02 October 2012

on the judas coin and the ibookstore

The release of The Judas Coin (Walter Simonson) was kind of a big deal for me for a couple of reasons.  The first is that this is an all-new OGN written and drawn by Simonson, who is totally awesome.  I'm a late comer to the Simonson party - have never cared much for Thor so I have never read that run - but he hooked me with, of all things, his run on Fantastic Four.  His Avengers work has been pretty stellar too - loved the Red Hulk issue.

Judas Coin isn't set in any specific version of DC continuity, but it draws extensively on DC's wide library of characters.  The conceit is that one of Judas' thirty pieces of silver is passed down through history, bringing bad luck and misfortune and herpes to all who touch it.  (Part of that I made up.)  Simonson creates a series of short stories moving through time as the coin goes from owner to owner.  There's a Viking Prince story, a Western story featuring Bat-Lash, a modern-day story with Batman & Two-Face, and even a futuristic sci-fi story with a future version of Manhunter.  And for each story, Simonson varies his art style, story structure, formatting - something different each time to set each story apart.  (For example: the Batman story is told in landscape format and in black-and-white.  The coloring on the Bat Lash story is washed out.  And so on.)  The Manhunter story was really the only one that didn't click for me, in part because I don't like futuristic sci-fi all that much - but the beauty of a Simonson book structured this way is that, if a particular entry doesn't quite grab you, the art will carry you through to the next story (or the end of the book, as it were).  It's just a lovely, lovely book - Simonson shifts almost effortlessly between styles and eras and characters, and throughout it looks simultaneously modern and classic.  If anything, he's gotten better with age - his figure work is better, more visually appealing, but sacrifices nothing in terms of storytelling.  His layouts are traditional where they need to be (Batman), more experimental when the setting allows it (Manhunter).  If you like Simonson's work at all, or just want to read a big epic featuring a bunch of DC characters, give this one a look.

The second significant thing about this one was that it was my first purchase on the iBooks store.  DC has been quietly expanding its graphic novel presence on iBooks, and generally all it's non-Omnibus releases are now available about a week after they hit the direct market.  Judas Coin retails for $22.99 in print - it's $12.99 on iBooks.

The iBooks interface frankly could use some work.  There's been an obvious effort to mimic the experience of reading in print - animated page turning, that kind of thing.  Clearly it's been formatted with prose in mind, though - the app works best when it's in "double-page" mode (like most prose apps - my Kindle app is the same way).  Problem is that a graphic novel really doesn't read well in that format - it makes the text too small.  You can enlarge and zoom but that makes for an awkward reading experience.  The solution to this is, as one would do with the comixology app - turn the iPad over so it shows one page at a time.  This blows it up to a good, readable size - unfortunately it doesn't fit quite right on the screen, so you see part of the adjoining page.  It also makes the page turn more awkward, as the device moves back to the left-hand page before animating the transition.  

The fixes to these problems shouldn't really be all that difficult.  It'd be nice to be able to just turn off the animated page transitions, for example.  I'm making it sound more negative than it really was.  It took some getting used to, but it didn't prevent me from immersing myself wholly in the book, and I will be buying more books in this format.  I'd characterize it instead as a work-in-progress.  DC seems pretty committed to building a good library on this forum - it's readable across platforms and you get an actual file that transfers into your iTunes library when you sync.  It's promising - just hasn't quite replicated the (IMO excellent) comixology experience yet.


- Saucer Country has been running some fill-ins, presumably to get series artist/ Duke basketball player Ryan Kelly on schedule.  Issue #6 was a big ol' infodump about the history of UFOs and reported alien abductions.  It felt like Paul Cornell really wanted someplace to unload his research, and it's not dropped in the most organic way.  Durn if it wasn't pretty interesting, though - not much in the way of pacing or drama, but it was a pretty cool change of pace.

AvX #11 (Brian Michael Bendis/ Olivier Coipel) didn't play out quite the way I expected.  (I figured the Emma/ Cyclops stuff would go about like it did, but did not see the big death coming.)  The big twist makes thematic sense to me.  I basically have no attachment to any of the X-Men, and I realize this twist has happened before but I never read those comics and really do not care.  The thing the issue reinforced for me, though, was that Bendis really isn't adept at choreographing big action scenes.  The scenes with Xavier trying to talk Scott down were quite well-done, but one couldn't help but wonder what everyone else was doing while that was happening.  Bendis leans on his talent for dialog in that scene, but the choreography of what's going on around them is almost forgotten, and it takes away from it.  For the most part I have enjoyed AvX; this was a tic, though, that lessened the Big Moment (at least #11's Big Moment) for me.

- On a related note, can we all just agree that Marvel AR sucks and agree never to speak of it again?


dl316bh said...

The Judas Coin sounded great right from the second I heard about it. Hopefully it doesn't take long to hit softcover. I want it. Simonson is great at what he does. Plus I like the idea of following something across several short stories through the ages.

Dan Coyle said...

Kelly has health issues, if a rather tedious thread on Bleeding Cool is anything to go by.

Dan Coyle said...

I read the Judas Coin today- had some time to kill in a Barnes and Noble- and I agree, it's a fine book. Not quite my favorite Simonson but it does my heart good to see him being so experimental and bold where most artists would just click on autopilot- that Batman sequence was bonkers.