Whether you’re into Tom King’s Batman run, Jonathan Hickman’s reboot of the X-Men universe, or something more independent like Saga or Invincible, having a centralized place to read your comic books is a must for all comic book enthusiasts.
Digital comic book readers provide a centralized location for your comic books to live, making them easy to read and keep organized. With digital readers, you don’t have to visit a comic book store or purchase physical copies to stay up on the latest issues of your favorite series. And, readers that allow you to upload your own comics are also a great way to keep your cherished collection in mint condition while rereading favorites. And let’s be honest, being able to have hundreds of comic books on your tablet or phone is nothing short of awesome.
Big comic book publishers—like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and others—have their own readers. And while these independent readers are awesome in their own right, they limit you to their content only, so if you want to read content from multiple publishers in one sitting, you’ll have to switch between different apps. Each of the readers we’re recommending mitigate this by supporting content from multiple publishers, saving you the hassle.
Best for Subscriptions: ComiXology
If you care more about staying on top of the latest issues from all of your favorite publishers than owning physical copies, cloud-based ComiXology (Free with in-app purchases) is your best bet. It is the most comprehensive and user-friendly comic book reader on the market, and it allows you to read both classic issues and brand-spanking-new ones from big publishers like DC, Marvel, IDW, Dark Horse, Image, Valiant, Shonen Jump, Archie, Dynamite, and more.
Subscribing to a series in Comixology automatically purchases new issues as soon as they’re released, and notifies you when they’re ready to download. Or, you can opt to sign up for ComiXology Unlimited for $5.99/month, which gives you access to over 25,000 digital comics, graphic novels, and manga, along with discounts and the ability to download your comics to read offline. Either way, issues are a cinch to read, thanks to ComiXology’s proprietary Guided View technology, which gives you a more immersive panel-by-panel read.
As a note to iOS readers, Comixology removed the in-app purchase feature in 2014 (which is otherwise still available to Android or Kindle Fire users). This decision was made because Apple was taking a 30% cut of profits from in-app purchases and subscriptions, and Comixology (owned by Amazon) didn’t want to pay those fees. So, if you’re using the app on your iPhone or iPad, note that it only works as a reader. You can browse the store and read free comics within the app, but when the time comes to purchase them, you’ll have to pull up the Comixology store on a different device in order to do so.
Best for Uploading Your Own Comic Books: Astonishing Comic Reader
If you don’t want to deal with subscriptions, or if you prefer to purchase your digital comic books elsewhere and manually upload them to a centralized reader, Astonishing Comic Reader (Free with in-app purchases) is the best option for that. Reading on ACR is enjoyable, thanks to its simple navigation and zoom features, and its ability to toggle Manga mode for a right-to-left reading experience as needed. And, when you finish one issue, ACR automatically launches the next issue for you, if you’ve got it, so you can keep reading without missing a beat.
ACR lets you organize your comics into collections and favorites for neater storage, and use the powerful built-in search feature to find a specific issue or book. Syncing is easy on the app, as it can sync with Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, ComicStreamer, and Box, and is compatible with CBR, CBZ, and PDF formats. ABR’s Snapshots feature lets you literally save a snapshot of your favorite moments in an issue, so you can peek at them anytime you want to revisit them. The app is available on Android, Windows 8, as a Chrome extension, and on the web.
Best for a Cinematic Experience: Madefire
Madefire (Free with in-app purchases) is a comic book reader with a unique twist: it allows you to have a dynamic, nay, downright cinematic experience when you read your comics. How? With its unique Motion Books, which add interactive sound and motion to comic panels. Anyone who has ever read a comic book has had that moment where they wished a splash page had a little more oomph, and Madefire is here to grant all of our nerd dreams.
The app itself is free to download, though there are in-app purchases for some of the comic books (some are free, however). Reading a comic book in Madefire (if that’s even the right verb, maybe we should say experiencing?) is an absolute treat. It guides you through issues panel by panel, with atmospheric music, sound effects, and even the ability to “look around the scene” on certain panels by moving your finger around your screen. The experience Madefire offers is immersive, engaging, and satisfying, and it makes for a fun time for seasoned enthusiasts and new readers alike. It is available on both iOS and Android.