls in my high school. Creator Jamie Hewlett would go on to greater commerical success with Gorillaz, his pop band team-up with Blur’s Damon Albarn, but for those in the know he was always the creator of Tank Girl first and foremost.

With its surreal and quirky pop art visuals and take no shit main character it was very much a comic of its time, so how does it stand up to the test of time? It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 25 years since TG first hit the pages of Deadline magazine, but the pages feel as fresh and vibrant as ever. In the cleaned up world of digital comics, they retain their gritty fanzine feel, but at the same time the artwork is clear and crisp and you can zoom in to really check out all the fine detail in every panel.

Even in these early stories there is still so much texture and excitement in every page that it’s great to be able to enjoy these books on such a clear screen as the iPad. However in the process it loses none of it’s attitude and free spirit – this isn’t like listening to a digitally tidied up version of Sex Pistols! If you’re already a fan then you may end up seeing some details that you never noticed before, but if this is your first time checking out Tank Girl then prepare yourself to be immersed in a hyper-kinetic world of riot girls, super tanks and randy kangaroos that is unlike anything else before or since.

Tank Girl #1-5 is available on ComiXology for £1.99 per issue

This week’s must-have digital comic was actually released last week, but it’s so good that there is nothing this week that can eclipse it. As you’ll no doubt have figured out, we’re big fans of Jonathan Hickman with The Manhattan Projects nominated for the Pipedream Pull List last month. However his latest book Secret, also released by Image Comics has exceeded even that and proves that Hickman is much than just a superhero writer as this new crime/espionage story is up there with the top dogs of the genre and goes to prove that with a compelling story you don’t need to rely on cosmic punch ups to make a great comic.

Secret starts with a bang as we join the middle of a house invasion where a man is being tortured for information by a ski mask wearing bad guy. With dramatic use of monochrome and strong red highlights, Ryan Bodenheim’s art is tightly woven but brilliantly simplistic. The opener is tense and brutal without relying on gore and ultra-violence and this feels like a theme for the rest of the book. One of the real shining lights in the book is the colour design by Michael Garland. Like The Manhattan Projects, it uses a very limited, monochrome palette with highlight colours to show emotion or certain characters and their actions, and again it works to great effect in Secret, alternating between warm yellows, cold blues and violent splashes of red.

The remaining plot is a tightly wound story of cross and double cross as our home invadee attempts to cover his tracks and is persuaded to hire a private security firm and it’s maverick investigator Grant Miller to prevent the information he revealed to embarrass himself or the company he works for. This may not sound like the most riveting of plots, and describing Miller as ‘maverick’ almost does him a disservice, but the story slowly builds throughout the issue and introduces layer after layer of plot until all the main characters are introduced and you have no idea who is the hero and who is the victim. Apart from a few scenes of action like the home invasion and a later assassination, much of the story is told with talking heads in corporate office and so it is a true triumph that this book is so compelling when set in such a sterile and lifeless environment.

With a final page reveal that makes you desperate for the next issue, Secret was a genuinely surprising book and at a time when so many super star writers are producing new titles this stands head and shoulder above them as one of the very best.

Secret is available on ComiXology or Image Comics’ app for £2.99

Depending on which part of the world you live in, America’s Got Powers is either the new book from celebrity comics fan and UK chat show host Jonathan Ross OR the new book drawn by Ultimates/Authority super-artist Bryan Hitch. It’s a curious pairing because the majority of comics fans probably won’t know (or care) who Ross is and the majority of Ross fans probably wouldn’t bother going to the trouble of searching out a comic by him. However it has managed to get them some mainstream press (such as this article in the UK Sun) and thanks to Hitch’s status as one of the true event artists working in comics at the moment this has the feeling of something very exciting.

