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The Daily Read: 12/13

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Of all the problems to plague a webcomic, navigation is doubtlessly the worst. The system has become so standardized, that any attempt to break from it is met with solid resistance, even if the break represents an improvement or innovation. But just ignoring the standard webcomic navigation is about the worst one can do, as the new reader bumbles about frustrated, especially when the comic itself looks so interesting.

Never has the case been stronger than with John Ostrander’s GrimJack on ComicMix. The company boasts the tag line “We’ve got issues!” – true in more ways than one.

Ostrander’s GrimJack is one of the most popular characters to make the leap from print comics to digital ones, and the transition seems to have been at least somewhat successful, as it appears on the second page of Top Webcomics. But it's amazing how navigation is the crux in all of this. The Top Webcomics link leads the October issue, and while you can cycle all the way to the current December issue, it is infinitely harder to go backwards. Eventually you have to start over an entire issue rather than go backwards page-by-page.

This is indeed a shame because the navigation hinders what is by and large a very successful and accessible comic story. If only the site allowed its readers to navigate as swiftly and easily as Ostrander steers his roguish lead GrimJack. The comic is still a more or less print format put online, but Ostrander moves with enough gusto to the keep the readers begging for more.

Eventually, the navigation becomes a nagging pain, but a pain nonetheless. It occurs to me that many industry juggernauts ranging all the way from NBC to DC have had quite a bit of trouble making webcomic engines accessible and intuitive, when oftimes the simplest solution is the best. Who knows? If GrimJack finds an easier steering wheel, it might be able to take a bigger slice of the pie on Top Webcomics.

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