Best iPad apps for comic book lovers

All the apps you need to enjoy the latest issues, your favorite collections, Marvel's entire back catalog, and all your existing PDF, CBR, and CBZ comics on your iPad

The iPad is the best thing that ever happened to comic books, especially on the big, beautiful, 9.7-inch Retina iPad screen. Every page comes to life and every panel just pops. Combine that with the convenience of digital delivery, and even the iPad mini has the ability to hold an entire comic book library in your hand. That's almost every adventure of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, of the Fantastic Four, Avengers, and X-Men, and of indie titles every bit as good if not anywhere nearly as well known. Comic books on the iPad are every fan's dream, but which are the very best iPad apps for realizing that dream? Follow on to find out, true believer!

Comics by comiXology

Comics by comiXology lets you buy the latest comics as soon as they come out

Comics by comiXology is how you get current comic book issues on your iPad. They offer a library of over 30,000 titles -- and growing -- from publishers including Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Disney, and more -- pretty much every major with the galling exception of Dark Horse-as-in-Buffy-Season-9. You can buy right from within the Comics app, which makes for a great experience -- impulse shoppers be warned! -- and with a free comiXology account, you can easily sync your purchases across devices.

comiXology also makes the individual, dedicated Marvel, DC, Image, etc. apps, but since Comics has them all, it's the one-stop shop, the newsstand reborn for the digital era. All we need now is an analog to subscriptions, where we can pay one price and get every new issue served right up to our iPads hot off the presses...

Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited gives you subscription access to most of Marvel's might back catalog

Marvel Unlimited is a subscription service like Netflix. That means you don't get current content, but you do get 70 years and 13,000 issues of back catalog comics -- Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Wolverine, the Avengers, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. -- right on your iPad. The interface isn't great, at least not yet, but the content here really is king. I've lost many a night already to the works of Peter David, John Byrne, Art Adams, Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, et. al. and I imagine losing many, many more.

DC Comics really needs to get their version of this up and running faster than a speeding bullet...

Note: You can't subscribe within the app, so if you want to use the Marvel Unlimited service, make sure you head on over to Marvel.com and sign up.

iBooks/Kindle

iBooks and Kindle are great for collected comic works

iBooks and Kindle are general purpose readers, but both Apple's iBookstore and Amazon's Kindle Store have an excellent selection of what used to be called trade paperbacks -- collections of individual issues that form a cohesive story-arc. If you don't want to buy or read each comic as it comes out, or navigate through tons of back catalog to find specific stories, buying them as books is the simplest, most coherent way of doing it.

With iBooks, you can buy directly within the app. With Amazon, you can buy via Amazon.com and download to the Kindle app.

Why include both iBooks and Kindle, why not pick a best, or just pick one and stick with it? Sadly, both sometimes have books the other one lacks, or have them in geographies the other doesn't, or has it at a lower price. Right now, to get as many comics as you want, you have to use both of them, even if it does split your collection and is otherwise less than ideal.

Comic Zeal

Comic Zeal lets you load up all your PDF, CBR, CBZ, and other already owned digital comics

if you already have your comics in a digital format -- especially if you bought those massive Marvel DVDs containing all the early issues of Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men, etc. in PDF -- Comic Zeal should be your go-to reader. You can sync PDF, CBR/RAR, or CBZ/ZIP files straight over to Comic Zeal from iTunes via file sharing if you absolutely have to, and with Wi-Fi sync it's easier than ever. I just drop mine into Dropbox, hit the Dropbox app on iPad, download them, hit the action button, and tell Dropbox to open them in Comic Zeal.

It would be nice if Comic Zeal could hook into Dropbox (and other online storage pools) directly, eliminating a step. Here's hoping we get that in the future.

Your best comic book apps for iPad?

Those are my picks for best iPad apps for comic book lovers. With them, you can get the latest issues right when they come out, access Marvel's enormous back catalog of titles, buy the trade paperbacks for the stories you love most, and even load up your existing digital comics and take them with you anywhere. It's the workflow that just works for me... but what about you? Any apps I'm missing out on? Any you'd recommend more? Let me know! And, of course... Excelsior!