Title: Niko and the Sword of Light
Cost: Free download (first three chapters), 3.99 for full comic
Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
This fully animated comic stands on the line between comic book and cartoon. It tells the story of Niko, a young warrior, in an archetypal struggle between good and evil, portrayed in this world as light and dark. Niko has sworn to avenge his people by fighting the dark beasts and ridding the land of evil. Along journey he comes across strange creatures who help and hinder his progress.
The balance between audio and visual in terms of the text-based parts of the storytelling is interesting. Sometimes text appears on the screen along with narration, sometimes the narration continues without the text and sometimes text appears silently – as a comic book description box would. Niko speaks aloud his speech bubbles as they appear and sometimes he speaks without bubbles. Instead of being jarring, this invites attention. In order to read the story, you need to pay attention with your eyes and your ears. Panels appear on the page one at a time, creating suspense as you tap to advance the story. When you reach the bottom of the screen, you turn an animated page.
Ultimately, the story seems to skew a little young (the Apple App Store recommends it for ages 9 and up), but older readers will appreciate the vibrant details of the art. The creatures combine elements of many animals. A monstrosaurus has compound eyes, horns, claws, and a long lashing tail. A giant frog-like monster rises out of a swamp to fill the screen. In a panel where Niko talks to a bunch of fish underwater, each fish takes on a bright color when it speaks, then fades back to watery green. My favorite thing is the way the images on the chapter title pages respond to tilting your device. If you do this, you can see more of the image, as if you’re looking out a window from a different angle. This kind of small detail shows the attention that has been paid to creating a lush and intricate world throughout the whole app.
Three chapters is enough to get you hooked and the trailer for the rest of the story that plays once you have read through the first three chapters looks intriguing. This app may inspire would-be comic book creators or animators and will definitely be a hit with fans of comics like Bone, and cartoons like Avatar: The Last Airbender.