Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite #1
Creators: Richard Isanova, Joe Quesada, Mark Waid
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 4, 2012
Cover Price: $.99
The release of Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite #1 exclusive to digital represents the culminations of two big pushes by Marvel Comics. The first is the beginning of Marvel’s big summer event, the final run of Brian Michael Bendis on The Avengers. The second push involves Marvel’s next generation of digital comics: Infinite. First the story…
Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite #1 is a short story, even for a comic book, but it’s only $.99 bought alone or it comes free with the full-on Avengers vs. X-Men #1. Infinite #1 is a prequel to the events in the first issue of this new story arc. The Phoenix Force is returning to Earth. If you aren’t aware of what the force is you obviously haven’t ever been an X-Men fan. The Phoenix Force is an incredibly powerful entity that often visits Earth via a human host. When it comes it typically brings heartache, death, and massive destruction. The space-traveling Nova is the first person to see the trajectory of the Phoenix and he pushes himself beyond the limits of his own power to rush to Earth and deliver a warning. This story follows his journey.
Overall, the story is bare bones, really more of a showcase of the new digital comics format than a standalone comic book. With that said, if you are planning to read Avengers vs. X-Men, it’s a tasty behind the scenes story that sets up Nova’s appearance in that book. It is simple and not meant to be read as a single story, but as a part of the overall story arc and it’s a good read. To truly know Nova’s fate, you have to read Avengers vs. X-Men #1. So yes, expect a hefty cliffhanger.
Now to the Infinite format. This new format is a subtle evolution of the medium and at the same time it changes the entire experience of reading a comic book on the iPad. When digital comics first began they felt like scans of paper comics with a nice assisted reading mode that helped walk us through the process of reading comics. As great as that experience is, it’s still flawed. To see each panel in the best possible aspect ratio you have to constantly be flipping your device as you read and the art wasn’t created with digital formats in mind, so the detail level that’s available on digital devices often detracted for the art overall. The assisted view does often make the reading experience more dramatic because it zooms to the important bits of each panel and then to the dialogue in the order the creators mean for you to read it. So, the potential for greatness is there.
To put it simply, and bluntly, Infinite comics are comics with the assisted view on crack. The artwork and dialogue boxes are built from the ground up with this reading experience in mind. There’s no spinning your device because each “panel” is designed to take up the entire screen. Also, text boxes and word balloons appear on panels as needed. In other words you’ll often be treated to a splash image, then you tap and a text box will appear, and you tap again and another will appear, and over and over until the text is all on screen in the order it is meant to be read. Also, the medium is utilized to enhance the emotional feeling of the story. For example, at one point Nova is exhausted and confused and trying to remember what he loves about Earth. You have to tap for each thought taking you through his internal struggle in a palpable way. There’s another time when he is struggling to focus. At that point the image is out of focus. As he regains control the image fades into view. It all happens through intuitive touch gestures.
Not every panel is simply full screen either. In this first issue for example there are instances of smaller panels appearing across the screen as you swipe. The variety of paneling keeps the story energetic, but never requires flipping the device, which is a really good thing. It’s a little early to render a complete verdict on the format because one of the big problems I had with this comic is something that actually played into the story. Background detail throughout most of this comic is pretty low. Most of the time Nova is in space so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for detail. So, the question remains is the lack of detail a symptom of the production of this format or just an element of this story? My feeling is the answer is the latter, but we need to see another Infinite comic to be sure. Outside of my concerns about the background detail overall this is truly the way digital storytelling in comic books should happen. Infinite takes everything that’s good about the assisted viewing of traditional comics and turns it up to 11. I just hope Marvel can get these comics out on a timely manner.