When the iPad was launched, something that caught my eye and genuinely made me want to buy it was the Marvel App. If there is a geek that doesn’t like comics, I haven’t interacted with him. And if there’s a geek that doesn’t want an iPad then I haven’t met him either. Even when they claim they don’t.

So could there be a more potent combination than Marvel’s finest on the premier tablet of our time?

Well, for me, yes. For one thing the iPad is out of my price range. Also with the likes Iron Man, Wolverine and Spiderman filling our theaters, is Marvel’s stock high enough to woo even ardent DC Comics fans like myself? Could I trade Batman for Wolverine? Superman for Iron Man?

Marvel iPhone App

Before the crippling decision was made I was saved (as was my wallet) when Apple announced the Marvel App for the iPhone. With DC absent I took the plunge, bought the app and threw myself into the Marvel universe.

At first I was thrilled – as a father I simply hadn’t found time to visit my favored comic stores for years, and I’d always wondered how the more vulnerable and pop characters of Marvel compared to the virtual gods of DC. I was initially very satisfied; great stories available on tap, lovely graphics on the beautiful Retina display and the simple means of moving from page to page.

When the DC app became available, I quickly snapped it up and found myself switching between that and the Marvel one, they’re exactly the same but with different content. But since I’d read most of the DC content already I spent more time with Marvel.

Then my first receipt came in on my Gmail from iTunes. (Also to make purchases an account needs to be registered in the app). My jaw dropped. I’d consumed the entire Civil War series (amongst others) in what seemed like one fell swoop. I just kept buying them at £1.19, without really comparing what it would cost to buy in a shop. £20.

£20?!! For a few comics?!

At that point the shine wore off and I started to notice annoyances. The app allows you to lock orientation but this often means that taller panels don’t look so great in landscape and vice-versa. So of course the orientation can be unlocked and freely used cell for cell, portrait for taller cells, landscape for wider ones. The cells are always immaculately framed but it can get annoying when having to reorient your iPhone every few seconds. It certainly gets stares on the train.

Also, it’s not fully iOS4 compliant, it doesn’t multi-task. After a comic has been bought (with an in-app purchase, the first I’d made since the new feature was made available) the app can’t be fully backgrounded, you need to keep the app open for the download to complete. You can come back to it but it won’t have progressed far.

Plus if you’re not on a strong connection it can take a few minutes for the comic to arrive, they come in at around 10MB each. This is obviously frustrating; why can’t I check my email whilst I await my new comic? Why can’t I excitedly tell my geeky friends on Twitter that I’m about to delve back into the world of the Astonishing X-Men?

That needs to be fixed.

Other features include smart storage management; space can quickly run out when you’re excitedly pulling down comics so it pays to be alerted, or even to let the app delete older comics for you. Also, push notifications are available for new releases of a given series, as well as alerting you to republications of improved digital copies, giving you a better reading experience. Although once I’ve read a comic I don’t read it again. (Unless it’s the Dark Knight Returns).

Have you tried the Marvel or DC apps, or indeed any of the other comic applications available on iOS?

Would you switch your allegiance from one to the other like I did just to try it out?

Be gentle.

-By Greig Byrne