When it comes to celebrity comics writers, there tends to be two extremes: either there’s Kevin Smith, whose run on Daredevil and Green Arrow helped revitalise the books and made a genuine contribution to those titles; Or there’s Guy Ritchie whose Gamekeeper book nominally involved him and was done purely for marketing reasons for the start-up Virgin Comics and had no real substance. Fortunately AGP falls much more into the former camp, with Ross more than acquitting himself as a comics writer (perhaps he’s been getting tips from his Hollywood script writing wife, Jane Goldman!) and having cut his teeth on the critically well received Turf in Mark Millar’s Clint, gives the whole thing a very polished feel. No doubt this was ably assisted by the experience of Hitch who has worked with the industries’ top names like Millar, Bendis and Brubaker in the past few years, however the story of a Battle Royale style game show with it’s Simon Cowell-esque mentor is clearly something that comes from the world of Ross and his celebrity connections.

The story itself sees super-powered teens pitted against each other for the chance to join America’s first super team (a la Battle Royale or Running Man) and gives the book a much more dynamic sporting feel than the usual punch ’em up superhero books that we are used to seeing Hitch draw. Although this idea of superheros as sports stars/celebrities isn’t new (just check our perennial Pipedream Comucs favourite Power Play for example) it does give Hitch the chance to stretch his artistic muscles with plenty of wide screen shots of stadiums full of people taking in the action as dozens of super-powered teens leap in and out of the frame to take on swarms of killer robots. Add in an origin story that sees a meteor strike in heart of San Francisco (the source of their super powers) and it has the epic big canvas feel that we have come to know and love from a Hitch book.

At a whopping 36 pages, AGP is a bit like a double episode at the start of of a hit American TV series and so should keep fans appetites under control as we wait for the next instalment. Hopefully the combination of part-time writer and notoriously late-running artist won’t get us waiting for too long, however with the debut story arc covering all the main bases of establishing the character America’s Got Powers is a fantastic first look at what could be a genuinely intriguing series.

Americas Got Powers is available on ComiXology or via the Image Comics app for £1.99

It’s pretty much a one horse race for must-have digital comic this week, with Marvel releasing the first of it’s new Infinite Comics. Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite #1 is the lead in to this summer’s epic crossover over starring their two big franchises going at it and is the first to exploit the new guided view technology which Marvel is claiming will revolutionise the world of digital comics. It’s written by Mark Waid who is leading something of a digital comics vanguard at the moment and has stunning art by Stuart Immonen that really begins to exploit the new features of the Infinite Comics.

As a first issue it’s all about showing off the new techniques they have developed and showing the world that this is something out of the ordinary. For a start, it’s in landscape format rather portrait and rather than the standard panel by panel view we are now familiar with on ComiXology they’ve upgraded it with smart transitions that sees panels blend together and word balloons appearing sequentially after the initial characters in order to give the artwork maximum effect. There are some great depth of field effects used as characters drop in and out of focus depending on their emphasis in the story giving the book a real animated/movie feel and while panels animate on one side of the page, other panels also change with characters eyes moving to follow the action.

All of this works great for dynamic action packed books like this, but how it will work on larger scale projects and multi-issue series has yet to be seen. In many ways it could end up being like the current vogue of 3D movies, offering a lot of bang for your buck in short bursts but adding little to the overall feel of story telling. The story of AvsX Infinite #1 is certainly not one for the ages, but works as a great way of showing off what can be done if given the means to do so. As fans of books like Powerplay, seeing this is not something new it’s merely done on a flashier, more expansive stage, however as a first step in the new digital revolution it is certainly an exciting time to be a fan of digital comics, especially when viewed on a new high resolution retina display.

Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite #1 is availble on ComiXology and Marvel for 0.69p

We love stories of self publishing digital comics here at Pipedream Comics, and we also love seeing what brilliant artwork talented artists can produce on their iPads. What’s even better though is finding out about a comic that’s written, produced and published on an iPad – which brings us to Little Robots by Raheem Nelson. A weekly web series published online every Sunday it features the antics of a group of robots, led by main character Addo and features satirical digs at pop culture and the modern world. But what’s even better the artwork is all produced digitally on an iPad. You can see the latest adventures of Addo and co at Raheem’s site and check out more of his work here,  but in the meantime we got in touch with him to find just how he goes about creating his robotic adventures.

