IMAGE COMICS DIGITAL ROUND UP
This week I thought I would take a random dip into some digital comics. Now I love nothing more than digging through long boxes at a con and ordering my monthly comics online but I am a modern man and therefore completely open to the idea of digital comics.
From having my finger on the pulse I don’t think I’m saying anything new or groundbreaking when I say I’m happy to report digital comics and physical comics live a peaceful coexistence. Digital comics haven’t been the death of brick and mortar comic shops. If anything physical sales have steadily increased since Apple and others have tried to cash in on the comics craze. I usually browse the sales now and then but rarely dip into a monthly title. The only time I did was when I got caught up in New52 hype and decided to pick up Kyle Higgins’ run on Nightwing. Those of you with iPads, iPhone etcetera etcetera know that comixology the digital comics behemoth no longer alls for in app purchases. In my opinion this kind of defeats the issue of the digital availability. Boom Studios recently made the same move with there app. Which is unfortunate as I was intending to read Grass Kings for this review. Image Comics is one of the last to offer in app buying hence it now being an all Image round up. Besides I have nothing but positive experience with Image. Currently I am reading and loving Southern Bastards. In the past I have also enjoyed C.O.W.L and Masks and Mobsters. There were a few rules I set myself before making my selections. Preferably it had to be something I had never heard of. Maybe at the least heard about it in passing. Secondly it had to be available in the physical format as well. Lastly it had to be below what I’m paying for my monthly comics. I can not justify a download over a physical comics if there is a difference in price. Most new releases currently are more expensive than I am paying for my comics from my LCS.
On to my picks. These are in no particular order of my preference. I’ll try to give a brief outline of the story without spoiling too much. Highlight the creators and their influences. Talk about the potential of the m going forward. Make lazy comparisons with other writers, artist and comics in general and lastly give reasons to why I’d recommend it.
Writer: Joe Keatinge * Art: Nick Barber * Colours: Simon Gough * Letterer: Ariana Maher
What I did was scroll through all the titles alphabetically. When I saw Ringside at first I questioned the need and my interest in a wrestling comic. However I had recently read the Andre The Giant graphic biography by Box Brown which is equal parts fun and heartbreaking. With my enjoyment of that fresh in my mind Ringside seemed a good choice. I’m a fan of wrestling to some degree. A degree I don’t know if it has a name or not. I like the storyline aspect. When and how titles change hands. I like the history of factions and personalities without being someone who watches Raw and Smackdown religiously. It has always struck me as odd why there isn’t more crossover between comics and wrestling. I imagine largely they cater to the same demographics. Ringside is described as a very real look at life just outside the ring. Creators Keatinge and Barber say the inspiration came from stories about icons who had been chewed up and spat out by the industry. People like Jake the Snake, Bret Hart and more recently CM Punk. Both creators share a passion for wrestling that cemented itself in the 1980’s and both also had easy crossover with wrestling from comics. The Image app doesn’t give a great deal of information on each issue. It does describe it as a cross between The Walking Dead for its ensemble drama and The Wire with its rotating perspectives. I can see that. In the first issue alone we are introduced to a variety of characters each at different stages of their careers. The main character we follow in the first issue is Danny Knossos who it appears has fallen into a violent life.
Other characters include an old pro still on the circuit and a young up and comer not yet given a fair shot. It will be music to wrestling fans ears to hear the first story arc is actually called Kayfabe. Kayfabe for those not in the know is the term for staged events in wrestling that are to be perceived as real. The art on Ringside is top notch. At first reading I rather lazily thought Barber’s style reminded me of Sean Philips but with more lighter tones provided by Gough. More neon like in approach than Philips often muted pallet. Then when I read the interview of the back of the comic it all made sense. Keatinge and Barber are both influenced by the movies of Michael Mann and wanted their next project to reflect this. Although there isn’t actually a ton of wrestling action in the first issue Barber does an excellent job giving it life on the page. This can be seen on the cover with a wrestler elbow dropping an opponent in front of a spotlight. Also there is a lovely splash page showing a wrestler somersaulting off the top turn buckle. Both of these images capture the awe inspiring wonder of watching someone at the top of their game. What gets Ringside extra points from me is it seems to be short concise story arcs. The first trade collects the first five issues but looking at the issues on the app it appears #1-4 is an arc and #5 is a stand alone before the next arc. As the series unfolds it does appear other wrestlers, suits and fans will share the spotlight to examine what drives the individual and the industry. Ringside is definitely a series I would consider pursuing further. You don’t have to be a big wrestling fan to enjoy it. It is more in the vein of something like Criminal and Southern Bastards so is accessible to people who just like good comics. The only downside for me is going in I thought it would focus more on the locker room politics rather than life out of the ring. I don’t know if the level of crime outside the ring has been dialled up for entertainment or it is just testament to good research. It is only a minor complaint and not something that would put me off reading further issues.
