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?

Manhattan Projects Comics issue 1It’s going to be a bit of a Jonathan Hickman special this week for the Pipedreamcomic Pull List. First up is his new creator owned series The Manhattan Projects published Image Comics. We’ve been fans of Hickman for a while here on Pipedream Comics thanks to his excellent run on Fantatstic Four and the new Ultimates, but with The Manhattan Projects it’s a return to his earlier pre-Marvel work (but more of that later).

Manhattan Projects is essentially an alternative history of the atomic bomb project, set in a world of telepathy and aliens more reminiscent of Dark Horse’s BPRD than a dry old history book about physicists! It tells the story of the arrival of Robert Oppenheimer to the project, but also of his relationship with his twisted twin brother, Joseph. Told in a series of split-screens, it uses colour brilliantly to juxtapose to the two characters’ very different back stories. With fantastic art by  Nick Pitarra,whose work is reminiscent of Geof Darrow and Frank Quitely, it has an ultra detailed and textured feel which counter balances the brilliantly stark graphics of the cover. It gets especially Darrow-esque with the invasion of Death Buddhas (Japanese Samurai robots) half way though, as they attempt to thwart the project and provides a bit of drama and action to really liven up the book.

With it’s dark and twisted undercurrent, this is going to be much more than just an alternative history cum parody of the atomic bomb project, and with the twist at the end, it sets the rest of the series off in a very intriguing direction. We can’t wait for issue #2!

Also available this month is a collection of Hickmans creator owned titles called Test Pattern. included in there are the brilliant The Nightly News, but also Pax Romana, Transhuman, A Red Mass for Mars and Red Wing for the grand total of £24.99. Although not cheap, you get a hell of a lot of comics for your money, but if that is a bit pricey for you though, make sure to check out the sample pack of issue 1s which are available for free, and might even persuade you to part with your cash and get the whole lot. Alternatively each volume is available for £5.49 (or £6.99 for The Nightly News)

The Manhattan Projects are available from Comixology and the Image Comics app for £2.49 with Test Pattern available for £24.99 or check out the first issues of all 5 series available for free.

MoonShot Comics coming soon to your iPad, PC or tabletIt’s an exciting time for small publishers on the iPad and we’re always excited to hear about new upstart ventures. The latest is Moonshot Comics, started by former Nickelodeon executive (and long time comics fan) George Lentino. It’s much more than just a new publisher though, it’s a one stop shop of digital expertise and creative thinking that is hoping to offer writers, artists and readers a new way of looking at and experiencing the world of digital comics. This is could be another fantastic option for those looking for something different to the traditional work of the big comic publishers and so ahead of it’s official launch this summer we got in touch with George and asked him to tell us a bit more about the Moonshot Comics Mission Statement!

It’s been a busy week for the big two, with a couple of major announcements from each company. First up was the appearance of a new dedicated area in the Apple iBooks Store for Marvel Graohic novels. A handful of titles have been available for a while now, but with this announcement and it’s appearance on the front of the iBooks store it’s a major move for Marvel. Their relationship with Apple has been every strong over the years, with their iPad app one of the showcase titles at the launch of the the first iPad back in 2008. However they have taken a bit of a back seat in the world of individual digital issues since then with Dc really leading the way thanks to their prominent position with their dedicated store on the ComiXology app. Perhaps this is a reflection of the House of M’s long term strategy for digital content on the iPad, preferring to prioritise collections rather than individual issues. If that is the case then there aren’t many better places to develop that plan than in the iBooks store.

Currently there is a good, but not comprehensive, collection of titles on there, featuring all your favourite Marvel characters and some classic titles like Marvel Zombies and Mark Millar’s Ultimates at the competitive prices of £5.49 per volume. Alongside these are more recent titles such as Dan Slott’s recent Spiderman books and Brian Bendis’ New Avengers, however how regularly these are updated and filled with new content has yet to be seen. And it will be interesting to see if other publishers follow Marvels lead and join up with Apple.

