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Digital ComicsAlliance: ‘Animal Man’ #1, ‘Static Shock’ #1, the Beautiful ‘Mystic’

Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. This week, we’re spotlighting good books from three different genres: steampunk, superhero, and horror. All of them feature remarkable art, clever writing, or both, and manage to be well worth the $2.99 that the publishers are charging.

1. Name: Animal Man
Creative Team:
Jeff Lemire (writer), Travel Foreman (pencils/inks), Dan Green (inks), Lovern Kindzierski (colors), Jared K Fletcher (letters)
Platform: ComiXology/DC Comics (iOS, Web, Android)
Price: $2.99
Format: #1
Why: There are two things about Animal Man that I didn’t see coming. The first, as I was expecting more or less standard superheroics, is that it is a horror comic. The second is that it would be the best DC Comic of the week, and more than worth the price of admission. Like most good horror, this opens up with something familiar — in this case, Animal Man’s family and superheroic life — and then something wrong drops into the picture. There’s something wrong with Animal Man, possibly something very serious, and it hits around halfway through the book. After that, things get… strange. And stranger. Until you hit the very last page and are greeted with something super creepy.

Lemire acknowledges Morrison’s inescapable shadow on page one and then takes off on his own direction immediately after that. Travel Foreman’s art is about 50% successful for me — there are a lot of background and proportion issues — but is overall perfectly suited for the book.

2. Name: Mystic

Creative Team: G Willow Wilson (script), David López (pencils), Alvaro López (inks), Nathan Fairbairn (colors), Jared K Fletcher (letters)
Platform: ComiXology/Marvel (iOS, Web)
Price: $2.99
Format: #1
Why: I’m not a steampunk fan by any means, and yet, after picking up Mystic on a whim one day, I’m totally hooked on this steampunk comic about two scullery maids who cheat and read books while under the care of a typically mean old crone. One is optimistic, the other a pessimist, and it turns out the pessimist gets the Cinderella story when they infiltrate a gathering of rich people. The most obvious reason why I enjoyed this was the art. David López, Alvaro López, and Nathan Fairbairn are an absolutely killer team. I’ve liked the Lópezes since their days on Catwoman, but what they’re doing here is just over and beyond what I expected. The addition of Fairbairn’s colors raises the bar even higher, and this quickly became one of Marvel’s best-looking comics. Top 5? Absolutely.

Their facial expressions and body language are top notch. G. Willow Wilson turns in a great script, too, that feels a little like Cinderella with a telegraphed, but still great, twist. I wasn’t expecting to be into this series so much, even if I did already like the creative team, because of the steampunk aspect, but the craft put into this book completely turned me around. This is the kind of comic I like to see — a fresh idea with killer execution.

3. Name: Static Shock

Creative Team: John Rozum (co-writer), Scott McDaniel (co-writer/pencils/inks), Jonathan Glapion (inks), Le Beau Underwood (inks), Dezi Sienty (letters)
Platform: ComiXology/DC Comics (iOS, Web, Android)
Price: $2.99
Format: #1
Why: I’m extremely partial to Static. It’s a comic I dearly loved as a child, and the older I got, the more levels I enjoyed it on. Virgil Ovid Hawkins is the hands-down best updating of Peter Parker you’ll ever find, and one of my favorite characters. I sometimes wonder if I can temper my love enough to give Static Shock an honest review, but here’s a stab at it: this is a good comic. Rozum and McDaniel hit the ground running, eschewing an origin story, and throw you right into Static’s new status quo. He and his family have moved to New York City, he’s working at STAR Labs, and he has my other favorite Milestone character as a benefactor. That character’s appearance was a surprise to me, and hopefully will be to you.

It isn’t a perfect relaunch, but it set the stage for the stories to come very well, in addition to managing to hit several points that make Static such a fun character–his Spider-Man-level jokes, knowledge of science, and family. I’m a lifer already, but from my biased position, I think this was a good first stab at finally giving Static a proper DC Comics debut.


THE SALES

-ComiXology runs Marvel Mondays sales (wait for it) every Monday. Certain Marvel comics, usually ones from a specific series or united under a theme, are offered for half off. You can check their blog for the current sale on Monday mornings, and sometimes Sunday nights. Once Monday is gone, though, so is the sale. Keep an eye on their blog for other sales, too.

-Dark Horse runs themed sales every weekend. They’ve run sales on Serenity, The Goon, Conan, and Fray, among others, so you’re pretty much sure to find something to like at some point. This week’s sale hasn’t been announced yet, but stay tuned to the Dark Horse Digital blog. There is also a page on Dark Horse Digital that lists ongoing specials.

THE PLAYERS

There are a few different ways to get digital comics right now. Here’s a selection of the methods, listed by company in alphabetical order, and the formats they support:

Archie Comics
(iOS)
Boom! Studios (iOS [identical to the Boom! offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
Comics4Kids (iOS [ComiXology for all-ages comics])
ComiXology (iOS, Web, Android)
Dark Horse (iOS app that syncs to your account on the web)
DC Comics (iOS, Web [identical to the DC offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
DriveThru Comics (CBZ, PDF, ePUB, and more)
Dynamite Entertainment (iOS,Web, Android [identical to the Dynamite offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
eManga (web)
Graphic.ly (iOS, Web, Android, Nook Color)
IDW Comics (iOS)
Image Comics (iOS [identical to the Image offerings on ComiXology and syncs with your ComiXology account])
iVerse’s Comics+ (iOS, Nook Color)
Marvel Comics on Chrome (Web)
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (Web)
My Digital Comics (PDF, CBZ, and more)
The Illustrated Section (PDF)
Square Enix Manga (web)
Viz Manga (iOS, web)
Yen Press (web)


THE BASICS

There are a few things you need to know. You no longer need an iOS device (you know: iPad, iPod, iPhone), but you will need an internet connection, web browser, and, usually, Flash. Generally, you don’t get to actually own your digital comics. You’re paying to read them, and while this has been a fairly smooth process this far, that may rankle for some readers.

Are all these distributors different? Functionally, no, they aren’t that different at all. Most of them allow for panel by panel reading (or a variation thereof) or page-based reading. The main differences are in selection. Frustratingly, certain comics are offered on several services, but released at different times. Marvel alone offers five choices. Most other publishers keep to one distribution method, and if they don’t, they tend to keep their stuff mirrored across the various methods. If you want DC Comics, you’re using ComiXology, for example, but Boom! Studios has comics on both. For Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee. It’s essentially Netflix for comics, however, so that may be worth it for you.

Personally, I use a mix of all the services, which is far from an optimal configuration, but one that works well. Poke around and see which one you like the most.

When do digital comics come out? Marvel has a weekly schedule, with an option for viewing the next month’s releases. That’s as close as you’ll get to a release schedule. To see what’s new on ComiXology, subscribe to this RSS feed. IDW generally releases books four weeks after they ship in print. ComiXology updates on Wednesdays, Graphic.ly updates throughout the week, and IDW’s app updates on Tuesdays, with day-and-date books arriving on Wednesday. Dark Horse updates on Wednesdays. This category on iVerse’s Comics+ site lists the updates for the week. Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited releases books every Monday.

I’ll update with RSS feeds and landing pages that show new releases as they appear! If you’re a digital comics publisher and you don’t have a feed or page that users can visit… well, please create one. We’d all appreciate it.

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