Sheriff Shane is the chief lawman of Carpenter Cove a sleepy American town that just happens to reside inside the brain of a serial killer in MonkeyBrain Comics‘ new series Headspace. As we find out more, and things begin to take a turn for the weird he is left to consider his very existence as well as that of his town, but will be be able to sail off into the sunset as a hero or will he be another victim of the diabolical Max?

As enigmatic bounty hunter the White Bolt delivers her captor to the sheriff of a town called Trouble, things are set to take a turn for the for dynamic in Chris Sheridan’s bumper sized edition of Motorcycle Samurai #3: Peripeteia. Will they ever be the same again after this one?!

With a new Hellboy in Hell motion book launching via their app this week, Madefire have added to their library the most high profile character yet. But will this latest motion book offering see them descend into a fiery pit like their lead character or rise to the digital heavens?

Valiant’s first Guided View Native digital comic, Unity 8-bit Adventure, sees their new super hero team ‘Unity’ go old school in an 8-bit video game inspired adventure. But does this old school approach take away from the 21st century sophistication of Guided View?

“Elementary, my dear readers.” It’s time we solved the mystery of Liam Sharp and Bill Sienkiewicz’s motion comics take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective. But how does the Victorian sleuth fare in the 21st century world of digital comics?

Amazing Spider-Man 700This weeks must-have digital comic is an obvious one, partly because its the only major title released this post-Christmas week, but mainly because it is the final issue of one of Marvel‘s flagship titles – The Amazing Spider-Man. After events in recent issues (and this is your SPOILER warning, stop if you haven’t read them yet!) life in the Spidey-verse is about to change forever. And we are assured this is a forever change as it brings to an end the most iconic title in the Marvel cannon and also the end of Peter Parker as Spider-Man.

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.

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

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