Meanwhile, DC have not been resting on their laurels and have released a new app showcasing their Vertigo imprint. As is the case with a lot of other title specific apps (Walking Dead, Transformers etc) it is just a re-skinned version of the Comics app, however it is loaded with some of the best titles of the past 25 years. Already on there are complete runs of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Garth Ennis’ Preacher and Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan alongside more recent titles like Adam Hughes and Bill Willingham’s Fables and Mike Allred’s iZombie. As with the main app there is a great section outlining which books are worth checking out and so If you’ve never read any of these infamous titles then this is a great way to check them out and really shows how great the digital medium is as a way to collect classic comics together in one place.

Pocket God iconThere’s nothing we love more in life than torturing a couple of pygmies. Whether it’s pushing them around their little tropical habitat or zapping them with lightning, we can be a vengeful god on a wet Monday afternoon! Before you think we have gone completely sociopathic though,  we probably should mention that we don’t actually hunt down indigenous rain forest dwellers in order to bestow physical harm on them, we just do it on our iPhones with the awesome Pocket God game from Bolt Creative. We spoke to the team behind the brilliant comic, Publisher Dave Hedgecock and artist Rollo Mallado, last year, but what about the game itself? With it’s 43rd episode recently released, we got in touch with co-creator Allan Dye to ask, just what is it about torturing pygmies that makes people so happy?!

We caught up with artist Paul Duffield (aka Spoonbard) back in August to talk to him about his work on the brilliant Freakangels with the legendary Warren Ellis. However with that weekly web series coming to an end last summer, Paul has not been one to rest on his laurels. He’s not only been drawing and writing his own series, The Firelight Isle, but also self-financing it via Indie Go-Go. For those who help finance there is the possibility of access to all sorts of behind the curtain exclusives, from blog posts and sketches to personalised prints! This kind of  independent spirited publishing is just the kind of thing we admire here at Pipedream Comics so we got in touch with him and asked him about how the experience of financing your own comic has gone and just what lessens he learnt from his time working on Freakangels.

Winter Soldier #2It’s another strong week for digital comics this week with the finale of the court of Owls storyline in DC’s Batman #6, a new creative team on Avenging Spider-man and another edition of the brilliant Transformers Autocracry from IDW hitting the digital newsstand. However for this week’s absolute must-read we are going to nominate a book which should really have been chosen a couple of weeks back when it was launched and that’s Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice from Marvel Comics.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Brubaker’s creator owned series Fatale and Criminal here at Pipedream Comics, but that doesnt mean we ignore his ‘bill paying’ books like Captain America. Producing some of the best written stories coming out of Marvel in the last few years, Brubaker has helped breath new life into a character which could have ended up as something of a walking talking cliche in the new millennium. From the death of Captain America storyline, through to Bucky becoming the new Cap and beyond, they were all handled expertly as Brubaker tied his character in complex knots of conspiracy and intrigue, weaving disparate elements of the plot together into something that felt fresh and exciting. He followed that up with his recent run on Secret Avengers , which for a while was one of Marvel’s best kept secrets, (but has unfortunately gone a bit left field under the stewardship of Warren Ellis) however with Winter Soldier it is a return to that clandestine, spy-based style that made the early issues of Secret Avengers so exciting.

The story follows Bucky Barnes and his attempts to regain the memory of his time as a soviet super soldier (the titular Winter Soldier) and his relationship with the Black Widow. In the current arc the Red Ghost is releasing Soviet Super soldiers who have been sleepers since the end of the Cold War and it is up to Bucky and the Widow to stop them, and hopefully find out some more about Bucky’s past in the process. It’s like Tinker, Tailer, Soldier Spy but with added explosions.

The story is made darker and more brooding by the mixed-media artwork of Butch Guice. With plenty of ominous, shadowy characters lurking in complex, intricate backgrounds, Winter Soldier is that rare thing, a comic book for adults that doesn’t rely on explosive violence and extreme language to get it’s point across. Instead it relies on clever, well written stories and well paced, purposeful artwork. Oh and there’s also a 400 pound machine gun toting gorilla, but hey, it is still a Marvel comic – you’ve got to have a bit of fun in there too!

Winter Soldier is available on ComiXology or the Marvel Comics app priced at £1.99