Comixology, the digital comic book arm of the almighty Amazon, is a standout service that brings titles from a wide array of publishers, including DC, Image, and Marvel, to web browsers and Android and iOS mobile apps. Comixology has an excellent Guided View mode that makes reading a pleasure, digital comics that release on the same day as print editions, high-definition comic book files that render stunningly on HD displays, and a Unlimited reading plan that can potentially save you lots of dough. Simply put, Comixology is a near-perfect combination of digital comic book store and reader.
An Intro to Digital Comics
You begin by creating a dedicated Comixology account or logging in with your existing Amazon credentials. Purchased digital comics are tied to your account, so you can access the books via your PC’s web browser or one of Comixology’s Android or iOS mobile apps. Comixology is free to download, but you must pay for individual issues or the $5.99 per month subscription plan (more on those in a bit).
The reader works cross-platform, too. When I stopped reading The Bionic Man #1 on Comixology.com, the Android app asked if I wanted to continue where I’d left off in the browser when I opened the same issue on my smartphone. Those who read on multiple devices will really appreciate this feature, as it saves you from having to flip through books to find your place.
If you have diverse reading tastes, Comixology’s got your covered. It features titles from a wide array of major and indie publishers, including among many others Antarctic Press, Archie, Boom, Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, IDW, Image, Lion Forge, Marvel, Top Shelf, Valiant, and Weekly Shonen Jump.
Comixology’s Android and iOS Apps
As mentioned, Comixology is also available on the Android and iOS platforms. The apps bring the wonderfully Comixology experience to mobile devices, with a panel-by-panel Guided View format that makes reading books on small screens incredibly enjoyable.
Both versions let you browse the Comixology store, add items to your wishlist, and read books, but the shopping and checkout experiences are the biggest differences between the Android and iOS apps. The Android version lets you make purchases from within the app, while the iOS version demands you make purchases through your smartphone’s mobile browser.
From a business standpoint, I can understand why Comixology decided to go this route with the iOS app; giving Apple 30 percent of each purchase is a lot of lost revenue. However, as a frequent Comixology user, I find that the lack of an integrated store hinders the browse-and-buy simplicity.
Comixology’s home screen contains a slider that highlights hot new releases, digital sales, and company-related announcements. Below that are sections that showcase titles exclusive to the platform, as well as themed sales (for example, Comixology slashed the price of various manga titles to coincide with the 2018 Anime Expo convention). In a column on the right side of the interface are links to free books, graphic novels, Top 10 Bestsellers, and other areas of interest.
Comixology’s menus give you numerous ways to browse books: By series, story arcs, ratings, publisher, genre, creators, and other criteria. You can, of course, also search for titles or artists using a built-in search function. Books are available for purchase on the same day that print issues hit brick-and-mortar stores in most cases, so you don’t have to worry about waiting to read Noble #1 because you decided to go digital.
Buying Digital Comics
When you find a book that interests you, click an issue icon to see its synopsis, creator credits, pricing, rating, and sample pages you can try before buying. Building a digital comic book collection is as simple as clicking price icons to place the comics into the shopping cart, and then clicking the Purchase icon. You can also add titles to a wishlist to buy them at a later time. The potent combination of accessibility and ease of use means that comics-heads may have to show some restraint in order to not drain their wallets.
On the other hand, pricing may deter rampant spending. New digital comics are priced exactly the same as their paper-and-ink counterparts, which from a consumer’s point of view is a tad ludicrous. For example, Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands #1 is $3.99—the same as its physical counterpart. There are numerous freebies and 99-cent issues in Comixology’s catalog, but $2.99 to $3.99 pricing appears to be the norm (collections, naturally, cost more, but you get more bang for the buck).
Unfortunately, many pre-1980s books are missing in action. The large holes in the Spitfire and the Troubleshooters series, for example, are disappointing. The rival Marvel Unlimited all-you-can-read subscription service has many books that haven’t yet appeared in Comixology, so that’s worth checking out if you’re looking for back issues. That said, Comixology is working on digitizing many old-school comics.
In fact, Comixology sells many books from the pre-superhero era, such as Tales from the Crypt, Two-Fisted Tales, and Weird Love. So in a way, Comixology has become an incredible comics archive, with titles spanning many eras.
