The most exciting digital comics announcement from this year’s San Diego Comic Con was the partnership between motion book publishers Madefire and IDW Publishing to bring IDW’s heavy hitters Star Trek, Transformer and My Little Pony to the world of motion comics. But now they have finally arrived, how do these new titles compare to the home grown Madefire motion books and will they stand on their own in this brave new world of digital comics?
Publisher: IDW Publishing via Madefire
Writer: Chris Metzen & Flint Dille (Transformers) Mike Johnson (Star Trek) Katie Cook (My Little Pony)
Artist: Livio Ramondelli (Transformers) Stephen Molnar (Star Trek) Andy Price (My Little Pony)
Price: Free to download a preview and then £1.49 in-app purchase
Rather than create completely new titles for this venture, IDW have instead opted to transfer three existing titles across to the new Madefire motion book titles, featuring three of their biggest names. The Transformers are represented by the Autocracy series which was published as a digital-first back in January last year and sees a young Optimus Prime (here known as Orion Pax) facing the mean streets of Cybertron as a rookie law enforcer and facing off against the rebel Decepticon leader known as Megatron. Star Trek follows on from the JJ Abrams movie and sees the new Captain Kirk and co. go boldly in search of adventure and in this issue follow up on a distress call from the mysterious SS Valiant. Meanwhile the ponies of Ponyville investigate some mysterious goings on of their own as My Little Pony turns their technicolour series Friendship is Magic into a motion book.
Thanks to the Madefire‘s marvellous motion book engine, these comics are given all the bells and whistles we have come to expect from a top of the range digital comic as their panels animate in, fade in from blackness and even pull focus, switching the point of view from one character to another with the slickness we have come to expect from a Madefire product. Even when the panels have assembled, there are extra touches like pulsing lights and rising smoke, which really helps bring the books to life in a way that a flat printed page could never manage.
Another feature that the Madefire format brings to the table is sound. While home grown titles like Captain Stone or Treatment utilize an immersive soundtracks and subtle use of music and effects, IDW‘s offerings are a little more basic and rely largely on sound effects. Unfortunately they are inconsistently used (in Autocracy for example the Transformers’ engines are accompanied by the relevant sounds, but their laser guns are not) and so diminish their effect on the overall book. By having long periods of silence, when effects do happen they come out of nowhere and take you surprise, which does not always make for the msot pleasurable of reading experience.
With all three books coming from a traditional comic format, the artwork has a very traditional look and feel to it (especially in Star Trek which is further restircted by needing to look like the characters from the movie). Compared to the home grown Madefire titles who utilize all the innovative features at their disposal, such as long pages, swooping 360s and even landscape formatting, these three feel very pedestiran in comparison. Fortunately the strong foundations of the existing titles make up for this and so the books are still a lot of fun, they just lack that cutting edge that we have come to expect from a Madefire title.
Having said that, one of these three titles really exceeded our expectations when it came to the quality of the digital transfer, and that was My Little Pony. You’d expect Star Trek or Transformers with their sci-fi roots (not to mention Autocracy’s stunning painted art from Livio Ramondelli) would be the one’s to push things forward, however it is My Little Pony which really shines in this instance. If the intentions of this partnership were to help broaden Madefire’s appeal beyond it’s very masculine current roster then this the book that will do it!
In the main this is thanks to artist Andy Price whose use of intricate small panels in an unconventional structure allows the pages to assemble in a much more un-formulaic manner compared to the other two. Combined with the neon bright colours and the cartoonish graphics this is a book that leaps out of your iPad with every tap of the screen and is without a doubt the most fun digital comic we have read in ages. (and that’s something we never thought we would find ourselves writing beforehand!)
“Although not quite as ground-breaking as the home-grown Madefire titles, these first three IDW comics are still fantastic examples of the art of digital comics and go a long way to showing how vibrant and exciting the Madefire tool can make traditional comics for a new audience.”