To take full advantage of the fact that Marvel Unlimited is only 99 cents for the first month if you sign up by March 14, Nick is trying to see how much use of the service he can get. Every day, he’ll share what he read. See the previous day here.
Along with the fantastic SXSW deal to try getting you hooked, Marvel added a couple of new features to Marvel Unlimited. One is AR Video, which I’ll test out later in the month. The other is something called Adaptive Audio, and I decided to give that a spin during today’s reading.
To sum it up as succinctly as possible, Adaptive Audio is like having a soundtrack playing to the comic that you’re reading, synching up music and sound effects to whatever you’re looking at. It’s really meant to be used with Marvel Unlimited’s Smart Panel mode, as the sounds can and do change from panel to panel.
I’m the kind of person who likes having background noise going at all times (I usually have music streaming when I’m alone reading comics), so I didn’t find Adaptive Audio distracting at all. If you’re the type who prefers complete silence when you read, your mileage may vary.
The feature is only available on a few issues right now, though Marvel says it may go back and add sound to other old comics gradually over time. Not surprisingly, the arc that Marvel Unlimited is promoting with Adaptive Audio right now is the “Winter Soldier” run from the Ed Brubaker/Steve Epting run on Captain America. The better to promote the upcoming film, right?
Anyway, the music tends to reinforce the story to a tee. There’s ominous music when the Winter Soldier is being put through the ringer in the Soviet Union, drum-filled patriotic music for the Captain America title and recap pages, and so on. Sound effects included punches, Cap’s shield bouncing off walls and bad guys, AIM troops firing automatic weapons and a helicopter carrying Cap, Nick Fury and Sharon Carter into battle, and those are just the ones I can recall off the top of my head.
I’ll admit to being among the skeptics when I heard about this, but it won me over despite the non-stop pleas of my kids to show them the game I was playing on my tablet and the dirty looks I continually received from my wife. I recommend giving Adaptive Audio a test drive if you’ve got a Marvel Unlimited subscription, but you may want to break out the headphones if you’re not alone.
Speaking of subscriptions, I had my first technical hiccup on Day 3. After leaving the app running in the background for a while, I tried going back in and picking new comics to read. No matter what I chose, the app would only allow me to read the first three or four pages — that’s what people without a subscription can see when they use Marvel Unlimited. I ended up having to shut down the app altogether and restart it, at which point it recognized my unlimited account status and returned everything to normal. It was just a minor annoyance, but it’s something I’ll be wary of in case it happens again.
I’ve already given away the first set of issues I read for this edition of the column, so …
Captain America (vol. 5) #8-14
Why I read it: I didn’t have much choice if I wanted to test out Adaptive Audio. Fortunately, it’s also the meat of the Winter Soldier story and the beginning of Bucky Barnes’ road to redemption. The movie won’t get that far down the road, I don’t think. Although the Tesseract already has been a big player in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so …
What I thought: Really good stuff, an excellent mix of action, suspense and character interaction from Brubaker. Cap really gets put through the full range of emotions, initially refusing to belive Bucky could be alive, then wondering what he should do about it once he is faced with the awful truth. I had forgotten about Sharon Carter’s interest in the Winter Soldier, as he killed her boyfriend in the Philadephia bombing. Falcon joins the fray for the conclusion, foreshadowing his larger role in Barnes’ life when Steve Rogers is believed to be dead.
Brubaker’s take on the Cosmic Cube is an interesting one, comparing it to the Monkey’s Paw in that it will do what you ask it, but not without a price of some sort. I don’t remember any other writer presenting it that way, though I haven’t read every Cosmic Cube story out there (and frankly, no one probably has, because writers love using it!). Lukin wants to rid himself of the Cube after his lust for its power grows too strong, something else you don’t see from comic book villains.
Reading the arc again, I’m not sure how some people thought Cap using the Cube turned the Winter Soldier into Bucky, which was one of the theories floating around at the time. Brubaker has denied that himself, and while it would definitely fit with Lukin’s general mind-screw of Rogers, it’s much easier to just accept the story at face value — high praise for the writer considering the many doubters who didn’t think Bucky could be brought back in a meaningful way.
Just as an FYI, issue #10 isn’t part of the arc; it’s a “House of M” crossover that imagines Rogers’ life in an unpleasant reality where he and Bucky both got off Zemo’s plane intact. Epting’s arc on the other issues is terrific as it was for most of the run, and Michael Lark’s fill-in appearance isn’t bad either. One thing I did notice using Smart Panel mode is that some smaller panels don’t look too great when blown up as much as the app does. And I covered the Adaptive Audio in detail up above.
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-3
Why I read it: I had already come up with the title of this post, so reading Fury in his own title only made sense. I’d never read these issues from the 1960s in print or digital.
What I thought: Steranko! All three of these issues were written and drawn by Jim Steranko, whose art style was renowned for its creativity and use of psychedelia, surrealism and other “serious” art influences. What you realize when reading these issues is that not everything is balls to the walls crazy. Steranko would do a page or two with fairly standard, conservative layouts, which made it that more dramatic when he tried something different.
He also drew some attractive females while keeping their bodies looking realistic. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, two-page spreads aren’t suited for the digital comics treatment without some pinching and scrolling to appreciate the whole thing, and that’s where Steranko really shined the brightest. There’s a scene in issue #1 where Fury bursts through a wall on a rocket-powered motorcycle to confront Scorpio (pictured above) that is just awesome.
I didn’t dig Sternako’s writing as much. Since these were from the 60s, the stories are all self-contained, but even though the originality level is high (like the trap-filled fun house S.H.I.E.L.D. uses to put FBI agent Jimmy Woo to the test in issue #2) and stays that way throughout, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re rushing through these stories that are missing pieces of them along the way. There’s also a lot of switching back and forth between silent or sparsely worded scenes and ones that are dense with text, which is a little off-putting.
Still, I’m not upset I checked these out. We’ve accepted Fury as a second banana in modern times, and it was good to see him as the star of an experly illustrated show.
Day 3 issues read: 10
Total issues read to date: 49