Comic books on the iPad

Comic books on the iPad

The interface is obtrusive, but the comics are great.

I don't know why it took me this long to realize that you can buy and read comics on your iPad. It wasn't until I was literally browsing the Graphic Novels shelf at a bookstore this weekend that the thought occurred to me. "I can never find The Walking Dead," I thought. "Hmm, I wonder if you can buy it in iTunes?"

Yes you can, and yes I did. Better still, if you are unconvinced, you can also download a free preview. The preview I tried was a good one, it gave you about 10 pages - more than enough to get a feel for the comic and how it would work on your iPad.
 
This is the first and only comic I have read on the iPad to date. I'm not sure if the interface varies by comic or by application. I read it in iBooks, which is the default reader on the iPad. 
 
Since I have an older iPad (i.e. no retina display) I wanted to be able to see one page per screen, portrait orientation. It felt like the interface didn't want to do this; it was a real struggle to convince it to do so. 

If you turn the iPad vertical, by default it gives you two pages. This is crazy. Who would ever want to read two comic book pages at a time in the vertical iPad orientation? Why is this the default behavior? Seriously people, sometimes I wonder.
 
Overall, this endeavor suffered from a lot of what Neal Stephenson calls "metaphor shear." The Walking Dead on the iPad was trying very hard to convince me that it was still a "real" comic. Thus, there were a lot of atavistic features which were more annoying than clever.
 
For example, I have never liked that "click and drag and it looks like you're turning the page" interface. If I'm reading a graphic novel on the iPad, I don't want it to try to act just like a paper comic. I want it to be seamless and easy. I want the interface to become invisible. But I was quite aware of the interface at all times. 
 
Eventually I learned that if you click on the side of the page, it turns it for you. There's still a preposterous "page turning" animation, though. Ridiculous.
 
Now for the good news. The artwork looked as crisp and clean as it would in real life. Maybe better, since it's all digital, with no ink to get smudged or off-set. You can pinch and zoom and drag the page around just like any other image, which lets you home in on the detail. And best of all, it means that you can buy your favorite graphic novels anytime, anywhere you have an internet connection. All hail the future!