Insufferable 1 coverThis week sees the arrival of the first 3 issues of Mark Waid’s Insufferable on ComiXology. Previously released as weekly updates on his website Thrillbent.com, each issues comprises two installments and introduces us to the world of aging superhero Nocturnus and his upstart protege Galahad. Although it was a great read online  Insufferable’s natural home is on a tablet and being able to read each issue in glorious full screen is a real treat.

Writer Grant Morrison is a divisive figure at the best of times, garnering passionate fandom and fervent derision in equal measure. For some he is the psychedelic master of twisted fairy tales, the writer of The Invisibles, Doom Patrol and Animal Man who is so adored he warrants his own convention. For others he is a pretentious, egomaniac whose long winded, rambling writing lacks the depth and subtlety of his big name contemporaries like Mark Millar Brian Bendis or Garth Ennis.

As with all ‘celebrity writer’ books, your opinion of Happy will be shaped by your opinion on Morrison. For those in the former camp it will no doubt be viewed as another tour de force that exhibits the same anarchic sense of wit and invention that have instilled his other titles. However for those, who fall into the latter camp it is much more of a challenging read, but one that may surprise even his most ardent haters.

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.

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. 

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.

In the macho world of super hero comics, it’s easy to forget that back in the Golden Age, romance stories were just as popular as the action adventure stuff. Even the greats like Jack Kirby cut their teeth doing romance books, but in the modern day they’ve become something of a rarefied breed. Thank goodness then for Love and Capes which combines the kind of modern superhero stories we know and love with a healthy measure of romance, and a generous dash of good old fashioned gags. Previously available online at LoveandCapes.com or in print from IDW, it is now released on ComiXology.

Love and Capes follows the adventures of Mark (aka super hero the Crusader), and his new girlfriend, book shop owner Abby. But unlike your trad superhero books, Mark reveals his secret identity to Abby in the first chapter, which allows writer/artist Thom Zahler to poke fun at  the traditional obliviousness of other superhero girlfriends. (There’s no Lois and Clark style stumbling around the fact our hero’s girlfriend can’t recognise him when he takes off his glasses here!) Taking a knowing (and loving) swipe at all manner of super hero cliches it focuses on the blossoming relationship between Abby and her new super-boyfriend, covering everything from super-powered ex’s to secret origins and weaknesses, making for a fantastic, hilarious read.

To find out more about Love in Capes and it’s new digital lease of life, I got in touch with Thom Zahler and asked him just how it felt to have a whole new audience about to get to know his characters via the iPad?

Is there a better team in comics today than Sean Philips and Ed Brubaker? Whether it’s the pot-boiled noir of Criminal or the post-modern super-villain antics of Incognito, they are truly masters of their craft. Now it’s time for them to turn their attention to the supernatural horror genre with brand new title Fatale. It features the traditional tight and complex Brubaker storyline blending time-travel, horror, whodunnit and classic noir. Flipping from the 1930s to the present day with seamless, mind-bending brilliance the story would be nothing without Philips stylish visuals. Tweaking his trademark stark, monochromatic style to a more pulpy 30s style it features much more of a dynamic feel than the tight close-ups of Criminal, however it is subtle touches of former Hellboy and BPRD colourist Dave Stewart that really helps give Fatale that gothic feel.

As with all Brubaker/Philips story it is difficult to get your head around this latest world in just 32 pages. Not because it is complex and unwieldy, but because the themes and subjects involved are so expertly weaved into the story. By the time you reach the final page you are only just getting started and are left wanting to read the next instalment as soon as you can. Fatale is the kind of book that will reward repeat reading as you pick up more and more with each reading as the story progresses from issue to issues, so make sure you get on the Fatale band wagon now as this will be on everyone’s ‘Best of 2012’ list by the end of the year and will be selling out in print before you know it.

Fatale #1 is published by Image Comics and is available on Comics or the Image Comics app for $3.50

Power Play comic coverThis week’s must-have is the brilliant Powerplay by Kurt Christenson and Reilly Brown. A lot of comics claim to have embraced the world of digital, but they only go as far as same day print and digital. The boys on Powerplay have taken it one step further and have actually designed the comic to maximise the iPad’s interactivity. Rather than the standard left to right scrolling of panels, Powerplay takes the panel by panel approach of ComiXology and takes it to its logical conclusion by getting rid of individual pages all together and just letting you scroll through one panel at a time. Now this might not seem the best way to read a book, but it’s been designed so that in key places in the story panels begin blend together to give it a simple animated feel which is just awesome. Check out the scene where Mac turns to gold and Kris cuts off his hair between panels 28 and 37 to see what I mean.

Apple's NewssatdnThis week saw the release of Apple’s new iOS5 operating system for iPad and iPhone. You might have missed it as it got somewhat lost amongst the tragic news of Steve Jobs passing and the internet backlash against the iPhone 4S, but it is probably the most exciting thing that will happen to digital publishing this year.