On Wednesday, the first issue of a new e-comic called Double Barrel was published. It's a monthly comic that features two ongoing stories. Zander Cannon's Heck is a pulpy thriller about a man whose mansion contains a gateway to hell, which inspires him to sells his services as a courier between the living and their dead loved ones. Kevin Cannon's Crater XV is a story about a haggard old sailor who joins a young girl on a mysterious quest. Heck's artwork is pleasantly sketchy and the story hints at a deeper mystery propelling the characters; the artwork in Crater XV is dense and ornate (it reminds me of Craig Thompson's work, which is definitely a good thing) and it's a more literary pursuit.
Both the stories in Double Barrel #1 are highly promising beginnings that fly in the face of the modern mainstream comics tendency to stretch narratives out past the point of common sense. There's more plot, more character, and more high-concept craziness here in this first issue than you'll find in any three or four collected trade paperbacks from the big two comics publishers. But the reason you should be especially excited for the comic is this: The Cannons have finally gotten the e-comic publishing model right*. The first issue of Double Barrel features four chapters of each story, plus an introductory comic, plus the first part of an ongoing comics tutorial, and also some other features. It's 122 pages, and it costs $1.99. The Cannons promise that future issues will be at least fifty pages and will remain $1.99. This is just about right for a comic, I think; the fact that most modern serial comics cost $3.99 for 20 or 22 pages of (deflated) story is laughable. A monthly comic book should take a while to read, and it should offer an experience that can't be replicated in a trade paperback. Double Barrel is a lot of fun, and most importantly, it's a lot of different kinds of fun. If you love (or ever loved) reading comics in a serialized format, I urge you to give Double Barrel a try. I think it's going to be a great ride.
* Well, they got it almost right.
Because Double Barrel is distributed through great alternative publisher Top Shelf, you can only buy it through Comixology and iBooks. This means that there is no option to buy the issues on a DRM-free format. Top Shelf and other publishers in the comic book industry generally run a year or two behind the publishing industry in terms of e-book strategy, so I expect they won't be publishing DRM-free books anytime soon. I know lots of folks refuse to pay for content in proprietary format, but I contend that $2 is a small enough investment that it's worth it. If it makes you feel better, buy a copy of the comic and then send a letter to the Cannons urging them to go DRM-free; they'll be running an old-fashioned letters column in Double Barrel, and I bet they'd be willing to have this conversation in public in future issues.