DARK HORSE Digital App - First Impressions

DARK HORSE DIGITAL Launching April 27

Dark Horse launched their vaunted digital initiative Wednesday night, as both a web-based system and an app for iOS devices. Initial demand was huge, according to the publisher, so much so that it crashed their servers, and had them going up and down for the first few hours it was available.

So what is the App actually offering? Well, initially this will be a familiar experience to that of most other comics apps. There are cover images for you to browse in the store, with a free section for those who just want to try it out. The free section even includes full stories, like the prequel to the TV show , written by Paul Tobin. The cover images themselves are laid out in a grid, and are slightly larger than some competitors, choosing instead to really feature the art and recognizable images.

Selection is pretty large and varied for a launch-day app. You can get all eight issues of the Mass Effect comic, tons of Hellboy and B.P.R.D., and even full volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub. When you purchase a book, it's a simple two-click setup and it starts to download. Downloads are quick, and several can go at the same time. The interface itself is a little slow right now, jumping between screens isn't as fast as it could be, but it's elegant and easy to navigate.

Once you have some comics downloaded, you can go to your "Bookshelf" and browse them. Click on a cover, and it jumps straight into the book. From here, navigation is identical to that of other comics apps, with clicking or swiping to turn pages, and double-tapping to zoom-in to panel view mode. Resolution of the books seems to vary so far, with some looking a bit grainy when you're zoomed in, while some look just as smooth as when zoomed out. There is a bar along the bottom of the screen that can be brought up so you can easily skip through the book as well. The best feature seen here, though, is when you get to the end of an issue. If you have the next one also on your bookshelf, you simply click "Read next issue" and it automatically launches. It's something missing from some other comics apps and makes it much more user-friendly.

If you don't want your iPad's entire memory taken up by comics, you can easily archive an issue by clicking and holding, then clicking the "close" button. When archived, that deletes the file and puts it in your "Collection" menu, where you can easily re-download it any time.

Overall, there isn't a ton of innovation just yet, but this is a great comics reader. With Dark Horse's varied collection and the new features they introduced so far, it certainly looks like they've done things right. Now if only we had some truly digital features like codexes or encyclopedias, recommendations and biographies, it would be easy to declare the digital age truly here.

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