Toss out your long boxes. The digital comics revolution is here.
If you want to know how to read comics online, you’re in for a treat. You no longer have to spend hundreds of dollars, or an afternoon at Barnes and Noble, to read your favorite comics. While nothing will ever replace the sensation of holding a graphic novel in your hands, being able to binge read comics online is a nice trade-off. Here are the best places for to read comics online, whether you’re interested in a paid subscription service or the Joker’s emptied your vault.
How to read comics online: The best subscription services
Cost: $9.99 per month or $69 per year
Sorry, Batman fans. Marvel is the only one of the big two superhero publishers with their online subscription service. With over 20,000 digital comics to read, Marvel Unlimited offers one of the largest libraries online. Of course, while 20,000 comics sounds like a lot, you’re going to find some frustrating holes. Thankfully, Marvel makes up for that by including complete versions of many of their most significant crossovers and storylines. You’ll never run out of things to read, even if you might be missing a favorite Wolverine story from the ’80s. Once you’ve found your desired story issues can be read on your computer, iOS, or Android devices. Subscribers can even save up to 12 comics on their mobile device for offline reading.
Cost: $9.99 per month
Kindle Unlimited might not be a comics service per se, but Amazon’s lending library has over 7,000 graphic novels in its collection. Unfortunately, its library is limited to a small number of major publishers, with only Marvel, Archie, Valient, Dark Horse, BOOM!, IDW, Fantagraphics, and Oni Press represented. Sure that sounds like a lot, but you won’t find anything from big names like DC Comics or Image. That means no Batman, no Saga, no Walking Dead. However, reading comics on the Kindle app is a delight, especially when you’re on a tablet. On top of that, you get thousands of eBooks to read after you’ve consumed all the comics.
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Cost: $5.99 per month
ComiXology Unlimited is the best deal among the pay services. With 10,000 comics, ComiXology’s library falls between Marvel and Kindle, but with a better selection than both. The service also features a guided reading mode, which will take you from panel to panel, rather than showing you the whole page. Part animated comic part cinematic view, guided reading might sound like a gimmick, but in practice, it’s a joy. Of all the services, ComiXology has the most variety, offering manga and Marvel and everything in-between.
The problem is that the issues offered as part of the Unlimited service are often limited. You’ll get the first volume of a series, only to discover the rest are only available for purchase. For budget-minded readers, it can be frustrating, but if you’re willing to look, there are hidden gems all over. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is one of the best comics of the last decade, and you can catch the whole thing. Where it gets annoying is major storylines. At the moment if you want to read Marvel’s Annihilation storyline there are two parts on ComiXology Unlimited, with the other 13 only available for purchase. For some reason, there are barely any X-Men books. You can read Manhattan Projects, which is worth trying it for a month. Thankfully, the sting of needing to buy some titles is softened by the 10-15 percent discount on books from Marvel Comics, Image Comics, IDW Publishing, and more. Subscribers can read their comics via the web, or ComiXology’s iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire app.
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4. Comic Blitz
Cost: $7.99 per month
At first glance, Comic Blitz might not seem like the best deal in digital comics. It costs more than ComiXology, and it lacks the three biggest publishers Marvel, DC, and Image. But look a little closer, and the quirks of Comic Blitz start to make sense. That higher price and lack of the big three are due to Comic Blitz commitment to letting you read full series. Comic Blitz offers every volume available for each series in high-definition. What it lacks in the big three, Comic Blitz makes up for with a massive library of incredible major indie publishers. IDW, Dynamite, Valiant and Valiant Classic, Zenoscope—it’s a who’s who of important indie books. Superhero fans, in particular, should consider Valiant. This dark superhero universe has all the fun of Marvel or DC without having to read 50 years of comics to understand what’s going on. If you love comics and don’t need Spider-Man to be happy, give Comic Blitz a spin. At the moment you can read your comics in any web browser or via their iOS app. An Android app is planned for the future.
How to read free comics online
Don’t worry if you’re on a budget. There are plenty of ways to read free comics online. The comics industry has been around for decades, with thousands of books available in the public domain. From superheroes to romance, with some horror thrown in for good measure, these books are often more eclectic than modern comics. Just brace yourself for the occasional dated references. These scans almost always include the original ads, adding an extra odd vintage treat to each book. Here are the best resources for finding free comics to read online.
ComicBookPlus is a monster of a site, with over 17,000 Public Domain Gold and Silver Age comic books in its collection. If that wasn’t enough, the site has massive archives of comic strips and pulp fiction books, along with various other odds and ends from the era. Of the free sites, ComicBookPlus has the best online reader, with large scans of each book and a fast loading interface. I’ve lost hours in its library of horror and sci-fi comics, but there’s something for everyone. If you’ve never read a romance comic from the ’50s, start there for a hysterical throwback.
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While it doesn’t have the awe-inspiring size of the ComicBookPlus, there are still thousands of titles to choose from in the DigitalComicMuseum. Its reader is almost as good as CBP’s, with the added benefit of being able to use your keyboard’s directional keys to navigate through issues. The problem is the site is set up to let you download rather than read, so you’ll need to click the “Preview” button before you can read an issue online. Once you know, it isn’t a problem, but for first-time readers of the site, it can be confusing. DigitalComicMuseum has an excellent collection of old humor comics and TV spin-offs, but the eclectic spirit of the Golden and Silver age is alive and well throughout the site. Whether you want aliens or Abbott and Costello, you should spend a night at this museum.
3. Fury Comics
Fury Comics is an oddity. It publishes 10 public domain comic books each week, serving up a mix of heroes, romance, weird fiction, and crime stories from lesser-known publishers. While much of the content here has been covered by the other sites mentioned, Fury still manages to find the rare odd gem no one else has unearthed yet.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.