21 August 2013

The Engine on Madefire is a good comic in an interesting form

I have nine apps for reading comics on my iPad. Most of these (seven) use comiXology technology to display comics and the only difference between them is the publishers that they link too, for example I have separate apps for Marvel, DC, Image and Dark Horse.

This is somewhat confusing as these publishers comics are also available via the Comics app produced by the people who developed comiXology.

Madefire are one of the organisations trying to do something different and comics built with Madefire can use special effects like gradual reveals, moving panels, limited 3D by having these panels move relative to each other, sound and rotation.

The end result is still sequential but it looks little like a conventional comic. The closest equivalent that I can think of is the cartoons produced by moving paper cut-out images, e.g. Capt. Pugwash. Madefire does far more that that.

The technology is interesting but that alone does not a good comic make. Far from it. I've dabbled with most Madefire titles, they are all free at the moment, and most are OK, but only OK. There are three titles that have me hooked; The Engine is one of them.

The Engine is an industrial robot in Soviet Russia.

Already there are two things to like about this, Steampunk and Constructivism.

The Engine is pure Steampunk. Built to show the Soviet Supremacy the robots perform simple mechanic tasks independently using technology  that looks as though it would struggle to make a train.

The Constructivism style of the time is reflected in Jimmy Broxton's art giving the comic a distinctive look, and one I like.

Guy Adams' story (so far) is simple but with depth. A group of political dissidents exiled to a mine are buried in an accident and The Engine is their only hope of escape. A lot is made of the political climate at that time that had led to writers being turned in to miners. The politics is very much part of the story but it does no occlude the escape attempt that is the main theme (so far).

I've chosen to share another page of the art only because it is so good that it demands to be shared. In the comic it is even better as this is a 360 degree panorama and one finger is all that it takes to move left/right and up/down. It is incredibly effective.

The Engine has just reached issue #5 and has reached an interesting point (no spoilers) that promises to take the story in an unexpected direction, i.e. I have no idea what is going to happen next.

There are times with Madefire when I think that the stories are a little over-engineered, and I usually read them with the sound off, but all experiments are good and the evidence today suggests that this is a technology with a future.

And it helps to have a comic as good as The Engine to showcase it.

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