It all started three years ago. Jim, the editor and chief bottle washer around here, got it in head that comic books published on paper were simply going the way of the Dodo and he wasn't exactly alone in that revelation. He started posting under a new column heading: PAPER COMIC DEATHWATCH and many many of those posts were filled with all sorts of possibilities regarding devices to create, publish, and read digital comics on (they didn't even have an official name back then). Some of it we saw coming, some of it we called out right, and some of it missed the boat but digital comics are here to stay!
HIGH RES PREVIEW...
Today I'll be reviewing a comic purchased on my iPad from the DARKHORSE digital comic store: STARWARS: The Force Unleashed! As a rule these High Res Reviews will be spoiler free unless we give you lots of warning of the contrary. So to that end I'm going to steal the story overview from it's amazon page, no reason to reinvent the wheel here:
"Since childhood, Vader’s nameless agent has known only the cold, mercenary creed of the Sith. His past is a void; his present, the carrying out of his deadly orders. But his future beckons like a glistening black jewel with the ultimate promise: to stand beside the only father he has ever known, with the galaxy at their feet. It is a destiny he can realize only by rising to the greatest challenge of his discipleship: destroying Emperor Palpatine.
HIGH RES COMIC REVIEW...
I've not played the game that is the basis for the comic, but I have read the novelization of this story as well as the comic and I have to say the comic is by far my favorite way to experience it. The story is formulated very similar to the way the first three movie plots were formulated (particularly A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back) and we open up with a shot of deep space as a rag tag band with a rebellious nature are in search of something they very much need to begin an important quest.
The art team (Brian Ching, Bong Dazo, and Wayne Nichols) gives us a beautiful portrait of the STAR WARS universe panel by panel and done so in a "gritty" fashion the way A New Hope was grittier and dirtier than most scifi films before it.
Soon a droid is found, and as you might suspect, it plays a pivotal role in the story as well as the narration of the story focusing on Starkiller, Vader's secret Sith apprentice. The reader is immediately whisked away on mission after clandestine mission as a tag along member of Starkiller's crew with no time to spare as Vader pushes his apprentice farther and farther, all the while expecting him to fail at each turn of the story. The speed and pace of the action in the story is very similar to that of a video game and you can tell the author (Haden Blackman) very much intended it to be so.
As it takes place two years before the battle of Yavin (The Deathstar run from A New Hope) The Force Unleashed does an excellent job of tying the two trilogies together and utilizing popular characters we've all come to know and love. It's a fast paced action adventure comic set in one of the most recognizable scifi environments ever to be published in. The Force Unleashed delivers everything that Digital Comic fans and Star Wars fans alike have come to expect when they fire up their tablet or smart phone for graphic entertainment. The Force Unleashed is done beautifully in full color and at 128 pages it's well worth the $5.99 price tag (11.00 cheaper than the novel and 10.00 cheaper than the game).
HIGH RES APP REVIEW...
The DARKHORSE digital comics store (and app) have been live for some time now. This is my first comic actually purchased from the app which has some very nice features.
Before we go briefly into the features I should note that the DARKHORSE app is significant due to the fact that it's not been built/developed on top of ComiXology's own app as both MARVEL and DC's comic app have been. DARKHORSE has in house developers and their app, while sharing some of the same options, is different from those others.
The DARKHORSE app is free to download and it includes a store, a book shelf, and archive (collection) sections. The archive is set up for you to send your comics too in order to free up memory/space on your tablet or smart phone. With one touch collected (archived) books can be moved back to the bookshelf section to be read again. The store has a moderate selection of widely popular comics for free and then plenty more to buy.
One thing I really enjoyed about using the DARKHORSE app was how easy it was to navigate the comic pages. By moving your finger across the screen pretty much any way other than to the left (or back) the comic moves forward for you. It seems to "know" when you require a wider shot consisting of having more of the page showing on your screen and when you'll want it to focus on a panel or even a part of a panel.
From time to time this zooms in just a bit to far and begins to pixelate the image but the clarity returns immediately once it's stopped zooming in so far in on any one particular page. The only real complaint I have about the app is the speed in which it loads, begins to expose books to you, and how fast it downloads a book that you've chosen to either buy or receive for free from the store. The entire app seems just a tad too slow in nearly all areas until you get the comic downloaded to your machine.
Hardly an issue that would keep me from future purchases by any means. Maybe I'll take a look at Firefly next.
Well that about does it for this round of HIGH RES REVIEWS. What do you think? Are you a tablet owner? Are you reading comics on it? If so are you buying comics on it? Thoughts on the 5.99 price point? We'd love to hear from you about this review, and about digital comics in general. Feel free to leave any comments you may have.