Best comic book reader apps for iPhone and iPad

Nothing's better than physical comic books. The smell of the paper, the detail in the ink — it's sublime. But you don't want to take your favorite issues everywhere you go; you'll wreck 'em.

Download a great comic reader app and digitally enjoy all your favorite titles on the go, so you don't have to worry about your books becoming anything less than mint.

Here are our favorite comic book reader apps for iPhone and iPad!

Comics by comiXology

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

Comixology on iPad (Image credit: iMore)

Comics by comiXology is how you get current comic book issues on your iPad. They offer a library of over 100,000 titles — and growing — from publishers including Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Disney, and more. 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. You can also subscribe to comiXology Unlimited and gain access to over 4,000 titles from just about every publisher besides DC or Marvel, who have their own subscription services. Subscription is $5.99 a month.

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.

  • Free + in-app comic purchases - Download now (opens in new tab)

Marvel Unlimited

Marvel Unlimited is a subscription service like Netflix. That means you don't get current content, but you do get 70 years and 17,000 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. 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... (this article was originally published 3.5 years ago and still nothing!)

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 (opens in new tab) 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 have 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.

  • iBooks - Free with in-app purchases - Download now (opens in new tab)
  • Kindle - Free with web purchases - Download now (opens in new tab)

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.

iComics

iComics

iComics is your customizable digital comics experience. It supports every major comic format, like CBZ, CBR, TAR, CBT, and more. You can jump from comic to comic or smoothly turn pages, and zoom can be set to reset every time you turn the page. If you're looking for convenience and versatility in a comic reader app and have many of your own digital comics already, check out iComics.

Your best comic book apps?

Those are my picks for best 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!

This article was originally published on May 6, 2013 and was updated in December, 2016 with the following changes: Changed number of issues comiXology and Marvel Unlimited have, as they have grown; added iComics.

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.

18 Comments
  • 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, Box.net, 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.
  • You mis-used the term "trade paperback." That is all.
  • 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!)
  • IComix
    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.
  • Now there is another good comics app on the Appstore : Marvelous Comics !
  • 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!
  • I want to add "Marvelous comics" which is wonderful for oldies fan!
    You'll find it here : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/marvelous-comics-read-remastered/id68308...
  • Nice to see your work!! It’s really helpful for me. http://cmro.travis-starnes.com
  • You cannot buy comics from within the ComiXology app. I'm assuming that is a leftover from when this article was originally published — since then the iOS app store policy for in-app purchases has changed. You have to go to ComiXology's website in order to make purchases. All you can do from the app now is add a comic to a wish list.
  • I think that all changed when they were bought by Amazon. Sent from the iMore App
  • Right. It's to avoid the 30% (or whatever it may be now) cut Apple takes from in-app subscriptions.
  • First of all, wow, old article. Chunky Comic Reader is great, it connects to almost everything to get comics. Almost as nice is Marvin, which is a general eBook reader, but a fantastic one. The comic features are quite good. And if you want comics from Comixology, get them from Amazon. Almost always cheaper and they just show up in your Comixology library.
  • I use Comixology. It's great because I have Kindle, Marvel and DC all tied into it. So I go on Amazon, buy a comic and it shows up in Comixology. Same thing with the other apps. And the Guided View mode is great to read in. If I'm on iPad I can just read page by page. But on the iPhone 6s Plus,... even with the big screen it's still too small. So Guided View is great for reading panel by panel. I think I'm reading more comics now while in my 40's then I ever did as a kid. I love it.