‘Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite’ Embraces the Future of Comics
Marvel's big Avengers vs. X-Men crossover is providing a lot of opportunities for readers to see new stuff, but to be honest, I'm way less interested in an epic throwdown between Gambit and Hawkeye than I am in seeing how Marvel's latest foray into digital shakes out. It's called Infinite Comics, and with February's Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite #1, we finally got a look at how they're planning to take advantage of their new digital-only imprint. Not only is it well worth the 99-cent cover price, it's a great sign of things to come.In terms of plot, AvX: Infinite is a pretty simple prologue for the event. All it really comes down to is "Nova flies through space to Earth," but considering that it's a comic by Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen, it almost goes without saying that they do a pretty incredible job making that premise work. There's a real sense of danger and tension involved, but again, that's not a surprise.
It's how that story is told that really makes Infinite shine. Like Luther, Waid's previous experiment with the digital format, there's a feeling of the creators pushing the boundaries of what it's possible to do when you're not confined by paper and the limits you have to adhere to in print. But unlike Luther, Infinite is specifically designed from the ground up to take advantage of a specific format.
The most obvious part of that is that the pages are built to fit an iPad screen, but it goes beyond that. When I reviewed Luther, I talked about the use of transitions between panels to replace the page turn, and that's something that Waid and Immonen use perfectly here. They use it to control the pacing of the story, to slow things down and emphasize things like the vastness of space and the immediacy of the threat to Earth.
They even use throw in some really nice visual tricks, like drawing attention to individual elements by pulling them into and out of focus between pages:
It's possible to do that on the page -- the focus trick is one that I've seen before in other comics -- but there's a different feeling when you see it on an iPad screen. Instead of just filling up the second half of a page with a photocopied version of a panel, the way that the transition fades in and changes in the same place just looks better. It lends a cinematic quality to it while still remaining a comic, which works worlds better than the false sense of movement that you get from the abominations that are Motion Comics.
Which is the thing about the way Infinite works. It doesn't just feel like a panel that's photocopied with some digital trickery added in. They feel like distinct moments that advance the story, using changes in perspective and pacing to convey new information and advance the story:
This story could've been done in print. It could've been done well in print; Waid and Immonen are unquestionably good enough to pull it off no matter what medium they're using. But it couldn't have been done this way, with these techniques, and because it was created with those in mind, it's better for it. Here's hoping we see more of it soon!