Back in June, all of your Marvel comics that were priced $3.99 and up came with a free digital code to help you start a digital comics collection. You had one in your hand and one on the Internet, two comics for the price of one, right? At the register of my local comic shop, I’d remind customers that, hey, there’s a free digital comic with this issue, and I’d get some mild interest in return. I’d explain how to redeem the code in the back of the book and how Marvel.com basically saves that redeemed code on an account for you, so you can read the digital comic anywhere you can log on to the Internet, whether that’s your phone or computer or a tablet. I am again met with mild interest. I’ve explained that Avengers vs. X-Men has this special symbol where you hold your phone or whatever computer you have that has a camera, you can learn a few things about the book you’re holding. I’ve demonstrated if I have the time, showing off the cover animation on the first Avengers vs. X-Men issue, which I can’t say worked perfectly every time. But when it did, customers seemed interested, but no one leaped back from the counter, declared this the finest innovation in the world and ran down the street to declare me a witch or hail the amazing new Marvel Revolution.
I mean, I wish they had but it was always just mild interest.
And I’ll admit that mild interest has sort of bled over; where once I was jazzed enough about this new digital Revolution that I got myself a tablet to experience it from the front lines with the best view possible, I can’t say I’ve done that much with all the free stuff. I’m not the most organized of people, so entering in all the little codes can pile up. The new AR tech throughout Avengers vs. X-Men (and the new Hawkeye #1 out this week; see the little symbol right under Dan Buckley’s name?) is novel, bordering on novelty. I’ve seen art breakdowns, a couple of interviews from the writers, even a couple of really interesting experts consulting on plot points like the United Nations address or what a tsunami would really do to Wakanda, but again, nothing to keep me hooked in.
It’s understandable that a lot of readers might feel this way. After all, revolutions don’t happen overnight, and Marvel was nice enough to give us all this free stuff to try out their cool new toys and it’s up to us on whether we want to use them. As far as the short term goes, the interactive media has been optional. The first Infinity Comic, the real jewel on the Revolution tiara, in my humble opinion, was written as an aside, adding some information to the Avengers vs. X-Men story, but nothing too integral that we’d miss something in the grand scheme of things. But what if we did?
I’m looking back all the way to Avengers vs. X-Men Round Six, so grab your copies and go to the back of the book, flip through those pages until you feel the little black sticker and follow the instructions to download your free digital copy and then read along!
Seriously, go try it. If you can read these words, you can read a free digital comic.
Marvel’s Infinite Comics are still a new concept, and it’s a little weird to wrap your head around, as is most fresh technological advances and avant-garde forms of art. You see a sculpture or a painting that challenges your conventional senses, and it’s rewarding on two different levels. Someone comes out with a new app that’s super-helpful and can assist your daily life and it’s still hard to integrate into your routine. And so Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 Infinite came and went, a surprisingly fascinating story that only blew a few people’s minds, mine included. The idea that the comic book medium could be so fluid as to tell stories with words and art in this dynamic new way feels very futuristic, and seeing this come up out of a major publisher makes it one of those ‘popular solutions’ while still not really hitting the mainstream. Again, the tools are there and it’s the reader’s choice on whether they are used.
The first Infinite Comic was pretty fun and really showed off this new medium. Flying through the galaxy, watching an inner monologue literally fall into place, crashing through buildings and that great shot of Nova’s HUD as the Avengers find him, and his warning was spectacular. The second Infinite Comic was in fact the most important story you could have read for this event. I think it foreshadows quite a bit and sets the stage for a larger battle of morality and man that we’ve already watched unfold by now.
In the back of Avengers vs. X-Men Round Six is a story called “… In a Handful of Dust,” by Mark Waid, Yves Bigerel and Carlo Barberi, which follows Cyclops, now with fightin’ Phoenix action. Now that he’s won (referring to himself as “Cyclops the First” is a good sign of where this is going), he feels a sense of … something bothering him in the anti-quiet of omnipotence. He wanders out to the Moon (like you do) and is surprised to be standing in the rubble of the Blue Area of the Moon, where the dramatic end to the Dark Phoenix Saga took place. Cyclops looks at the machine Jean used to kill herself rather than let the Dark Phoenix take hold of her, he looks at a shadow that could only be a scorch mark of where Jean’s smoldering remains were and wonders … why don’t I feel anything? He and a moon-dust puppet that looks like Jean Grey talk it out for a bit. Moon-dust Jean explains that the Phoenix Force seems to amplify the emotions of its host, making then larger than life itself. She tells him that once you’ve seen a glimpse of infinity, everything else seems tiny. By the end, some part of Cyclops does understand that the more powerful he gets, the less connected he feels with his emotions, his past, everything. That he can’t let it change who he is, or why he fights.
We’ll see in the coming issues if he can accomplish this. Since Round Six we’ve seen Namor goes all out, Colossus and Magik devolve into squabbles, and Emma Frost slowly and surely go mad with the power of the Phoenix. Cyclops, while single-minded, is the only one we’ve watched come to grips, quietly unfolding in the back pages of a digital comic. It’s so beautifully done, bringing us into the crushing weight of telepathy, the cold surface of the moon, the delicate nature of moon dust and the ebb and flow of revelation, I almost wish it had been included in the original printing. I mean, I loved that issue so much and I completely missed this wonderful moment.
I think this story shows us a lot about Infinite Comics and the benefits of these free digital copies. The new Revolution is still in its infancy if you think about it; all these changes have only really cemented in over the summer, leaving us time to try them out. Wouldn’t the ground floor be the best time to jump on a thing like this? Sure, some of the digital ‘back matter’ we’re getting might be mild and yeah, the AR program doesn’t work every time, all the time (tip: change your lighting, hold your camera at least a hand’s span away from the symbol and don’t forget to double tap the screen to focus in), but who knows what you might be missing?