The Dying and the Dead #1Jonathan Hickman is one of comics’ hottest creators thanks to this work on Marvel’s Fantastic Four and Avengers, plus his creator-owned titles like Manhattan Projects and East is West. Now, with artist Ryan Bodenheim, Hickman brings us another mind-boggling news series, The Dying and the Dead #1, but will this be yet another fantastic story by comics foremost master-planner, or will it leave his fans disconnected?

Amidst the opening of New York Comic-Con 2013, news arrived that Avatar Press, publisher of Garth Ennis’ groundbreaking horror series Crossed, announced an exclusive digital distribution agreement with ComiXology, the revolutionary cloud-based digital comics platform with more than 40,000 comics and graphic novels that have seen over 200 million downloads to date. The multi-year exclusive agreement covers Avatar Press’ English Language single-issue catalog.

The Pipedream Comics Sunday Digest is going to take on a new format this week. Instead of rounding up the week’s stories from the website, we’re going to do some quick reviews of some great digital comics which we’ve been enjoying this week, but not reviewed fully on the site. Enjoy…

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