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Cognito Comics today launched Operation Ajax, a dazzling graphic novel for iPad, in a bid to reinvent storytelling for the digital age. The app is free for a limited time.

Operation Ajax is a bold retelling of the book “All the Shah’s Men,” which recounts the CIA-led Iranian coup d’etat of 1953, that deposed  Mohammad Mossadegh, the elected leader, and ushered in the regime of the brutal Mohammad Reza Shah, who was largely seen to be a puppet of the U.S.

Ajax was built from the ground up by Cognito Comics to take full advantage of the iPad as a new and exciting tool for storytelling. To mimic the experience of reading a comic book or graphic novel on the page, all panels are rendered in portrait format, and the story blends the best of print and digital publishing, with arresting visuals, in-panel animation and sound effects. The ominous, haunting images are works of art by themselves, and the iPad as a platform makes possible the inclusion of historical news reels and rare, declassified documents that further augment the story.

Having played with the app myself, it’s not an exaggeration to say that Operation  gives a glimpse of what the tablet can do to transform the reading experience. It’s akin to watching a movie, where you can pause the action at any time to gape at the scenery.

The whole process of creating Operation Ajax took about four years, Cognito Comics’ Ash Aiwase told VentureBeat. Aiwase gives due credit to Cognito’s angel investors and their long term vision, which helped Cognito to get through the many stages of the final product launch. Originally Ajax was conceived as a graphic novel in print, says Aiwase, but this was before  the iPad was announced in 2010. With the prospect of interactivity, and storytelling innovation, the idea morphed into something that fully utilizes the iPad’s bright screen and powerful image processors.

“Using the platform we used, the only thing limiting us with Ajax was time and scope,” says Aiwase. “Put it this way, we didn’t run up on our technology limits doing Ajax. There’s still a lot of ways we can put together comics stories that include elements that people just don’t see right now, and that’s very exciting.”

While the graphic novel is free for the next two weeks, it will cost $7.99 afterwards, which is very cost competitive with other forms of print media and premium digital content. Aiwase says that for the same $7.99, a comic fan gets about 40 pages of a comic book at today’s prices. DC Comics this week announced that its series Batman Beyond will be available as a download first, and in print second, indicating the comics industry is also starting to tap into the iPad as a distribution mechanism.

But Cognito’s mission isn’t just to replicate the comics industry on the iPad, the broader vision is to reinvent storytelling for the digital age. While Aiwase wouldn’t comment, Cognito is hard at work on a new story about a pint-sized monster slayer, which will take full advantage of their experience with Ajax, and continue to push the boundaries of storytelling.

“One of our missions is to tell stories in innovative ways, and this is just the first step,” says Aiwase, “This is just getting out into the marketplace.”

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