Digital Comic Review: Age of Bronze: Seen #1

Age of Bronze: Seen #1 (for iPad)
By Eric Shanower
Colors by John Dallaire
Reader’s Guide by Thomas Beasley
Published by Throwaway Horse and Hungry Tiger Press
Release Date: October 14, 2011
Price: $.99

Eric Shanower’s epic Eisner-Award-winning series Age of Bronze has been praised by comic book fans, historians, and educators alike. Currently at 31 issues (and counting), the title began in 1989 with an ambitious goal: merge literary sources and historical/archaeological data on the Trojan War into a singular cohesive story. The fact that it’s an entertaining read on top of that is just icing on the cake.

Now the team at Throwaway Horse has brought Age of Bronze into the digital age by combining the original stories with a comprehensive reader’s guide by Yale classics scholar Thomas Beasley. The result is an even more in-depth look at the Trojan War that includes maps, character guides, internet resources, and even a reader’s commentary forum… all without leaving the app (helpful hint: the forum can be reached by tapping “Reader’s Guide” when it’s active).

While this iPad-exclusive app is fairly impressive, it’s unfortunate that the supplemental material is given better treatment than the actual story. You can zoom in on Shanower’s beautifully detailed artwork, but it was scanned at low resolution so it’s not as clear as I’d have hoped. And while I appreciate seeing the pages in color, I wish there was an option for viewing the book in its original black and white as well. Another problem is that reading the book is a bit more difficult than it should be. Comixology’s “Guide View” technology allows you to jump from panel to panel with ease in their digital comics, but there’s nothing like that here which means a lot of scrolling. There’s also a bizarre clipping window that restricts the viewable area when zooming that’s kind of frustrating.

With a little more attention paid to the reading experience, Age of Bronze “Seen” could be a shining example of how comics can benefit from the transition to a digital format. Coming from a guy who still prefers the ink-on-paper approach of real comic books, this is quite a revelation. But having such a wealth of extras just a tap away is too compelling and addictive to ignore. If this is the future of digital comics, I might be sold. At a 99 cents price tag, it’s definitely worth checking out for yourself.

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