This weekend I got to test out Marvel’s new AR app on an early release copy of Avengers Vs X-men #1. Unfortunately the app is currently only out on apple products (with android products getting a release of the app very shortly), so I had to track down an iPad. Let me hilariously point out, that it was much easier for me to get my hands on AvX #1 than it was for me to get someone to let me borrow their iPad. However, once I got the hardware I needed, downloading and running the new Marvel AR app was simple.

Instantly upon turning the Marvel AR app towards the cover of AvX#1 you see the logos start to fade and action take over your comic book, as viewed through your mobile device. The cover basically gives you a beautiful trailer for the series as well as an unexpected and very cool new way to view comic books, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. This Augmented Reality technology is just brilliant.

Starting into the issue, our first interior AR scene on a rather lovely double page spread, is actually a chance for editor Axel Alonso to walk on to your comic and explain Marvel AR. It’s a little amusing seeing a small human walking around inside your comic, much as you could imagine the first time watching TV would’ve blown the mind of someone as they wondered how they fit such tiny men in that box.

Unfortunately some of the double page spreads are a little hard to scan with the AR reader, as you may need to make sure your comic is perfectly flat and spread out…meaning you need to press against the binding a bit sadly (mint comic collectors are gonna hate this). But with our second spread we see another cool usage of the technology when the art reverts from its final printed form, to the original pencils. The AR animation then shows us as the pencils get inked and colored. AvX #1 cover by Jim CheungA very nice touch that makes me appreciate John Romita Jr.’s art a little more. Throughout the issue this becomes a common use of the AR app, and we even get to see changes made between original pencils and inks, such as the fact that JR Jr had originally drawn Hawkeye with his older, face covering, costume and had to alter it to the new Avengers movie style. Little pieces like that just make the experience all the more rewarding. Another keen addition the AR brings in AvX #1 is a small intro from Brian Michael Bendis which, though not necessarily informative, was fun to hear. At this point, however, you quickly realize that the AR app is right now really just contributing the equivalent of DVD extras; you don’t really need to watch or hear any of this stuff, but if you have the time it’s mildly amusing. Furthermore, like DVD extras, you’re going to want to read and enjoy the comic on its own first. Of course, a fair amount of these extras are currently more amusing because they’re applying such new technology to the comic book medium. Given a few years of AR related extras in my comic books and I could easily see myself saying “it’s not worth getting out the iDevice/Droid for this issue”. Another awesome pop-up from the AR app was character profiles that make me feel like some kind of future spy analyzing a target, and getting their bios and stats.

Of course there are some problems with the technology. The AR video is a little shakey, even if you’re not. This means the edges get a little pixilated, and those weak of stomach might feel like they’re watching the Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. Also, the quality is a little low and sometimes the video moves a bit faster than I would like. This is especially a problem when it comes to showing pencils for the pages and you’re able to realize that what we see in the finished, print copy of the comic is not what was originally drawn. I’d love it if you could pause the app and analyze the original pencils to see what could’ve been. Finally, the big problem with this is that it works fine with a tablet, like the iPad, but until the droid version of the app goes live I’m not too sure how enjoyable this will be with a small, phone sized screen. Even with the larger screen of my Droid Razr Maxx, or screens on the Droid X/X2, I think the size could really affect ones ability to enjoy the AR experience. Smaller screened mobile devices, such as the iPhone and Droid, might be downright less enjoyable to use the AR app on than simply waiting for Marvel to upload the video to youtube. Perhaps they’ll make a zoom option in future updates to solve this problem.

Overall the Marvel AR app is a lot of fun and well worth the quick and free download if you have an apple or android based mobile device. It may not truly change the way you read comics, but it’s a fun and new experience that brings a little more entertainment to the $4 you are throwing down for a single comic book from the company. Download the Marvel AR app on apple mobiles today, and android mobiles later this week. Also, don’t forget to pick up Avengers Vs X-men #1, on sale this week!

 

UPDATE: For those of you curious bout our opinion on the Android or Mobile phone versions of the app, click here.