Review: 'Insufferable' #1-3 Uses The Digital Comics Format to Its AdvantageA comic review article by: Rafael Gaitan
Mark Waid, one of the biggest and baddest producers of print comics, embracing an all-digital publish front?!
YEP. But it's not what it looks like, Comics.
Waid's love of comics is what matters -- like his beloved Superman, he does it because he can and because he is good at it and he doesn't know how to do anything else -- in fact, it's the opposite -- while print comics charge piecemeal and then sum costs, his Thrillbent initiative provides weekly updates free of charge and collects them into single issues for $1.99 -- but there is no restriction on reading it free if one likes, which is in the spirit of what Waid aimed for with Thrillbent.
The signature series, Insufferable, was the launch project and perhaps the most exemplary product of the initiative -- familiar, accessible, but rewarding to those who choose to take the ride. Peace to Waid and frequent collaborator Peter Krause for giving us more credit than thinking we want to read about squabbling superheroes exclusively -- the premiere issue poses questions and conflicts between the two leads that seem like they will be the primary focus of the series, and that all explodes in a metaphoric and literal explosion of resentment and the past.
Nocturnus and Kid Galahad were once the hottest superhero shit on the block (like drunk Johnny Storm pooping spicy in an alleyway hot) until they had a very public split -- Nocturnus seemed to abandon the business, moving in shadows, while Galahad broke out on his own and embraced celebrity, including public appearances, fan clubs and a staggering Twitter following/ interactivity. While none of this is refreshingly new territory, what Waid actually does with the medium and how it affects the content is what makes the sell.
While not usually a fan of ComiXology's Guided View technology, it supplements the material greatly -- Waid and Krause get to play with how the audience views panels and movement, in a brilliant scene in Issue 2 we see Nocturnus sneak up behind Galahad and their images are split by negative space, which then gradually becomes filled with Nocturnus reaching out, which in turn shifts
the right panel, indicating his facial expression has changed. It's simple, but it's something that would be damn near impossible to capture in a typical comic layout:
In a way, the struggle between Nocturnus and Galahad is similar to Waid's own woes with social media and with the medium of comics, and in a way it feels like he's exorcising both sides -- Nocturnus is the argument, for print -- traditional, effective, tried and true: Nocturnus intercedes several times on Galahad's behalf. Conversely Galahad is digital -- on the cutting edge, readily accessible, embraced and beloved by the newest generation for its efficiency and flash. Waid clearly sees the pros and cons of both sides, and neither side gets favored -- where the first issue paints Galahad as an ungrateful and resentful punk, Issue 2 explores Nocturnus plucking a young boy from his life and giving him a single-minded focus he was ages from accomplishing.
It is an even-handed approach that allows Insufferable to transcend its pages (er, screens). Even at face value, it retains Waid's ability to adapt to the untapped elements of something familiar. There are elements of the gothic, horror and true crime all laced through the first three issues, which simultaneously gives the reader a full plate per issue but entices what could possibly upset the status quo of the upcoming one.
Krause's art is impressive as usual -- he captures motion and range of emotion quite well with a kineticism that is enhanced by the Guided View without being intrusive -- it helps put comics in motion in your mind and isn't that motion comics bullshit some people pretend to enjoy because why? Also, Nolan Woodard's colors are killing the game -- they are the perfect compliment to Krause's linework. He keeps a washed palatte reminiscent of Lee Loughridge circa Gotham Central, but his mastery of shading and blending to reflect spectrum shifts (like Galahad's gadgets or blurred vision due to the rain) is impeccable and the comic would not be as vivid without him.
With Insufferable, Mark Waid and Peter Krause have launched a volley aimed at legitimacy at the world of digital comics -- but where the success comes from is the lack of evangelism. The retention of the weekly installment reiterates this -- the new technology isn't here to show off, just to help, but if you like things the way they were we can do that, too.
Rafael Gaitan was born in 1985, but he belongs to the '70s. He is a big fan of onomatopoeia, being profane and spelling words right on the first try. Rafael has a hilariously infrequent blog and writes love letters to inanimate objects as well as tweets of whiskey and the mysteries of the heart. He ain't got time to bleed.