Writer: James Robinson * Art/Letterer: Greg Hinkle
James Robinson seems to have been around for ever. He has worked on most of the big characters, producing an outstanding body of work for the big two and everyone in between. Best known for his work on Starman I have to admit I’ve only recently become aware of his work since he made the switch to Marvel after being part of DC’s New52. Now as for Airboy he is a Golden Age character original created by Charles Biro, Dick Wood and Al Camy in 1942. Airboy is Davy Nelson a expert pilot who befriends the inventor of a prototype aircraft that flaps its wings like a bird. Cut a long story short the inventor dies Davy uses the plane for adventures during WWII. To say this four issue series as very little to do with that would be unfair, but not entirely false. You see this four issue series is meta-comics at its best. It is the story of fictionalized versions of James Robinson and Greg Hinkle having been set the task to reboot this Golden Age character. Robinson is reluctant to do so as he had previously done the rebooting of a Golden Age character with Starman. Even after reading only one issue the story stuck with me over the weekend. I’m certainly going to finish it. It is so well told and the levels of meta are genius. It would be easy for Robinson to sugar coat things but it is a very stripped back raw account of things. He questions his career and his personal life throughout.
Like with Ringside providing a glimpse to life outside the ring this is like Madmen for comics. Minus the snappy suits but with worse behaviour. I wasn’t familiar with Hinkle’s work previously. Now because of the story presented here I know hes hung. (Remember they are fictionalized versions). Also like Ringside it has a similar colour pallet. Shades of beige and blue when Robinson is questioning his career and not wanting to do the book. The colours pop in more moody moments with reds and purples. Very little work on Airboy is accomplished in the first issue as Robinson goes out of his way not to start. If you have no previous knowledge of the character like me all you learn is he had a plane with flappy wings. Not knowing and learning slowly from the characters about Airboy does not detract from this excellent story. Robinson and Hinkle are the stars of the first issue as they indulge in an orgy of booze, drugs and sex. The story takes a giant twist on the large page which sets up the rest of the series perfectly. I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good story with a touch of depraved humour and self deprecation from the lead character. Despite the left field twist I would still say this series is set in some basis of reality. I would say it would appeal to readers of biography comics as opposed to over the top super heroics.
Writers: Nate Crosby Ben McCool * Art: Breno Tamura * Colours: Chris Sotomayor * Letterer : Rus Wooton
Right off the bat I can tell you I will be reading this in its entirety. It is well in my wheelhouse. The only question is how have I never heard of it before. Admittedly when I was going through titles on the app the name Pigs didn’t grab me. What caught my attention was the Cuban, Soviet and American flag motifs on the small thumbnail of the cover. Right then my brain clicked into gear and I realised this could be Cold War based. Said cover is provided by the always excellent Jock. You might be thinking Cold War stories have been done to death. You might be like me who will give any Cold War story a fair crack. Which has led to me sitting through some truly terrible movies. I don’t know why it captures my imagination so much. Pigs puts a fresh twist on the genre with one simple phrase. KGB Cuban Sleeper cell. That phrase actually came from the mouth of Becky Cloonan whilst out drinking with creators Crosby and McCool. What appeals to me is that this story is both global and crosses a large time span. The global aspect comes to into play as events unfold in Cuba, Russian and State side. The span of the story covers a few generations and I’ve always liked this idea in such series like Criminal with crime running in the family, here its espionage. The first issue doesn’t really reinvent the wheel when it comes to Cold War thrillers. But I find simplicity plays a part in a well mapped out thriller. The first issue is mainly a women being interrogated by two Us agents. The language and the interplay between the women and her interrogators feel like they have come from the pages of a Robert Ludlum thriller.
There is plenty of room for the story to grow in future issues by seemingly throwaway lines during the interrogation and a few scenes of the cell in Cuba. One such example is the tease of The White Russian. A name that just oozes every good about Cold War thrillers. From reading on the app the second arc focuses more on The White Russian. The first is about why and how the sleeper cell has been awoken after last hearing from Russian fifty years previous. Like I said I’m already planning on picking the rest of this series up. I will probably opt to buy the two trades as I in vision reading this over and over. There are only eight issues in total so it wouldn’t break the bank buying it in app. The last page reveal really hit home the potential of this series whilst raising the stakes for the entire story. It’s certainly ballsy. Art is provided by Breno Tamura who on the app is described as a hot new comer. So I tried to find out a bit about him and it turns out he keeps a very low profile. Pigs and a comic called 12 Reasons to Die are the only work I could find by him. I like his style initially it reminded me of Michael Lark. When I read it a second time before writing this review it was more reminiscent for me of Michael Gaydos. Both good company to be in. Being a Cold War fan I would recommend this to anyone regardless if they have the same affinity for Cold War thrillers as me. Just based on the first issue it is shaping up to be a tight well told story. Reading an interview at the back of the comic Crosby and McCool planned it all meticulously and you need that in a story like this. It lends itself to the genre if the creators can immerse themselves into the world.
This digital review is something I might visit quarter or half yearly. Either reading further issues of these series or trying some new first issues. I will try and spread out the selections across all genres and publishers. Follow me on twitter for further talk of these comics and drop me any recommendations. @IanWells87
About Ian Wells
Ian currently runs the THEBLOGOFCOMICSHOTTOPICS blog. Check him out on Twitter @IanWells87.
About Language of Bromance
Together Richard and Shawn formed the podcast The Language of Bromance and from there it has been nothing but fun. The duo laugh about things they go through, stories in the news and even getting serious discussing net neutrality along with other issues. Every so often their friendship turns to a bitter rivalry with their nerdiest creation the draft episodes. An original take on a best of or a top 10 list. The draft episodes are done like an NFL Draft 7 rounds where Richard and Shawn flip-flop picks on various topics.
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