The latest book to be launched by digital publishers MoonShot Digital is comic strip Grunts by Jeff Martin. Jeff made his name with web comic HEAT, but for this new outing he has combined his love of comics with his history degree from the University of Alberta to create a unique view of a fictitious civil war, based loosely on WWI, from the point of view of those unfortunate enough to be involved. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s still some jokes and plenty of explosions along the way! We got in touch with Jeff to ask him where his inspiration for the title came from and just how difficult is it to come up with different ways to have people failing to smoke in the rain!

Grunts 1 cover from MoonShot Digital

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

Although not strictly in our remit here at Pipedream Comics, we were very excited this week by arrival of a copy of the DC Comics 75th Anniversary poster book from Quirk Books. Admittedly the book has been around since last summer and so doesn’t include the post-52 universe, but it’s still a fantastic read. Written by Robert Schnakenberg it covers the complete history of DC’s comics , dating back to 1935 and the debut issue of Fun magazine – the first comic published by eventual DC founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Each cover features a glorious full page poster with a breakdown of the books significance on the back including information about the story, characters, writers and artists. There’s everything in here from the first issue of Detective and Action Comics to the debuts of Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. One of the real highlights though is the pre-Comics Code books of the 1950s with obscure titles such as Mister District Attorney and Strange Adventures – a book which had a strange obsession with stories about scientifically altered gorillas!

It’s a brilliant visual history of DC‘s back catalogue serving as both an education for those who aren’t big fans or a walk down memory lane for those who are. With the breakdown of different titles on the back it’s a great way to remind fans that there is no such thing as a new idea and the notion of common images, themes and stories in comic books is not something new and is a key reason why companies have to keep re-inventing themselves.

As gorgeous as this is in print though, we always think forward to digital and we would love to see this become an app. Just imagine the full screen glossy covers on a retina iPad with the ability to zoom in to every tiny detail. Now that, really is the future of digital publishing completely embracing the past.

DC Comics: The 75th Anniversary Poster Book is published by Quirk Books and can be be purchased here from Amazon.

When I started Pipedream Comics over a year ago, the first people I interviewed were the very talented Steve Ellis and David Gallaher, creators of High Moon and their ComiXology Exclusive title Box 13. Well, a year on and David and Steve’s latest masterwork, The Only Living Boy has been released this week and it’s a whopping 52 page debut issue, for the bargain price of £0.69. Telling the store of Erik Farrell, a put upon young boy who ends up transported to a world of hybrid creatures who are competing for freedom in a gladiatorial conflict, Hunger Games style, its much more of a pulp adventure story in the vein of Flash Gordon or John Carter and so I wanted to ask them just where the inspiration came from and whether they still through the world of digital comics was like the wild west.

This week sees the release of INFINITY the first magazine dedicated to digital graphic novels and comics. Produced by publisher Russell Willis and the team at Panel Nine (who we interviewed back in May) a free to download Preview issue is now available via iTunes and as a subscription on Apple Newsstand. INFINITY contains roundups of the latest digital comics as well as features and interviews with creatives such as Eddie Campbell, David Lloyd and PJ Holden, discussing everything from reviving their old content for a new generation to dealing with the strict rules brought down by Apple in this new digital age.

In a previous life, INFINITY was a small press comics fanzine in the 80s published by Willis, but he’s swapped his photocopier for an iPad and relaunched INFINITY for the digital age with this free to download preview and a first issue proper available in September

When asked about the launch of INFINITY Willis commented: “Digital delivery is a huge part of the future of comics and we’re launching INFINITY to cover things as they develop, debate the key issues such as user experience, platforms and pricing, interview the key players, and provide a guide for people to the good stuff. Appropriately the magazine is specially designed for the iPad, and contains audio, video and Panel Nine’s “Panel Mode” presentation of digital comics.”

You can download INFINITY from iTunes here and for more information on Russell Willis and the 80s INFINITY check out this great article

Fresh from his star turn as ‘the other bloke’ in the Avengers Assemble movie, Clint Barton aka Hawkeye is embarking on new series of adventures under the watchful eyes of writer Matt Fraction and artists David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth. Barton has something of a chequered past in the Avengers mythos. As one of the few non-super characters in the Avengers roster he has often been used as an emotional exclamation point to give resonance to stories and as such has become something of a sacrifical lamb being killed off more times than Tony Stark has had martinis. But in the wake of his central role in the new Marvel movie and after re-establishing himself as leader of the Secret Avengers covert team he is now set for another re-invention, this time as… an ‘ordinary guy’?!

Instead of just another super-hero spin off, Fraction’s take on the Hawkeye story is to give it a very human heart turning it almost into a superhero indie book. Instead of fighting Thanos and some pan-dimensional beings, this first book focuses on him hunting down a Russian mob boss who is attempting to evict his neighbours from their down town apartment building. There are no building shattering fight scenes here though, just simple, well thought out character and story all within a single issue story arc. For some, this may not sound like the thing of greatness, but it is so well executed that you can’t help but love it. Just like Avenging Spider-man, which has breathed new life into Spider-man by keeping the stories simple and fun, Hawkeye reminds you that comics don’t have to have a universe altering multi-part crossover storyline to be effective. Sometimes a simple story about an off-duty superhero and a dog can be enough!

While Fraction delivers a story of subtlety and depth it is the stylish, almost photographic art of David Aja and Matt Hollingsworth that gives the book it’s real soul. With lingering close-ups and tight panel structures this is closer to the noir tales of Ed Brubaker’s Criminal than Brian Bendis’ Ultimates and that is the biggest compliment a book can get from us. If it continues in this vein, Hawkeye could well be one of the sleeper hits of 2012 and is definitely one of the smartest Marvel books in years.

Hawkeye is available on ComiXology for £1.99 or via the Marvel Comics app

If you’re a fan of video games and web comics then the name Penny Arcade will probably be probably be very familiar to you –  for those who aren’t well check out their site for some of the funniest online cartoons going. Poking fun at the world of games and the internet since the late 90s, writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Karahulik have carved themselves quite the niche as one of the few self-sufficient web comics online. Never ones to rest on their laurels though, Jerry and Mike have decided to dip their toes in the choppy waters of digital comics with their first release Lookouts, published in association with Cryptozoic Entertainment. It’s all part of their new Kickstarter project too, which is aiming for them to be able to finance the website (and Lookouts) without having to rely on advertising, so let’s hope they succeed as on this first offering has the potential to be something well worth developing.

The story follows the group of eponymous Lookouts who are young kids training to be guardians of their village but are more like the boy scouts of Middle Earth. As a sphinx terrorises the local road to Yarrow, killing travellers on their way, so the Lookouts‘ master Samson decides it is time to send them out on a little quest in order to earn another badge. Although the story is a little light in this first issue, writer Ben McCool,  alongside Jerry and Mike themselves,  does a great job of building this world of sphinxes, trolls and magical forest creatures. As well as a well thought out opening chapter, in order to get a more detailed insight into the world they inhabit, there’s a detailed guide to the Lookouts‘ honor badge system at the back of the book which is a really nice touch and goes to show the level of detail we could well come to expect from this book over the coming months.

However the real stars of the book are artists Robb Mommaerts and Mike Norton ably aided by colorist Rainer Petter. The style is both comic-like and cartoony, mixing manga style sharpness and European style humour, which reminded me of Asterisk in places. This helps create a fascinating tone and feel for the characters, which  is made even more vibrant thanks to some superb watercolour effects and natural brush strokes from Petter which  gives the book a really lush organic feel. Along with the quirky humour and well thought out story makes this a real book to watch going forward.

Lookouts is available on ComiXology for £1.99 and for more from the Penny Arcade team check out their website or follow them on Twitter @pa_megacorp

This weeks pull list features not one but five comics, all released by new digital imprint MonkeyBrain Comics. An imprint of MonkeyBrain books, this new line up of titles is an eclectic bunch from children’s fairy tales to post-modern superheroes via supernatural spookiness and more, featuring some of the creme de la creme of current indie talent working on creator owned titles. But what really separates MonkeyBrain Comics from other indie start ups is their competitive pricing. With four of the five titles available for 69p and one at £1.49 (but as a double issue) then these 5 titles cost less than 2 issues of Before Watchmen, so how can you go wrong?!

The new Madefire comic app from Liam Sharp and Ben Wolstenholme isn’t just the cutting edge of digital comics, it’s a completely new format – the motion comic! After speaking to Liam about it back in September last year, this week finally saw the launch of the much anticipated Madefire app and it’s first 3 titles –  Captain Stone is Missing, Mono and Treatment Tokyo. All three are prologues or first chapters to the up-coming titles that Madefire are planning to launch and can be viewed on their completely bespoke viewing platform for free.

Make no mistake, this isn’t just a re-skinned version of ComiXology! Using it’s own bespoke navigation system (the Madefire arrow, which sits on the right hand side of the page and serves as page turner and progress bar) you can view pages literally building in front of you thanks to a series of fantastic animated transitions. There are also cinematic zooms and intricately constructed pages which make the titles feel like much more than just a flat page-turner.  They even use the iPad’s accelerometer on some of the pages (including each book’s cover) to allow you to move elements around on screen while other pages involve 360 degree panoramas that really bring the books to life, but are they any good? Well here is our break down of the first three Madefire titles.

Back in September we spoke to artist Peter Krause about his iPad artwork as well as his work on the brilliant Irredeemable from BOOM! Studios. Since then, he has unveiled a fantastic new digital project, Insufferable,  which he launched alongside Irredeemable writer Mark Waid  via their new website Thrillbent. Telling the story of an aged super-hero and his problematic former sidekick,  Insufferable is released weekly via the Thrillbent website, and  feature a fantastic mix of gritty superhero story-telling mixed with brilliant and innovative artwork and interactive transitions. We wanted to find out more about how Peter went about putting his story together and just what was involved in this new venture.