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App Smart

Comic books zap to life with interactive apps


Comic books are the center of a huge industry — from toys and games to blockbuster movies — and there are plenty of apps to help you enjoy them.

comiXology Comics

Free for iOS, Android, Windows 8,
and Kindle Fire devices

An impressive start is comiXology’s Comics app. It is free for iOS, Android, Windows 8, and Kindle Fire devices, although you have to sign up for an account with the company.

It works as you might expect. Part of the interface is dedicated to helping users find, buy, and download comic books from a digital store, and part is a clever comic book e-reader.


The discovery section is well organized: It lets you search for comics, offers different story categories to browse through, and lists popular and free options.

A handy section called “New to comics? Start here” has a list of titles that may pique your interest.

Free comics are available as samplers, and an issue typically costs around $2. A huge range of publishers offer content, including big names like DC and Marvel, as well as smaller publishing houses.

The neat part of Comics is its reader. Unlike a traditional e-reader, which simply lets you flip through and read the pages of a digital book, Comics allows interactivity with each story’s panels.

Tapping on the edge of the screen or swiping across it to “turn the page” makes the display sweep from one panel to the next with an attractive set of animations. This draws attention to every panel in the comic, because it zooms to fill the screen.

I’ve long liked this effect, called Guided View, because it makes reading a digital comic dramatic. But some users may prefer using the standard swipe and pinch-to-zoom gestures to read the comic as if it were a simple image of a comic book page.


There’s little to dislike about this app, although it doesn’t cover every comic publisher.

Dark Horse Comics

Free on Android and iOS

Dark Horse Comics, for example, is home to famous titles like “Star Wars.”

The company has its own app, similar in design to Comics: It combines a comic book store and e-reader.

I prefer the design of Dark Horse Comics’ store, because it’s more straightforward to scan through and easier on the eye.

Like comiXology’s app, this also animates the process of reading the story panels. But its zooming effect can be a little jerky, and it sometimes seems as if the illustration quality drops during the zoom.

It’s a small annoyance but noticeable. Of course, you can skip the animations and zoom into the panels yourself to read the story, too.

Dark Horse’s app is free for Android and iOS, but digital comics inside its store can cost you a few dollars each.

Manga Rock

Free on iOS and Android

I couldn’t write about comics without mentioning Japanese manga, and there are many apps out there for this genre.

Manga Rock, free on iOS and Android, beats the competition. It has a list of more than 50,000 comics available, and although its reading system isn’t as sophisticated as the one in Comics, it is still smooth to use. It’s free, but to get access to all the comics you have to pay $4 for the full edition through an in-app upgrade. Manga Reader — also free on Android — may be a good alternative to Manga Rock. Manga Storm, free on iOS, is also worth checking out.


Many comic anthologies are available as traditional e-books, and Amazon’s Kindle app (free on iOS, Android, and Windows) is one of the best and best known for reading this sort of publication. But you don’t get the dynamic reading effect.

Kit Eaton writes on technology
for The New York Times.