Tag Archives: Marvel

App Review: Marvel Infinite Comics

As those of you who follow my writing elsewhere may already know, I’m sort of obsessed with the death of the American monoculture — particularly as it pertains to the ways in which the institutions of my youth adapt to the new, niche-driven realities of 21st century entertainment (or die trying).

Comics are a terrific example. As we discussed a few days ago, the general malaise suffered by the publishing industry is reflected pretty sharply in kid-targeted titles, where the last 20 years have been marked by a more apparent willingness to try new and crazy things to hang onto their target demographic’s attention. The drive to digital, accelerated by the advent of tablet computing over the last few years, has posed a brutal conundrum for comics — consumers are buying fewer paper copies, but the publishers haven’t been able to embrace ebooks without alienating the independent shops that have been their bedrock for generations. It’s prompted a weird series of tentative steps and half-measures that haven’t satisfied anyone.

Marvel finally looks like they’re ready to change all that with their recently unveiled “Infinite Comics” initiative. Like most things comics-related, it arrives with an avalanche of silly hyperbole, but after years of tinkering with the format, Marvel actually has something to crow about this time — if the first “infinite” title, Avengers vs. X-Men: Infinite #1, is anything to go by, we could finally be looking at the future of the medium. And with something to offer older readers as well as new fans, that future could be surprisingly bright.

Marvel Comics

As any comics fan could tell you, digital comics are nothing new — and neither are tablet-optimization schemes like the dreadfully annoying “Motion Comics.” What’s different here is that instead of just trying to wedge traditional content into the digital sphere, Marvel’s Infinite Comics have been designed to actually try and bridge the gap between paper and the screen — the artwork doesn’t move, necessarily, but it does use an assortment of subtle tricks to guide the reading experience, forming a sort of hybrid between a traditional comic and something like a film. It’s cinematic without being pushy about it.

The best example of this technology in action in Avengers vs. X-Men #1 is the way the comic shifts focus in a single panel. These screencaps don’t truly do it justice, but they’ll give you an idea of what I’m talking about:

It’s a nifty effect. Nothing breathtaking, but that’s sort of the point, at least as I see it; touches like these take advantage of the tablet’s capabilities without fundamentally altering the experience of reading a comic. It’s smart, and in some ways, I think it might even be preferable to reading on the printed page — as writer Mark Waid, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, and Senior Editor Nick Lowe discuss in their “commentary track” for the issue over at Comic Book Resources, one key difference is that writers can design the story to preserve the element of surprise. You can’t accidentally glimpse a panel on the next page, because it isn’t on the screen; the creators are guiding you through the experience at the right speed.

What this will mean for Marvel’s relationship with the shops, I have no idea. But if the comics industry has a prayer of getting readers to make the jump to digital, I think it has to start with Infinite Comics — at least based on this issue, they’re smartly done and affordable ($3.99 for the 99-page issue, which bundles the “infinite” book in with the plain ol’ vanilla “HD” Avengers vs. X-Men #1). I haven’t been a real comics reader since the ’80s, but now that my son is developing a superhero obsession, Marvel could bring me back into the fold.

(It also bears mentioning that the company has rolled out a Marvel AR app, which gives readers video and assorted extra content when they scan in QR and/or barcodes with their device, but I find that kind of thing a lot less interesting, so I haven’t tried it. Feel free to let me know if you think I’m missing out.)

DVD Review: Marvel DVD Comic Book Collection: “X-Men” Volumes 1 & 2

In the early 1990s, when Marvel’s X-Men comics were at the peak of their popularity, Marvel Entertainment finally produced an animated series based on their wildly successful mutant superheroes. Cartoons, in general, were gong through a renaissance. Steven Spielberg attached his name to Tiny Toons, attempting to recapture the lunacy of the old Warner Brothers shorts, while Bruce Timm and Paul Dini were taking on the Batman legacy with their classic Batman: The Animated Series. Marvel’s X-Men may never have been on the same level artistically as those two shows, but it was influential in its storytelling and the way it managed to incorporate the nearly 30 year legacy of the X-Men comic books into a single series. Moreover, despite the clunky animation and some questionable voice over casting, X-Men is solid, fun entertainment for kids and adults alike, with themes of tolerance, loyalty and family that don’t get to preachy.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has just released what they dubbed the Marvel Comic Book Collection. X-men Volume 1 and Volume 2 each have 2 discs each and contain the first 33 episodes in order from seasons 1 and 2 and the first 7 episodes from season 3.

When creating this particular series, it was apparent that the producers had a specific approach: Keep the X-Men team simple, with no more than 8 characters. That may seem like a lot, but considering that there are too many X-Men related characters in the Marvel Universe to count, this was a wise decision. They opted with the popular characters of the time: Cyclops, the pensive leader who shoots optic rays out of his eyes; Jean Grey, a beautiful and powerful telekinetic; Wolverine, (the most popular character then and now), a savage with claws in his hands; Gambit, a reformed Cajun thief with the ability to manipulate kinetic energy; Rogue, a southern misfit who is seemingly indestructible and can absorb other peoples’ powers; Beast, a brilliant scientist trapped in a furry blue body; Storm, a stunning weather goddess from Africa; and Jubilee, a teenage girl just learning to use her mutant ability. With a smaller group it allowed the viewer to get attached to the characters on an emotional level. Continue reading