The growth of digital comics apps for the iPad has created an exciting new market place for independent comics publishers. With regular sales promoting titles from smaller publishers, ComiXology does a great job of getting it’s readers to check and out and sample new titles with the convenience of a digital download. One such title which I was tempted to check out for the the first time recently is The Sixth Gun from Oni Press. A supernatural western it combines all your favourite elements of the classic wild west with a brilliantly gothic under current that would make HP Lovecraft or Mike Mignola proud. The man behind the title is writer Cullen Bunn, who you might be more familiar with from his run on Marvel’s Fear Itself, so I got in touch with him to ask just what the effect of digital sales are having on books like The Sixth Gun. 

Leinil Yu burst onto the comics scene in the late 90s after winning a Wizard magazine drawing board competition, but he followed that up with awesome runs on some of Marvel’s biggest titles like Wolverine and Uncanny X-Men. His spiky, unconventional style is part anime, part abstract but always phenomenally detailed and totally unique. However it was his work with Brian Bendis on Secret Invasion and Mark Millar on Ultimate Avengers that really helped bring him to the attention of mainstream comics fans. That latter run in particular helped build his relationship with Millar and developed into the fantastic creator-owned title, Superior, which was released via Icon Comics last year and is coming to a [no doubt explosive] conclusion very soon. With another collaboration with Millar called Supercrooks, launching soon I got in touch with Leinil to ask him about what it was like to work with some of the comics industry’s best writers and what was next for the man from Manilla?

The aura of a number one issue has diminished to the point of meaninglessness over the years. Whether you blame the multi format 90s where every major franchise got rebooted and relaunched or the the post-DC52/digital boom of today where there seems to be a dozen new series launched every week,  the aura of a first chapter on a journey has lost some of its magic. However just as every journey has to start with a first step, so every great comic story must start with an issue 1, which brings us to this weeks digital must-have – Saga #1 from Image Comics.

Unlike other big name writers who seem be getting a new series every other week, the start of a new Brian K Vaughan book is still something to behold. The man who created the mind bending Y: The Last Man and who helped fine tune the brilliant Lost was never going to give you a dull book but Saga is something truly exceptional. Covering epic issues of love, fate, politics, religion and loss with a generous dose of epic space battles and kings with TVs for heads the only thing which I can compare it to is the brilliant Sandman by Neil Gaiman – but in space! Just as with Gaiman’s sprawling epic, it is the combination of intelligent narrative and stunning art that makes this book stand out from the rest. In the hands of a lesser artist the could become tacky or trite, but with the deft touch of Fiona Staples it has a mature dignity that helps mark it out as something truly special. Both the characters and the world they inhabit are perfectly crafted and with the psychedelic hand drawn lettering gives it a unique feel that even Mssrs Gaiman and McKean would be proud of.

Stretching to a substantial 44 pages, the story follows Marko and Alana and the birth of their daughter into the midst of an intergalactic war. She’s a winged ‘angel’ he’s a horned ‘devil’ although it’s far more complex than those obvious stereotypes would suggest. With the two parents on either side of the conflict, this is also more that just your usual doomed love storyline as Vaughan has created a complete universe of trouble for the characters to negotiate – not to mention the trials and tribulations of parenthood. It’s not all doom and gloom though and there is a  generous dose of surreal humour and some eye popping visuals as well which make Saga well worth checking out for anyone looking for something different to the normal superheroes or space operas this week.

Saga is available via ComiXology or from the Image Comics app for £2.49.

Hellboy convention sketch by Duncan FegredoIt’s always great to see the fantastic artwork people can create on the iPad using just their fingers and a generous dose of creative flair. But it’s even better to see what comic professionals can rustle up when not working on their latest masterpiece. Last month I found this brilliant iPad painting by Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo on the WhatNot blog and was just blown away. I’ve been a huge fan of Duncan’s for as long as he has been drawing Hellboy for Dark Horse and so knew I had to get in touch with him to ask him more about his experience of painting on the iPad and also, his thoughts on drawing the devil’s son.

This week saw Apple launch it’s new iPad, with the now traditional circus of ridiculous hype followed by crushing disappointment followed by venomous online backlash. Although the Apple community may be baulking at the fact it doesn’t have a futuristic touch sensitive input interface or 24TB of storage in a thinner, faster cheaper, better design, the art community have several reasons to be very pleased with the new iPad, but just what is the fuss about this new tablet all about?