Following the events of Schism, Wolverine takes on the mantle of Professor X as he becomes headmaster of the School for Gifted Youngsters. Read more…
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciller: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer
Colourist: Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulous
Collects: Avengers Prime #1-5
Continuing my reviews of recent Panini Marvel trades I come to a book that has me written all over it. Bendis is one of my favourite writers, Alan Davis is in my top 3 pencillers and the rest of the creative team is pretty damn spiffy…all that and they’re working on a book which brings The Avengers’ Big 3 back together! If only the reality of reading the book lived up to my hopes, but I’m afraid it does not.
This book picks up in the immediate aftermath of Siege with the figurative, and literal, dust still settling on Oklahoma following those events. Thor is joined by Steve Rogers and a newly returned Tony Stark. The tensions between the three, particularly the mortals, are immediately apparent with the events of Civil War at the forefront of the latter two’s minds. Thankfully events transpire that whisk the unhappy threesome away from Midgard to a somewhat different Asgard than any of them remember. One point of note is that the Rainbow Bridge effect that’s used by Davis is a slightly more colourful version of what’s seen in the Thor movie, so similar in fact that I wonder if he wasn’t tipped a wink by editorial about what the movie would feature.
What follows is a story about the re-connecting of these three Marvel icons and whilst beautifully rendered by Davis I found the story to be lacking in any sense of occasion or significance. The adversities they face, first individually and then as a team, don’t seem to put their lives in any real peril and I’m not sure that the reconciliation feels “earned”. To me this felt like a by-the-numbers way to get the characters reconciled in the quickest way possible (all the events being squeezed into a couple of days of Midgard time) to put everything behind them. I don’t see that this needed to be in its own mini-series and I have to be honest I think it’s a waste of all-too-rare Alan Davis interior work.
Writer: Jeph Loeb
Penciller: Frank Cho
Inker: Frank Cho
Colourists: Brad Anderson, Jason Keith, Matt Milla
Letterer: Albert W. Deschesne, Richard Starkings
Collects: Ultimate New Ultimates #1-5
I dropped out of the Ultimate universe just before Ultimatum, not through any deliberate gesture on my part, just because my interest petered out. The good people at Panini have generously provided me a few review copies of Ultimate U trades, of which this is one, which have kept me somewhat in the loop. However, having said that I wasn’t too sure of the status of the UU version of Thor coming into this book, in fact between this and some other review UU books I had to ask a few well-informed geeks what the reading order was between UNU: Thor Reborn, Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Thor!
The first thing that has to be said is that this is a really silly title for a book, I’ve no idea what was wrong with New Ultimates but this is about as daft as having a title called Avenging New Avengers or Defending Secret Defenders…it all just sounds a little power rangers to me.
As we join the action Thor is in Valhalla, having died a warrior’s death, and his place on the Ultimates has been taken by Valkyrie, a character first introduced in the 2nd volume of Ultimates as an unpowered superhero groupie as part of the cosplayesque Defenders team. It’s this team which acts as the catalyst for the story, as they attack the Ultimates which exposes a nefarious plot by Loki and the Enchantress. Meanwhile Thor is seeking to bargain his way out of Valhalla by making a deal with Hela. As things progress, unsurprisingly, the plot threads come together for a city-shattering battle or two.
It’s not the most intricate plot you’ll read this year, it’s more of a combination of certain well known plot elements “deal with the devil”, “heroes under a villains mind-control” etc. but that doesn’t stop it being an enjoyable read. Probably the most interesting element are the monologues which guide us through each issue, bringing us the deeper thoughts of a variety of characters. In particular the Loki one is very revealing of his need to mess with Thor, not kill him mind you, just screw around with him.
There’s a few cameos by characters not central to the Ultimates story and I love seeing Loki wearing a suit, reminds me of some of his early appearances in Journey Into Mystery.
I’m an unabashed lover of Frank Cho’s art, my grail page is one of his featuring She-Hulk which I’d sell my soul for (see, I told you deals with the devil were overused), and he really opens up here as he’s given the opportunity to not only draw his usual incredibly sexy female characters but also has the chance to draw some huge battle scenes. Let’s be honest, who hasn’t wanted to see sabretooth tigers fighting trolls and dragons? One aspect that I’d commend the art team on is the balance between trying to show the brutal consequences of these fights without going overly gory in the detail. I think they do a fantastic job, and while the result isn’t all-ages it also doesn’t have the over-the-top guts everywhere of something like Siege.
And as ever with Panini this is a reasonably priced TPB (£12.99 for 5 issues or as low as £8.27 online) in the same month that Marvel put out their HC.
Friday was the launch of Apple’s iPad 2 and I was lucky enough to become the owner of one thanks to the Herculean efforts of my wife. While I was at work she found out where in Bristol had stock and then queued to get me one!
