Price: $9.99 to $14.99
Versions Reviewed: 1.0
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Dark Horse comics, already a fine purveyor of print and iPhone comics, has decided to dip their toe into the murky waters of iPad comic publishing. The iPad, long hailed as the savior of all things comic book, is the perfect platform for comic book publishing. My case in point? The standalone Frank Miller comic apps, comprising Sin City Volumes 1 and 2, and the Miller/Varley magnum opus, 300. While I've tried my hand at single issue comics from Marvel, DC, and iDW, this is the first time I've read through what amounts to a Trade Paperback (TPB) on the iPad. The result? Nothing short of brilliant.
Granted, the art and stories in question are among the finest in the field. The black and white work in Sin City is superb and detailed, and the story just short of genius. Volume 1, The Hard Goodbye, follows Marv, a hard bitten criminal with a taste for amazingly beautiful woman, top shelf alcohol, and the sleazy side of the city, as he searches for the mysterious killer of his one night stand. In Volume 2, A Dame To Kill For, we see some of the events from Volume 1 from a different prequel perspective.
300, for those of you living in a box the past 12 years, is a fictional retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae and the events leading up to it from the perspective of Leonidas of Sparta. The artwork is a full color extravaganza with Miller's trademark pen and ink style, painted by Lynn Varley, Miller's wife at the time. It's a brutal yet gorgeous retelling of the ancient story, and full worth every moment spent with it.
To buy these books in a bookstore, you're looking at ten to fifteen dollars more than Dark Horse is asking for the digital versions. That's a significant savings, and you can tell yourself that it saved some trees. The app itself is fairly basic; a tap on the right advances a page while a tap on the left moves back a page. Settings are limited to setting the page transition animation to Fade, Slide or None, and you can control the brightness from int he app as well, a welcome addition for bedtime readers with partners. At the bottom of the screen, there is a scrollbar and a page counter to navigate quickly and accurately. The app will display the last page you were reading when launched, as well.
That may sound under-featured, but for comics reading, it's really fantastic. The more transparent the interface, the better, allowing the iPad to get out of the way and letting the works of art shine through. It might be a nice addition, especially for the price, to add a "page flip" option, to mimic the turning of pages, but it's not a deal breaker.
The one niggling issue I have? No manual zoom. I suppose I've gotten used to the many other comic apps I've used on the iPad, but I miss the ability to pinch out and look more closely at the artwork or dialogue. It's a small issue, but real enough in the comic book reading app world. You can re-orient the iPad and the comic will shrink or grow, but it's still a "read it the way they want you" experience. As I said, though, it won't keep me from recommending these. For such a great savings over the print versions, these are a must have for any comic book reader or Frank Miller fan, and a wonderful way to show off your iPad's glorious screen and resolution, of course.