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Digital ComicsAlliance: ‘Loose Ends,’ ‘The Liar,’ and ‘What A Wonderful World!’

Welcome to Digital ComicsAlliance, your headquarters for digital comics news and recommendations. Two out of three recommendations this week feature people shooting guns, which is always fun to read about, and the third is about quarter-life crises, something that is usually somewhat less fun to read.

1. Name: Action Double Feature 2: The Liar
Creative Team: Corinna Bechko (story), Gabriel Hardman (story/art)
Platform: Double Feature (iOS, Web)
Price: $0.99
Format: PDF or enhanced iPad format
Why: ComicsAlliance’s own Chris Sims is a big fan of Double Feature’s digital comics, and with good reason. Two eight-page comics for a dollar is a pretty good deal when you consider that you’re also getting unlettered finished art, inks, pencils, layouts, and bonus commentary. Finding out that Gabriel Hardman, artist of Marvel’s Hulk, recently did one called The Liar drove me to check out the service.I wasn’t disappointed. Hardman and co-writer Corinna Bechko produced a mean little eight page short story that introduces Vera Brant, The Liar, and left me hungry for me. It’s a story with a raw spy sensibility–disguises and guns, but no gadgets–and Hardman’s art is predictably spectacular. There’s an equal mix of high action and lower key scenes, despite the length of the story, and totally worth the dollar. It’s backed with Shannon Eric Denton and Andy Kuhn’s “Dr. Good & Spaceboy In Gigantick Troubles,” which is a funny superhero tale.

2. Name: Loose Ends

Creative Team: Jason Latour (writer), Chris Brunner (art), Rico Renzi (color)
Platform: Graphic.ly (iOS, Web, Android, Nook Color)
Price: $1.99 for #1, $2.99 for #2
Format: Four issues

Why: Loose Ends is subtitled “a 4 issue southern crime romance” on its cover, and I’m from the south and like crime comics, so that’s two good signs already. Things only got better once I opened the comic. Loose Ends is set up like one of my favorite stories–circumstances force people together, and rather than focusing on those circumstances, the story focuses on what happens when everything goes wrong. And I mean, sure, there are drugs, murders, and dirty cops, and that’s great, believe me, but where Loose Ends shines is the unbelievable trouble that gets stacked on top of all of that. A stray bullet (or rather, a magazine full of stray bullets), a bar full of old friends, and a douchebag getting what’s coming to him kick off the festivities, and it’s all downhill from there. And all that’s just in issue one. Issue two features an intriguing trip down memory lane.

On top of all that, you’ve got some pretty impressive artistic experimentation. Word balloons drop in or out as the scene requires, Rico Renzi’s colors do an insanely good job of setting the mood, a single moment in time gets broken up into nine different panels for maximum impact, and, as you can see above, they’ve got one of the best ways to depict what it feels like to get increasingly drunk at a bar. The comic industry needs more comics like this.

3. Name: What A Wonderful World!

Creative Team: Inio Asano (cartoonist)
Platform: Viz Manga (iOS, web)
Price: $5.99 each
Format: Two volumes

Why: Inio Asano is the king of stories about quarter-life crises and ennui. I hated Blankets and didn’t finish Fun Home, but I’ve devoured every bit of Asano’s work I could find, even if I couldn’t read it. What A Wonderful World! is a two-volume short story collection about people at turning points in their lives. Sometimes it’s major and sometimes it’s minor, but it’s always interesting.

Asano breaks away from the super-realistic tone for a few absurd metaphysical touches, but rather than breaking the story, that just makes things even more interesting. People hold a lot of strange beliefs and see omens in the strangest things, and Asano captures that feeling in a fantastic (in the sense of fantasy) way.

I hesitate to call these stories fairy tales, because they aren’t quite that, but they are close. What A Wonderful World! is about life lessons, loving yourself, loving others, and generally just living and experiencing what it feels like to be alive. It’s a goofy, sad, melancholy, funny, painful, and beautiful book, and the title more than fits the stories inside.

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])
Double Feature (iOS, Web)
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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