Monday, March 12, 2012

Discovering Digital Graphic Novels

by Laurie K.

The first time I picked up a comic book, it was because Joss Whedon wrote it. At that point, X-Men had been running in various incarnations for forty-one years, and yet I was okay jumping in to it because I had faith that Whedon would tell me everything I needed to know. I knew, vaguely, who each of these people was and maybe a little bit about who they were or had been or could be or might be - there's a lot of 'it depends' when you're talking about comics. I could come in nearly half a century late to the party and I knew Whedon would put the pieces together for me. (Yet another reason why Joss Whedon is my master.)

Nobody does it better than Whedon, which is good and bad.  Good because, gosh, I love his work. Bad because I can't seem to find my way into any other established comic book franchise as easily. So, I've given up and started picking up graphic novels instead.  And, whoa, Nelly, they are great!

I started with American Vampire volume 1 because the lovely Synde mentioned it on Twitter. She got the hard copy, but I wanted it immediately so I snagged it on my Kindle Fire. I wasn't expecting much because the Green Lantern stuff I'd tried to read on the Fire, Blackest Night, was utterly unintelligible. I couldn't see a damn thing, couldn't make out the words, and ended up thoroughly disgruntled. American Vampire, however, looked amazing. The graphics were sharp, the words were perfectly readable, and I could double-tap any panel to get a larger version - not that it was necessary, mostly. (Even better? The vampires are the evil bitey kind, not the mopey sparkly kind.)

While I wait for volume 2 of American Vampire to come out on the Kindle Fire (hey! Vertigo Comics! Yeah, I'm looking at you, pal), I decided I'd pick up volume 1 of Fables since my friends on io9 are always raving about how wonderful that series is. I was a little wary since Fables was drawn in the early 2000s; if Blackest Night was released in 2011 and I couldn't read it on the Kindle Fire, how bad would Fables be? It turns out that there were a few issues where I couldn't see what was what, but a quick double-tap to get the larger version of the panel solved the problem. The art is beautiful and the story kicked major butt - Once Upon a Time, eat your heart out.

I'm happily looking for more graphic novels to get on my Kindle Fire. I'm definitely getting a sample first before I ever buy, though, because getting burned by Blackest Night taught me caution. Unfortunately, a lot of the samples are 3 pages of introduction and zero pages of graphics - Neil Gaiman's Sandman is like that. As much as I'd love to pick it up, since I don't see a single panel of the art in the sample, I can't invest that kind of money without knowing whether it's legible.

One downside - the price. A volume of Fables is $9.99 and I go through it in about an hour. I blew 30 bucks on graphic novels in one evening. Ouch. So, I can see that this could be an expensive habit. Nevertheless, I'm going to continue to catch up on some of the graphic novel goodness I've been missing out on. Beautiful art, great stories, and instant wireless delivery? A world of yes!

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