Marvel Comics recently released a great iPad and iPhone app called, oddly enough, Marvel Comics. There's a lot to like about this program if you're a comic book reader like me. The default mode for reading comics is "Guided View". The first time you launch the app, it asks if you'd like a tutorial on how to use it (it's probably best to say "yes" if you haven't seen the app in action before). If you say "yes" you'll be greeted by Iron Man.
As it says, tapping on the right side takes you forward in the comic. But it doesn't take you to the next page – it takes you to the next panel. Once you see it in action, it's pretty nice – no more having a surprise spoiled by glancing ahead as you turn a page. If the panel looks better landscape instead of portrait, the screen will rotate (you can turn this off, which is the default). You can also rotate the screen any time to swing the frame around if you like.
There may be some splash pages that are larger than the size the screen is willing to show by default – but the program continues "guiding" you through the text balloons, so you still are reading everything in order. Of course, you have the option to pinch in and out, and to show an entire page of a comic. I found it to be pretty readable on the iPhone, and I expect even more so in the iPad.
Another nice feature is the way the library is organized. You can look by series, creator,genre, rating, release date, and my favorite, storyline/arc. So if you missed, say Marvel's "Planet Hulk" series, you can go back and buy all the issues pertaining to it. You can also do a search of the Marvel store.
Yes, the app is free, but most of the comics aren't. There are a few free comics available, so you can test it out and see if you're interested in paying for others. So there shouldn't be any surprise. In addition to buying a digital copy, Marvel will point you to a local comic shop to buy issues (including back issues) if you'd prefer to hold the paper in your hands.
There is one major issue with the comic app, though – and that's the content. There just isn't enough of it! The newest comic I could find was from 2007. What *I* want is to be able to subscribe to my comics and get them automatically delivered every month.
What very odd is that Marvel has a digit comic subscription program – but only on the web. The same subs are not available on the iPhone/iPad app. This is crazy! I don't want to read comics on my computer, stuck at my desk, or on a laptop. After seeing how nice they look on the iPhone app, I'm sure I will love reading them on the iPad. But really, Marvel, what are you thinking?
At least they're light-years ahead of their main rival, DC Comics. The DC must mean "Don't Care" about digital comics, because they have nothing available in any form right now.
Quite a few of the smaller publishers have comics available via iPhone/iPad apps, though. In fact, there's an app called "Comics" that looks just like the Marvel app! That's because it looks like Marvel customized the Comics app as a Marvel-only version. The Comics app has a lot of publishers (at least 30 right now) including Marvel. So unless you're only a Marvel reader, there's no reason to limit yourself – pick up the Comics app (also free). Sure, you won't get Iron Man as a guide, but I think you'll get by:
(And now a plug on the side – one of my favorite titles right now is from one of these smaller publishers – Boom Studios. It's called "Irredeemable": think of a world where a guy with the powers of Superman, who's been the planet's protector for years, suddenly decides he hates all of humanity. Yeah, it's not a pretty sight, and the few heroes left (he starts by killing off many of them) are trying desperately to stop him. Check it out! No, I don't know the author or own part of Boom Studios).