Comixology’s Comics app may be the premier marketplace for purchasing digital comics, but that hasn’t prevented Dark Horse Comics from forging ahead with its own dedicated store. Dark Horse Comics iPad app does many things right—there are tons of free comics and even content from Dynamite Entertainment (publishers of The Boys and Game of Thrones)—but its sluggish performance will make you wish that Dark Horse would simply abandon the app in favor of using Comixology’s offering (which currently lacks Dark Horse Comics’ books).
Getting Started With Dark Horse Comics’ App
Dark Horse Comics doesn’t require you to sign up for an account; in fact, you can download freebies, check out previews, and purchase books without doing so. This lets you dive into content without hurdles, but there’s an advantage to creating an optional account—you can access your collection from any the Dark Horse Comics website or Android/iOS apps.
The Collection section is where you can view your entire library. You’re taken there when you first boot up the app, so that you can check out three free sample titles (Dark Horse Super Sampler, HellBoy: Seed of Destruction #1, and Star Wars: Empire – Betrayal #1). Tapping the thumbnail of a comic that you already purchased on another device initiates a download to the app’s On Device section. The Collection/On Device functionality isn’t explained; I had to consult the help section to truly “get it.”
Tapping the Store icon opens the Featured book section. There you’ll find the new weekly releases and other highlighted titles, such as Dark Horse Comics’ many video game tie-in titles. A menu bar houses four icons that let you jump between the Featured, Series, Free, and New sections. Navigation is simple, but I wish Dark Horse Comics had followed Comixology’s lead and placed a prominent search box in each section (Dark Horse Comics tucks it away in a drop down box). A drop-down menu gives you an alternate way to browse titles by series or genre.
Bringing a finger to a comic thumbnail opens a preview window where you can view an issue’s story synopsis, page count, creative team, and publisher. The app also features Dynamite comics such as Green Hornet, Vampirella, and The Shadow, but individual issues and collections purchased using Comixology’s Comics app do not transfer over. You can also download previews of any title so that you can try before you buy.
Many single-issue Dark Horse Comic’s titles are priced range between $1.99 and $3.99 (you will, of course, pay more for collected editions), which may prove a bummer to those hoping that the digital transition would translate into cheaper prices. That said, Dark Horse offers a ton of free titles, including the 70-page Dark Horse Comics Presents #1, which downloaded to my iPad over Wi-Fi in under a minute.
The Reading Experience
Swiping through Dark Horse Presents #1 was a mostly effortless effort, save for the moments when the app chugged. This lagginess also popped up when switching between the store and my Collection, or scrolling through new release. Comixology suffered no such performance issues.
Dark Horse Comics’s app, like Comixolgy, offers many ways to read your favorite titles. Besides the basic page view, there’s Fit to Width (which lets you read full-screen when the iPad is in landscape mode), and Panel Zoom (a panel-to-panel automatic flow designed to simulate how humans read comics). However, Dark Horse Comics’ Panel Zoom sometimes places images and text off-center and isn’t quite as good as Comixology’s Guided View. In one instance, the panel was so misaligned that I couldn’t discern what I was looking at until I exited the mode.
The area where Dark Horse Comics’s app trumps Comixology’s Comix is when you finish a comic it drives to you take action. When I reached the end of HellBoy, the app prompted me to Preview Next Issue (which downloaded a four-page sampler), Keep Reading (it kept me within the book I read), Buy Next Issue, or Stop Reading (which returned me to the Collection page). The Buy Next Issue prompt may prove troublesome to comics fans trying to show purchasing restraint—it makes buying books incredibly convenient.
Not Quite Super, Man
Dark Horse Comic’s app quickly delivers the publisher’s many licensed and creator-owned books to your iPad, but the occasional sluggishness may leave you wishing that Dark Horse Comics simply used Comixology’s Comics app for distribution. Plus, comics-fans like me who buy issues from a variety of publishers think it’s ridiculous that we need two apps. Still, Dark Horse Comics diehards who dig digital comics shouldn’t hesitate to give it a download.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc