Comic books have gone digital. And the rise of smartphones, tablets and other portable devices has sparked a boom in apps that not only let you read your favorite digital comics on the go but also organize your electronic collections. From all-in-one marketplace and reader apps to lightweight readers and Web comic viewers, here are our 15 favorite mobile comic book readers.
Madefire (Android, iOS, Windows: Free)
While digital comics have mostly tended to mirror their ink-on-paper predecessors, some companies have tried to experiment with the possibilities that the digital format provides. Madefire (Android, iOS, Windows) focuses on what it calls "motion comics", which combine visual effects, animated transitions, sound effects, and dynamic panels to deliver a more media rich digital comics experience. Madefire carries comics by DC, IDW, Top Cow and Dark Horse, with both free and paid content available for users to browse.
Marvel Unlimited (Android, iOS: $9.99/month)
Rather than buying titles one by one, readers can instead access a treasure trove of issues from Marvel Comics' archives through the Marvel Unlimited (Android, iOS) app. Users can subscribe for $10 per month or $70 for a year, gaining access to more than 13,000 issues from a variety of classic titles from Marvel's archive, with new issues added weekly. It's not perfect, as users need to be online to access and read comics (users may bookmark up to 12 issues to read offline), but it's a great way for Marvel fans to binge read classic tales of the Marvel universe.
DC Universe (Android, iOS: $7.99 per month)
DC has also set up its own all-you-can read subscription service with DC Universe (Android, iOS). Not only does DC Universe offer a wide selection of comics from its catalog, but the app also allows you to stream animated series, movies, and live action adaptations of DC's many comic characters. And that's the bigger draw, to be honest, as the library of comics that you can stream or download for reading isn't as extensive as competing offerings from Comixology or Marvel.
Shonen Jump (Android, iOS: $1.99 per month)
Shonen Jump has a 50-year history of bringing some of the best manga to the reading public, pioneering the "shonen" style of action-oriented manga. It's home to such hits as My Hero Academia and Dragon Ball Super. The Shonen Jump app (Android, iOS) offers up a wealth of digital manga to its subscribers, with new chapters appearing weekly with full English translations, as well as a back catalog of more than 10,000 manga chapters, digital-exclusive series, and previews of paid manga volumes. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the price, with Shonen Jump recently reducing the cost of subscribing to its digital service to $1.99 per month to combat rampant piracy and encourage legitimate subscriptions.
Crunchyroll Manga (Android, iOS: Crunchyroll subscription required)
Crunchyroll has been a streaming pioneer of Japanese anime, and it also provides an all you can read manga streaming service for its subscribers through the Crunchyroll Manga app (Android, iOS). Subscribers can view the entire catalogue, with series such as Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, and many more available in the app. Crunchyroll Manga uploads the newest issues as soon as they hit the streets in Japan.
Libby by Overdrive (Android, iOS: Free)
Alternatively, why spend money on a digital storefront or subscription service if your local library has access to digital comics in its collection? Libby (Android, iOS) is the latest incarnation of Overdrive's popular digital media management system, allowing users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks, and yes, digital comics in supported formats from participating libraries. Simply sign in with your library card and then you can browse your library's digital media collection, allowing you to search for titles, set holds, borrow ebooks and audiobooks with a tap. You're also able to return or extend a lend just as easily. You can preview books from the app, downloading borrowed titles or stream them to your phone or tablet if you prefer to save space.
Chunky (iPad: Free)
Chunky is a free and feature-packed comics option for the iPad. On the technical side, Chunky supports CBR, CBZ and PDF comics, as well as metadata tags from ComicRack and ComicBookLover. A smart upscaling mode does its best to render even low-res files as crisp as possible, while multiple view modes (single page, two page and right to left) let you read how you like. There's even an auto-contrast/tint fix to adjust for faded comic scans. The app can download comics from your cloud storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, straight into the app's self-organizing library. Plus, a parental lock allows you to flag and hide titles behind password protection. It's a fantastic free package whose only fault is a lack of iPhone support.
YACReader (iOS: $1.99)
Don't write off YACReader as yet another comic reader. The app is a versatile reader and library management tool that handles the usual digital comic formats like CBZ, CBR, ZIP, RAR, or PDF, and can access files imported from iOS or through a variety of cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive, as well as the desktop version of YACReader. Users can organize their collections into folders and add labels, notes, and other details to individual issues. On the reader side of things, the app supports right to left reading modes, fit height or width modes, and a number of other options, though for some reason, without a two-page landscape mode on Apple's iPad.
iComix (iOS: Free)
iComix is another solid free option for iPhone and iPad comic fans who have their own DRM-free collections, as the app can access local storage, Dropbox, Drive, OneDrive and Box, with some basic library management features added in. iComix sorts comics by title automatically, though you can also create folders and manage the issues manually. A reader mode lets you configure the page background color, as well as supporting single- or double-page views in landscape view. The app doesn't support right to left reader modes, but otherwise, it's a nice, low-frills free reader.
Perfect Viewer (Android: Free)
If you're importing your own digital comics collection and don't need an integrated market app to go along with your viewer, Perfect Viewer is a great option. A smooth, unobtrusive interface hides a wealth of features, such as support for various file formats, numerous display and reading options (such as left-to-right reading for western comics or right-to-left for Japanese manga), bookmarking, favorites, bookshelf management and more.
Astonishing Comic Reader (Android: Free)
Astonishing Comic Reader is another neat Android comic reader for DRM-free comic files in CBR, CBZ, and PDF formats. Configurable controls let you navigate pages with taps to the screen edge, hardware controls, or virtual buttons. A variety of library view modes provide you with automatic organization, a collections feature or the option to set your own folder organization. ACR also provides support for a variety of cloud storage providers such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, as well as a convenient in-app screenshot tool for sharing your favorite pages or panels.
Comicat (Android: $2.99)
Comicat is a premium Android comic book reader that gives you a ton of features and customizability for less than the price of a single comic issue. The app auto-scans your device (or selected library folders) for comics in supported formats (such as CBR, CBZ, and PDF) and automatically sorts them into series in a nice bookshelf view which you can then manually organize. Once you're in the reader view, the interface is unobtrusive, with long press or slide controls bringing out options and settings. The app supports cloud storage folders, password protection, manga-style right to left displays, image enhancement to correct contrast, brightness, and saturation and other tweaks.
CDisplayEX Free (Android: Free)
CDisplayEX Free is a solid comics reader option for Android users, incorporating library management and a file manager view so you can sort your comic files within the app or through your phone’s folders. Users can store books locally (with the app able to monitor folders to add to your library) or through networked drives. Menus and options hide out of the way in reader view, while giving you the ability to apply color corrections, page scaling, and varied navigation modes so you can tweak the reading experience to your liking. While the app is free, a premium version also supports cloud storage services like Google Drive while adding more page scaling options and a night mode. Springing for the premium version also removes advertising from CDisplayEx.
ComicScreen (Android: Free)
ComicScreen is a low-frills comics reader app that doesn’t have many of the more polished library management and organization tools of other readers listed here. Instead, you get a capable reader interface that keeps a lot of options easily accessible so that you can quickly customize the reading experience. A simple tap quickly brings up a menu bar for reading direction, screen orientation, page layout and other tools. Users can add bookmarks as well as simple filters to correct for paper aging or color distortion. An in-app purchase removes advertising.