I’ve never been much a fan of comics. When I was a child, I was in a hurry to grow up and a part of me always felt that they were overly adolescent. Now that I’m older, I sometimes wonder what I missed out on by skipping over them – whether superhero comics, Japanese manga, Western visual novels, or whatever else. And since I love reading my ebooks on Android, why not expand to comics too?
My current comic of choice is the Walking Dead visual novel series, which has been adapted into a television series – a move that has been generally regarded as a failure in terms of capturing the original story and characters. However, these comic-reading apps can also be used to read manga and traditional comics, so if you need to read visual novels of any kind, check out these apps.
Before we begin, let me outline the specific things that I’m looking for in a comic-reading app:
- Performance: No matter where I am, by the time I’ve decided to take out my phone to read the next chapter in whatever story I’m in, I’m going to want to dive in as soon as possible. Long app starting times, slow comic loading speeds, and choppy page turning are going to frustrate me over time.
- Reading: There’s no point in reading a comic if you can’t see the text or images clearly. Unlike ebooks, which you can customize the font faces and font sizes to your liking, comics are static images. An app that can’t handle proper zooming or clarity on my tiny Galaxy S won’t win my heart.
- Interface: Interfaces shouldn’t be too much of a problem for a comic-reading app – keep everything out of the way so I’m not distracted and I’ll be happy. However, poor controls, poor layouts, and poor aesthetics will detract from my experience.
- Formats: If the comic-reading app can’t load the comics I want to read, it does me no good. Wide support of multiple formats can only be a plus.
- Features: At the very least I want to be able to read my comics, but if an app can offer me some cool perks and features that increase convenience and reduce frustration, I’m all for it.
Performance: A Comic Viewer runs extremely well on my old device. The app is unusually minimalist and lightweight – far more so than I would’ve expected from a comic reader – and it really pays off in speed. The comics import in a flash and I feel no lag or choppiness at all when flipping through pages.
Reading: A Comic Viewer supports the two basic controls for comic viewing: Zoom and Rotate. You can zoom in incrementally, though it doesn’t necessarily make the image any clearer, or you can choose to “fit to width,” “fit to height,” or return to actual size. In the options, you can set auto-fit or auto-rotate preferences. In addition, A Comic Viewer supports left-to-right or right-to-left reading, which is great for foreign comics.
Interface: I’m impressed with A Comic Viewer’s interface design. There is no central library or bookshelf that holds all of your imported comics. Instead, it loads one comic file at a time straight from your device’s file system. On startup, you have the option of opening the most recent comic (so convenient) or loading a new one. It’s incredibly simple and I love it.
Formats: Natively supports CBZ, ZIP, ACV, CBR, RAR, JPG, PNG, BMP, and image folders (accessed with a long tap in the file-opening menu).
Features: The level of customization in A Comic Viewer is about average. You can make some display tweaks like transition animations, page numbers, and max image dimensions. Most of the customization, though, is in the controls – there are dozens of controls (e.g., single/double tap, volume up/down, screen corner tap, etc.) and you can map each one to a specific action (e.g., next, load new, fit to width, zoom in/out, etc.).
A Comic Viewer is free but ad-supported. Though the ads aren’t disruptive to the reading experience, you can upgrade to the ads-free version from within the app if you wish.
Performance: Absolutely no hitches or glitches here. Perfect Viewer’s interface runs smoothly, the animations never lag, and the reading experience is fluid. There’s nothing more to say other than that I’m happy with it.
Reading: Perfect Viewer splits up the screen into various regions, each one with its own assigned action. Even on my small screen, I could read everything thanks to the easy-to-use zoom options that I could access without digging through menus. One cool option is the default start page when the app loads – your bookshelf, your file explorer, or the last page in the last comic you were reading.
Interface: The Perfect Viewer interface is definitely a unique one – I’ve never seen another app, whether comic reader or not, use this kind of navigation layout. It takes a bit of time to get used to it but in the end it works. Whatever you want to do, it’s never more than a few taps away. It does feel a bit outdated in the aesthetics department, though, and I wish the developers would modernize it somewhat.
Formats: Natively supports CBZ, ZIP, CBR, RAR, 7Z, CB7, LZH, JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, and PDF with the PDF plugin.
Features: Speaking of plugins, Perfect Viewer has a few plugins on the Play Store that extend functionality. In the options, you can customize the app’s bookshelf display, comic page display, and assign different actions to the screen regions. Perfect Viewer also supports the pinch and fling gestures. It even has a few advanced features, like different types of smooth filtering, bookmarks, and favorite comics.
Perfect Viewer is free to use but it does have two alternative versions on the Play Store: a $3 USD donation version and $5 USD donation version. The donation version unlocks the ability to turn black-and-white comics into a 4-colorized comic on the fly.
Performance: ComicRack runs well enough on my old device, but it’s probably the slowest of the three apps listed in this article. That isn’t to say it’s slow, though, because it didn’t frustrate me one bit. In fact, for an app that’s as feature-packed as ComicRack, I was genuinely surprised by its good performance.
Reading: With the bookmark feature, I was able to track my reading progress and start/stop whenever I wanted to. When you tap on the screen, a page navigator pops up at the bottom that lets you scroll through all of the available pages with ease. You can also immediately jump to the beginning or end with one button. And, of course, the option to read left-to-right or right-to-left. Reading comics has never been this easy.
Interface: As soon as I started reading, I was immediately struck by ComicRack’s professional feel. The interface is quite modern and it’s packed full of goodness – so much so that it can be overwhelming. My first impression was that it looked like a mixture of Amazon’s Kindle app with the default Facebook app; in other words, simultaneously beautiful and functional. And I just have to mention the page navigator again. What a fantastic interface design.
Formats: Natively supports CBZ, ZIP, CBR, and RAR. In tandem with ComicRack for Windows, it can also read CB7, 7Z, CBT, PDF, DJVU, and WebComics.
Features: Perhaps the coolest thing about ComicRack is that there’s a desktop version called ComicRack for Windows and the two can synchronize with each other. Synchronization optimizes the comic for your Android device AND it will keep your reading position, reading lists, and bookmarks the same on both devices. But if you only want to use the app, you’ll still benefit from advanced features like auto-scrolling, full library management, home screen widget, and even Twitter integration.
ComicRack is free but ad-supported. You can upgrade to the paid version for $7.89 USD and remove the ads and enable wireless synchronization (instead of being limited to USB synchronization).
Which one do I prefer? I’m actually torn between all three. I love the minimalism of A Comic Viewer, but the strong features in Perfect Viewer and ComicRack are extremely enticing. All three are great, but I will say that ComicRack is the best free offer, but if you absolutely cannot stand ads, then you should go for Perfect Viewer.
Other comic readers that I considered for the list but ultimately cut due to space limitations: Komik Reader and Comics by comiXology. If you’re looking for a place to buy comics to read, check out Saikat’s compilation of the best places to buy comics online.
What do you think? Do you read a lot of comics on Android? Which readers do you like and which would you recommend? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Image Credit: The Walking Dead