Best comic book apps for iPad: comiXology, Marvel Unlimited, iBooks, and more!

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 and sign up.


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 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!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Best comic book apps for iPad: comiXology, Marvel Unlimited, iBooks, and more!


Nice summary Rene. I'm using Marvel but just discovered comixology so mixing them at the moment.

Well said, I currently use ComiXology, and love it. Its great for new issues, but depending on how many titles hook you, you can be paying a pretty premium monthly. Eventually, I know I will cough up the dough for Marvel's Unlimited program and get lost in the universe. ComiXology is great because for the most part, comics drop after a month or two, especially great IDW titles. They also sell those in "collections" at a much cheaper price.

ComicBookLover for Mac OS X has a companion app for iOS (works best on iPad). CBL for iOS connects to iTunes, DropBox,, Google Drive, SkyDrive, WebDAV, and FTP. In addition, there's a Mac OS X companion sync app to copy files to your iDevice CBL library without using iTunes. The UIs for both Mac and iOS could use a few improvements and bug fixes, but otherwise this is an easy app to use.

These are exactly my go-to apps for reading comics (aside from the Kindle/iBook solution). And though I like Comic Zeal, I'm not wild about the hoops to jump through to created series folders and sort comics. I'd much prefer a drag and drop approach.

I instantly ponied up the yearly subscription for Marvel Unlimited. If DC had a similar option, I'd instantly pony up for that as well.

comixology is the best! used dc, and marvel, but this app has then all under one roof! da best....NUFF SAID!

For PDFs and archive files, I like Bookman. It's pretty easy to add files, and it's got a nice get-out-of-the-way interface.

And yeah, Comixology is HELL for impulse buyers.
(And it has Phonogram in HD, which everyone should go get immediately!)

It's free
Supports cbr/cbz/PDF
And has built in support for DropBox,
Google Drive, SkyDrive and Pogoplug

comixology.... looking interesting.... I have fond of reading books.. It will be good to read books on ipad.

Comic Zeal has been crashing my brand new iPad Air randomly, causing it to go to either the home screen, password screen, lock screen, or sleep. Today it totally crashed to OFF. Had to power on by holding down the Home + Power buttons. Wish I hadn't spent the $5 that I probably won't get back.

Do all the apps above read existing comic book files, even if I didn't buy them using the app? Thanks!