Our next edition of our ongoing team-up with Pipedream Comics. At the end of each year Pipedream round-up the best digital comics and crown the Digital Comic Of The Year. Here are five of the most exciting and innovative titles from the last 12 months.
Alex T: There have seen some impressive uses of animation and motion effects in comics over the years from the likes of Madefire and Narr8, but Expanded Comics’ new series Dark Pulsar is without a doubt the most sophisticated. Blending cutting edge motion graphics into traditional comics panels, it creates explosive results that almost leap out of the screen at you – especially in a scene towards the end involving a giant robot sentry. The story focuses around heroic sentry Pulsar who is sent on a shadowy mission into the mysterious 12-sided pyramid Morgot which holds all the secrets of the universe that have hitherto been hidden from the world. Although the story is fairly straight forward infiltration tale, by using short animated clips rather than transitions it blurs the lines between comics and animation to create a superb hybrid and some truly cinematic moments, including a pan and scan up a skyscraper. The story focuses on action instead of of exposition (although there is still plenty of that on show) and thanks to exceptional production values courtesy of director Diego Escalada’s Studio, Dark Pulsar sets a new standard for motion comics on the iPad. 8/10
Alex T: Mac Smith’s webcomic is a Kickstarter sensation that managed to raise over $100k on a recent campaign, so what's all the fuss about? Scurry sees a group of mice fighting for survival in a post-event world, debating whether to uproot their society as they wait for the humans to return or if they should run the risk of staying and continuing to battle their fearsome feline foes. But unlike fantastical series like Mouse Guard or Mice Templar it’s refreshingly grounded. And definitely not cute or twee. But what makes Scurry so worthy of being one of the best digital comics of last year is the jaw dropping painted artwork. Smith's rendering of the animals is exquisite, but also terrifying – in particular cat villain, Titan. Like a post-modern Watership Down meets The Walking Dead, Scurry is an incredibly accomplished piece of work that richly deserved its phenomenal success of Kickstarter. 9/10
Alex T: Although we’ve seen sideways scrolling comics in apps like Scrollon, none have quite the epic scope of Phallaina. Boasting 1600 screens and a 90 minute read time, its the epic tale of a young girl suffering from hallucinations who undergoes experimental treatment that may or may not have connections to a mythic group of whale people. Artist Marietta Ren seamlessly blends the story in a long flowing narrative that uses slick devices like smoke and waves or fishes to allow the story to move along seamlessly. She also includes several dream like sequences that use parallaxing events coming into and out of frame to create a truly dizzying effect, which perfectly compliments the story. Although quite a labour intensive reading experience it manages to balance innovation with great art and a poignant story to expert effect. 8/10
Alex T: Madefire have been a regular fixture in Pipedream's 'Digital Comic Of The Yea'r polls, thanks to their hybrid of animation and comics known as Motion Books, and have produced two previous winners with Captain Stone Is Missing and Mono:Pacific. They continue their superb run with this year's nomination (and eventual winner of our reader poll) Spectrum. Produced by Firefly stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, Spectrum is a comic that exists within their web series Con Men, which sees Fillion and Tudyk play a couple of dudes who believe they are comic characters within a sci-fi adventure series. And this is that comic, making it the ultimate cross-platform digital story telling experience! While this approach could have lead to a turgid piece of self awareness, instead Spectrum is an all-action thrill-ride which spans the galaxy and features some of the most impressive motion transitions we have seen in a motion comic in years – especially one scene involving a car being lasered in half which literally leaps out of the screen. There’s also some stunning magical effects which really bring the panels to life and show off what an exciting and innovative platform that motion books can produce! 9/10
Alex T: It was been a bumper year for UK publisher TPub, producing hit after hit. 2016 began with the outstanding Turncoat from Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus, which we assumed would be a shoe-in for our end of year list thanks to it’s post-modern take on a superhero assassin. But that’s because we didn’t know Theatrics was lurking behind the curtains, waiting to take its bow. The story of a matinee idol in the 1930s who is beaten to a pulp in an alleyway and undergoes a life altering transformation, is truly staggering. TPub’s supremo Neil Gibson balances crime noir and dark horror to perfect effect while artist Leonardo Gonzalez has a Greg Capullo-esque style and a stunning eye for design that makes the whole collection truly exceptional. With the first arc now collected into a print edition, you can read the first chapter online for free via TPub and get a sense of why this trip to the theatre is well worth the ticket price. 8/10