Comixology Unlimited and Originals
If buying individual comics and collections isn’t exactly your bag, Comixology Unlimited may prove enticing. The service lets you read more than 10,000 comics from a variety of publishers, including DC and Marvel. Comixology Unlimited is a tremendous value to US readers (it’s set to roll out to other regions in the future), as the service lets you explore new titles at zero financial risk. Unfortunately, Comixology Unlimited only lets you dive into select titles, typically those that are good jumping-in points for new readers.
Of course, once you end your subscription, you’ll lose access to the comics that you didn’t purchase. Comixology offers a 30-day free trial to Comixology Unlimited, so you can try before you subscribe. Comixology also lets you purchase curated bundles, buy gift cards for others, and subscribe to series, something that you can’t do on the mobile side.
Comixology also offers Originals, a line of comics made for the Comixology platform. The initial titles featured familiar heroes (for example, Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I?), but Comixology recently began publishing creator-owned books with print-on-demand capabilities. Not only that, but the new Originals drop all of the issues in the series at once in a cool, Netflix-like model (though you pay by the issue).
The Comixology Reading Experience
Comixology gives you several ways to read your titles. You can scroll through an issue page by page, fire up a double-page view, or use Comixology’s patented Guided View technology. Activated by clicking the GV icon, Guided View simulates the flow of reading by guiding you from one panel to another when you click the on-screen navigation arrows (or tap your keyboard’s left/right arrow keys).
Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I? and a handful of other Comixology Originals are built with Guided View in mind. These are similar to motion comics, minus the annoying voice work and forced panel movement. Batman ’66, a solid, campy throwback to the Adam West-era Caped Crusader, takes advantage of the Guided View technology in a manner that doesn’t feel gimmicky. It recalls old-school 3D movies in which an explosion would occasionally send a piece of shrapnel hurling toward the audience. Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted, however, uses the technology to add dramatic weight by fading images in and out of darkness or panning toward objects just off screen. The technology has potential to enable a new type of storytelling. I’m excited to see how creators use it.
The Fit to Width (found in the Settings option) and Zoom modes also let you alter the camera for a pleasurable viewing experience. Comixology’s multiple viewing options let me enjoy my comics regardless of my device’s screen size.
Comixology’s Smart Lists aren’t revolutionary, but they give you handy, at-a-glance information about your digital comics collection. They let you quickly track what you’ve been reading with the In Progress and Unread lists, show what you’ve bought with the Recently Purchased list, and offer a new way to maintain your Wish List.
Another addition is the Recommended for You list, which gives you personalized recommendations based on comic books you’ve purchased. For example, the Recommended for You list prompted me to check out issues in a series that I had yet to purchase (Superb #3), as well as books related to others I already owned (EC Archives: Crime SuspenStories #2). The recommendations proved useful, but I hoped to see more unexpected picks. I have quite a few Nailbiter issues in my collection; I would’ve loved to have seen Comixology suggest more horror books.
By visiting Comixology.com, you can download comics to your PC’s desktop in the DRM-free CBZ and PDF formats. This means you can read books purchased from Comixology in digital comic book apps such as Perfect Viewer and YACReader once you transfer the files from your PC to your mobile device. Sadly, you cannot download DRM-free comics via Comixology’s mobile apps.
Unfortunately, and not entirely unexpectedly, DC and Marvel haven’t joined the DRM-free digital comics movement. However, Action Lab, Aspen, Blind Ferret, Caliber, Creative Impulse, Dynamite, GT Labs, IDW, Image, Kingstone, Monkeybrains, Oni, Fantagraphics, Th3d World, Thrillbent, Top Cow, Valiant, and Zenescope have kicked DRM to the curb. If you download the DRM-free comics, you can still leverage Comixology’s DRM to sync books across multiple devices—it’s the best of both worlds. Despite Amazon owning Comixology, you can’t lend comics to others as you can with Amazon’s Kindle books. I hope that changes in the near future.
Digital Comics Dominance
Comic book fans who want to buy and read their digital comics on a desktop or laptop rather than on a smartphone or tablet will love Comixology. There are back catalog gaps, but if you prefer reading Preacher without worrying about mylar bags and backing boards, Editors’ Choice Comixology is an excellent way to read digital comics on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.