So now that I actually have one what do I have to say? I’m not going to do a general review as the Internet is full of those. Instead I’ll focus on my views on comics via the iPad 2.
One of the first things I noted was the quality of the display. Having used an iPhone 4 for a while now and getting used to the retina display and its ultra high pixel density I was really worried that the screen would be a let down. The iPad 2 wields the same screen as the original with a resolution of 1024×768…and it’s really very good. Yes you can tell the difference particularly when looking at really smal text like app names, but in general I’m impressed. The inevitable iPad 3 or 2+ (whatever they call it) with higher res screen will no doubt look incredible when it arrives.
Moving across to the iPad was quite easy, I was able to save a backup of my phone and use that as a restoration point for the iPad. This meant at I was able to get a lot of settings and apps straight across. I did notice however that most of the comic apps didn’t install, as far as I can tell this is because they have a separate iPad app which needs to be downloaded.
In the space of 15 mins I’d downloaded Comixology, Marvel, DC, IDW, iVerse. Although given that Marvel & DC apps are based on Comixology and IDW is based on iVerse I could have saved myself some time.
Firing up the market leader (Comixology) I noticed immediately that performance of the app was far better than on the iPhone (which uses an under clock version of the iPad 1 processor) and better than the iPad 1. Not surprising as the iPad 2 has a dual core processor clocked to a higher speed and also double the RAM.
I also noticed that I had no link to “my comics” and having bought a whole bunch of books in anticipation of the iPad I was a bit worried. And then the awesome power of the Internet took over…I tweeted my problem @comixology and within minutes had a reply which pointed out a setti which by default means that comics which you haven’t downloaded on the device are hidden. I can see that making sense as an option but having that switched on by default is a bit of a mistake in my opinion, particularly for existing users.
Having fixed this problem my comics immediately appeared for download. Downloading a comic over my 50Mbps broadband at home took about 50 seconds.
Using iTunes I loaded PKD Media’s Mercury and the Murd vol 1 into iBooks as a PDF. The reading experience here is far more simplified than in the specialist apps but still a very pleasant reading experience.
Not much else, if anything, about the experience of iPad comics has changed. It’s faster and the iPad 2 being lighter and thinner than the previous version it’s less of a handful. I must admit though that the angled edge of chassis makes it a little sharp and it pushes into the hand making it an uncomfortable single-handed read.
Today was the long awaited (for me) day when Apple announced their successor to the iPad. Cunningly named the iPad 2 this is an evolution of the existing product with some fairly substantial changes although maybe not the revolutionary change some had hoped for.
Here’s what we know:
As yet we don’t know how much additional RAM the iPad 2 has but it’s safe to say it’ll be up on the 256MB in the iPad.
So as a digital comic fan, or a potential fan, what does this mean?
Well…in truth it’s not a game-changer for digital comics in most senses. With one exception. In my humble geek opinion the current crop of iPad/iPhone apps perform poorly on the iPhone 4 and marginally ok on the iPad. With more RAM and dual-core processor the iPad 2 should generally perform much better when you’re browing comixology or iverse. I do think the reduction in depth and weight will improve the overall reading experience as well.
The absence of a retina quality display will disappoint a lot of people and is an inevitable addition when the iPad 2s or iPad 3 appears in 6-12 months.
The iPad 2 goes on sale in the UK on 25th March. I’ll be back soon after with my thoughts.
A while back Diamond announced that they were going to launch some form of digital initiative and yesterday we got some of the details in a press release from them.
What Diamond are attempting to do is make hay from the digital marketplace without alienating their retailer customers. This is nigh-on impossible task and while I like to kick Diamond as much as the next man I don’t envy them in their desire to not ignore a burgeoning market whilst relying almost utterly on retailers for their revenue.
Diamond Digital seems to have three main strands:
- Day & Date releases of digital titles priced at $1.99 by redeeming online a code you can only buy in an LCS with 30 day exclusivity
- 99c digital copies of titles for those who buy the hard copy in an LCS with 30 day exclusivity
- The ability for LCSs to run websites selling digital comics and making a cut
iVerse have stated that they don’t have to pay Apple a cut (from which I’ve inferred that you purchase your code for option 1 rather than being given it and then purchasing the comic) and that stores will be able to sell other collected digital editions. Given Apple’s recent efforts to ensure that all content viewed through iOS apps is purchased via the app store I’ll be interested to see how well iVerse do in being able to stick to this.
Day & Date is a powerful motivator for a lot of people and with publishers such as Top Cow, IDW and Tokyopop onboard you could see this being of interest, but…and this is a big but, are people really going to walk into a comic store in order to purchase a digital comic to then download once they’ve redeemed their code through the Comics+ app? I just can’t see it, to me this feels like a clunky attempt to golden handcuff customers to physical stores.
I’d love it to be a success, but this isn’t the Great Byte Hope that the digital marketplace has been looking for.