Comic Review: Dr. Horrible
Release: March 24, 2010
Genre: Comic Book
Developer: Dark Horse Comics, Inc.
Available Platforms: iPhone OS
Zack Whedon and Joelle Jones bring a bit of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to comic book form in this one-shot, and Dark Horse has ported it to the iPhone OS. Taking Joss Whedon’s Writer’s Strike creation into comic book form is no simple task; how exactly do you translate a musical into the printed page? Dr. Horrible, Captain Hammer, Penny, and Moist all show up in in this original story that trades their singing voices for word balloons.
This iPhone OS app (playable on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and upcoming iPad) is the most bare-bones of app possible, with it being nothing more than a flip book. A simple swipe allows you to jump from panel to panel. If you’re unaware with the story of Dr. Horrible, it’s about the titular failed super villain, his assistant Moist (who has the power to be moist), the heroic Captain Hammer, and mutual love-interest Penny. The musical showed the characters in their daily life, but this comic goes back a bit to show why Dr. Horrible grew up to be a super villain, on top of another interaction between Horrible and Hammer and Horrible and Penny. It hits the notes that one having watched the musical expects, but takes it from the musical medium into a more traditional comic book.
The story is good and fun, but part of what made Dr. Horrible such a runaway online success was the fact that it was a musical in an outlet that hadn’t really had a musical outside of YouTube videos of people dancing to music through the ages. While Joss Whedon succeeds with a certain subset (and tends to fail spectacularly when it comes to ratings), Zack Whedon has a lower goal: writing a Dr. Horrible comic book is like selling bandages to the injured; you’ve got a built-in audience that will eat it up. With that said, Dr. Horrible fails to reach any sentimental or dark moments that the musical hit, and instead goes for the comedy and action elements traditional to the medium.
The app could be greatly improved in a variety of ways. It’d be nice if this was all-inclusive, featuring all the stories of Dr. Horrible that Dark Horse has published. Additionally, it’d be nice if they took the route of Marvel and DC and have these comics voiced and somewhat animated. If anything, the app could improve from a page selector, zoom capabilities, full page capabilities, and the like. What you see is what you get; the panels, despite being formulated for the iPhone’s resolution, you can’t get any closer to Jones’ artwork, and it may take you a minute just to scan through for a panel you really like.
You can’t get any cheaper than a dollar in the App Store (literally, outside of apps being free, $.99 is as cheap as it gets), and given that the comic retails for 3-4x that in the comic books store (and requires a trip to the a comic book store, which many might not be able to do for one reason or another). You also can’t get any cheaper than the production values in the app, which is just nothing more than bare bones image flipping. If you like Dr. Horrible, check it out, but if not, go watch the musical. For only a few more bucks, you can download the whole series or buy the DVD or Blu-Ray.