With the advent of the iPad, the digital age of comics may finally be blossoming. The iPad as a reading device works best with visual media such as graphic novels and standard comic books. One of the best early apps on the iPad, for instance, is the Marvel Comics reader, which was developed by ComiXology, which also offers a general comics reader app for both the iPad and the iPhone with 1,700 titles across different publishers.
Now ComiXology is bringing that reading experience to the Web with a browser-based reader in beta. (Existing ComiXology users can sign in, others can sign up for an account). The Web reader lets you zoom into each panel and click arrow buttons to go to the next one. Or you can look at the whole page. It is not as satisfying as swiping with your fingers on an iPad, but it does the job if you are on your computer. If you’ve purchased comics in the iPhone or iPad apps, they are available in your library in the Web reader. There are also some freebie comics you can check out.
Unfortunately, the app is in Flash, which makes it look good, but also slows it down. There is some waiting around for the Flash circles to do their thing. But for heavy graphics apps, Flash is still the default. A competing comics app, Graphic.ly, is also available only in Flash via a nice-looking AIR app. If ComiXology made an HTML5 app, it wouldn’t have to have a separate iPad app, but maybe HTML5 isn’t quite ready for full-on comics just yet.
Another thing ComiXology lacks are any social features beyond ratings. Graphic.ly, in contrast, lets you follow other readers and comment directly on pages and panels. The homepage is a stream of comics-related activities which is supposed to help you discover and read new comics. ComiXology takes more of a the classic loner approach to reading comics and brings it online.