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.

As interactive books and comics get more and more sophisticated the boundaries between them are getting even closer. One title which is hoping to blur the lines even more is Bottom of the Ninth by animator Ryan Woodward. Hailing it as the world’s first animated graphic novel (as far as he knows), it combines Ryan’s love of comics, animation and baseball and looks set to be one of the true ground-breaking titles for the iPad in 2012.  I got in touch with Ryan as he finished off the final finesses  ahead of it’s Summer release and did my best to get to the the bottom of Bottom of the Ninth.

Back in March we spoke to George Lentino, publisher of Moonshot Digital Comics, who was setting out his plan to revolutionise the world of digital comics with “innovative, experimental and down-right fun to read comics”. Well the first title,  from that stable, Deluge, is about to be released with the team of film-maker turned writer J.D. Oliva and artist Richard Clark at the helm. After hearing about all the great things that George had planned for his new line of digital comics, I got in touch with J.D. to ask him about his inspiration for Deluge and just what exactly the Moonshot Digital experience entailed.

The world is going Avengers crazy this week, thanks to the launch of the rather excellent movie in cinemas, so it seems only appropriate to have a look at a couple of related titles in this weeks Pipedream Pull List, both of which have had an influence on the success and style of the new movie as well as the fortunes of their parent company.

The first is Avengers Reborn #1, published in 1996 by Marvel and was revealed this week by Comichron, to be the best-selling Avengers comics of all time, with a whopping 276,374 pre-orders.  So what was the secret? The Heroes Reborn story arc was Marvel’s first attempt to reboot it’s core titles, and saw them outsource the titles to their former star artists Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee (who oversaw an equally successful Fantastic Four and Ironman reboot) who were now running their own studios under the Image Comics banner. Both had left in 1992 to found Image and create phenomenal sales for their new titles, and Marvel were desperate for a cut of the action and gave these key titles to Liefeld and Lee in order to spike sales. With the storyline idea that the heroes were sent to an alternate reality by Franklin Richards where their histories were updated and amended for a new generation, the Avengers Reborn would see Thor as the man rescued from the ice, rather than Steve Rogers, and would see Loki attempt to outfox the newly formed team to attempt to gain the power of the lost Odin-son. (Sound familiar?)

With a story by Liefeld and fellow Image founder Jim Valentino and art by Liefeld and his protege Chap Yaep, Avengers Reborn sums up everything that was bad about late 90s comics and the ‘Image style’ that had developed. Liefeld’s unorthodox anatomy with his improbably posed female characters and contorted, muscled up monster males reach almost parodic levels in Avengers Reborn. While his  ability to give his character only two facial expressions – shouting and grimacing – give the whole story a very hollow feel. The dialogue is clunky and the story is confusing and cliched, introducing too many characters and not giving them much to do beyond standing in forceful poses and grimace. However, despite it’s flaws, it’s major positive is that it set an interesting precedent of moving away from the established Marvel canon set down by Kirby and Lee and opened the door for later, more successful reboots.

Despite the critical mauling Heroes Reborn suffered it sold well (thanks in no small part to Liefeld and Lee’s involvement), and so Marvel were not put off the idea of relaunching their core titles using ‘name talent’ and six years later in 2002 relaunched the Avengers as part of their Ultimate universe, under the helm of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. Millar and Hitch had made their name at Image on books like Wanted and The Authority, but unlike Liefeld and co they were on the upswing of their careers, developing a new and gritty style of books that would become the template for the entire Marvel Universe, not to mention it’s movies, rather than rely on past-glories and lots of cross-hatching. Rather than re-write the origin for the sake of it and be ham strung by which character they could include, as Liefeld and Valentino had done, Millar was given a blank canvas and took the ‘classic’ Avengers starting point of Steve Rogers in the ice and updated it for a post-9/11 world. In Millar’s world superheroes were not paragons of virtue, but were global super cops who were the only ones capable of dealing with these world-changing threats and events. Out went the colourful spandex of the 60s and in came leather flight suits and combat chic while the heroes were given real world issues and story lines, rather than just stand around looking pneumatic and grimacing.

The first issue focused on Steve Rogers in World War Two and how he ended up in the ice but this was much more than your standard origin story retread. Set in 1944 it was packed full of action from the start with Rogers literally leaping from a plane into the thick of the action, and would set the tone for the new world which these characters would inhabit – just as the Captain America movie would for Avengers Assemble. Ultimates #1 focused on a gritty, bloody, rain soaked world, that most importantly realistic.  In doing so, Ultimates would become a bona fide modern masterpiece over the course of it’s 12 issue run and would directly influence the development of the film, not just in the casting of Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury but also in the updating and modernising of the story and language to reflect modern values and expectations. (Not just drawing them in the current art style du jour!). Thanks to Hitch’s expansive, epic style and Millar’s punchy dialogue it was comics as cinema, before cinema became all about comics, and would help turn around Marvel‘s fortunes making them viable and current for a new generation. This upturn in their fortunes would in turn give them the chance to develop their core characters for the screen and ultimately led to the film filling theatres this weekend.

Avengers Reborn and Ultimates are available on ComiXology for £1.49 each