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Archie Comics has launched what it calls its new app — it’s really an update of the publisher’s existing iOS and Android apps — with an offer of 100 free comics for those who download it. And there may be more: I asked Archie’s Alex Segura how long the promotion would be in effect and he said, “We’re looking to have this up for about a month, and if downloads reach a certain threshold, we’ll be unlocking more free books on a tiered basis to celebrate the new app launches on Android and iOS.”
There’s quite a range of free comics available on the app, including classics, recent releases and comics that feature the side characters Jinx, Sabrina (original and manga versions) and Cosmo the Merry Martian. Not present: Afterlife With Archie, which carries a teen rating as opposed to Archie’s standard all-ages rating. There are also no Sonic, Mega Man or New Crusaders freebies, although they are available for in-app purchase. Say what? Yes, this app is built on iVerse’s Comics Plus platform, so you can buy new comics in-app. The app also includes Archie Unlimited, an all-you-can eat subscription service that allows subscribers to read a ton of comics, both new and back issues; because it’s integrated into the app, you can then buy the ones you want to keep.
Here are my picks for six free Archie comics that make entertaining reading, especially on a lazy summer weekend.
Batman/Superman, Vol. 1: Cross World (DC Comics): The greatest virtue of the Greg Pak-written World’s Finest team-up title is also its main drawback: There’s really great, flat-out gorgeous artwork by Jae Lee … except when their isn’t. Lee draws the lion’s share of the book — about 70 of its 100-plus story pages — and it’s some of the artist’s best comics work; his heroic figures pose through a series of complex layouts, their anatomy and features those of real, if exceptionally beautiful, people, rather than musclebound action figures. The too-busy New 52 costume designs are stripped down to their essentials, the various bits of technology all look like mobile art installations, and Lee’s vision of a Gotham City park is appropriately, if amusingly, dark, twisted and exaggerated.
He might not have been the best possible choice for this particular storyline, which involves two different Batmen, Supermen and Catwomen, given his use of silhouettes and sparse panels, and the cacophony of color-coded narration boxes have to do a little more work than they might otherwise. But it’s jarring to the point of shocking when fill-in artists appear to help Lee, with Ben Oliver-drawn climaxes for the first and last issues/chapters, and an extensive Yildiray Cinar flashback in another issue. There’s also a rather tacked-on origin story of Darkseid and the main villain for the story arc, which appeared in September’s Justice League #23.1, drawn by two more artists.