Madefire is a new motion comic reader app for iOS devices. The iPad version of the app launched earlier this year, but the new iPhone/iPod touch-compatible update aims to bring the motion comic experience to smaller screens and thus a wider audience. This review is based on the experience of the new iPhone/iPod touch version.
Upon starting Madefire for the first time, the user is presented with a selection of comics to browse. At the time of writing, there are only six entries in the list, several of which note that they are not yet available on iPhone 4S. The remainder appear to be available for free download at this time, and include content from Dave “Watchmen” Gibbons, Haden Blackman and numerous other comics industry veterans.
Tapping on a comic’s cover in the main “store” page allows for the user to view a synopsis of the comic, read its credits and opt to download it. An option in the app’s settings menu either allows or disallows for the downloading of content over the cellular data network — by default, it is disabled, meaning that books must be downloaded over Wi-Fi. Given the relatively large file size of many of the books, this is a wise move to protect users’ data allowances, but the facility is there to disable it if deemed appropriate.
A pop-out menu at the side of the screen allows the user easy access to books they have already downloaded as well as a list of creators which can be browsed to retrieve biographical information on the books’ writers, artists and other creative minds. There’s also a news feed option reserved for Madefire to post pertinent information to users, though at the time of writing this only carried one post from the beginning of September.
When reading a book, the user has the option of viewing in either portrait or landscape mode. The app respects the user’s orientation lock preferences, so landscape mode may only be enabled if the device is unlocked. Tapping or swiping on either side of the screen advances or steps backwards through the comic’s various frames and, being motion comics, most books incorporate music, sound and animated effects into each frame as well as the artwork and text. Tapping in the center of the screen brings up the “page scrubber” interface, from which users may skip back or forward to specific points in the book as well as share links to what they are reading via Facebook, Twitter and email. All three of these “share” facilities use iOS’ built-in social features where available rather than requiring access to external apps.
Madefire is a solid motion comic reader. The interface is minimalist but effective and the audio-visual quality is very good. The only question mark hanging over the service right now is the relatively limited amount of content and the seeming lack of monetization. Without a doubt as further creators and publishers come to the service both of these issues will resolve themselves — and the currently-available content will keep readers busy for a little while, at least — but at present the app feels a little limited. It’s certainly one to watch, however, as this relatively new, immersive approach to reading comics is drawing praise from press and public alike, and as the available selection expands, the experience will only get better and better.
Madefire is not currently listed in any App Store leaderboards. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.