What’s the best way to read comics on your Nexus 7?
It’s been a month since you’ve gotten your Nexus 7. By now, you’ve probably gotten comfy with all its Web-browsing, book-reading, gaming, and cloud-streaming capabilities. But did you know that its 7-inch screen is perfect for reading digital comic books too?
Most comics these days are available digitally, and digital comics have their own set of advantages over the classic paper ones. Digital comics are way easier to carry around, and you can even transfer all your digital purchases across multiple devices.
While we can’t help you keep track of Wolverine’s torrid web of affairs or figure out which of the multiple universes your favorite DC heroes are in anymore, we can help you find some great comic book apps so you can start building your digital collection.
Amazon’s Kindle store sells more than regular word-filled books; it also has a fairly large selection of DC comics. All the heavy hitters are here, from Watchmen to the entire Justice League bunch.
The Nexus 7’s 1280-by-800-pixel resolution screen is perfect for viewing an entire comic book page in portrait view. If you need to get a little closer, the Kindle app also has Panel View, which enlarges each frame for a directed presentation. The app does all the work for you, so you can focus on the action and narrative as it unfolds on your screen.
Unfortunately, Panel View on the Kindle app glitches out fairly often, leaving you with an empty box where the enlarged frame should appear. This wouldn't be a huge problem if you could simply pinch-to-zoom like you would with a photo in the Nexus 7's photo gallery app, but you can’t. In most cases, you can just squint to make out the tinier text, but the app is permanently locked into portrait view, which makes viewing two-page spreads impossible without a magnifying glass.
The same problem doesn't seem to crop up on the Kindle app on an iPhone. It's entirely possible that the app may not yet be optimized to work in Android Jelly Bean.
Another problem with the Kindle app is that Amazon’s digital comic selection only has DC comics, and worse yet, only a handful of issues are available. You can get most of the notable Batman storylines in trade or collection form, but there are a number of gaping omissions, including the two-latter volumes of Knightfall and the entirety of Batman’s Silver Age.
The Nook Store originally had only Marvel titles, but Barnes & Noble has recently added DC comics as well. The Nook store has a more comprehensive DC selection than what you'll find on the Kindle Store—though there are still some titles and issues missing from the selection.
Beyond Marvel and DC, you can also find a fairly expansive collection from Image Comics and IDW. This includes Image's popular Walking Dead series, as well as IDW's insane Doctor Who and Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover comic.
One thing the Nook app lacks is any form of panel-to-panel view for a majority of its comics. Supposedly a slew of DC comics on Nook have a new zoom view (these comics are prominently marked with “Nook Comics with Zoom View” next to the title) similar to the Kindle’s panel-view presenation, but it does not seem to function at all on the Nexus 7. Like with the Kindle app, the Nook for Android app may need an update to function properly in Jelly Bean.
That said, the reading experience works just as well with a simple pinch-to-zoom functionality. You won't be able to zoom in all that far, but it’s enough to make the text a tiny bit more legible. It also has a neat little thumbnail preview that’s useful for quickly browsing through a book.
If you turn your Nexus 7 onto its side, the app will allow you to view the entire issue in a two-page view. It’s a nice touch, but it’s not something I’d recommend on a 7-inch screen because the text will become even more difficult to read.
The best thing the Comixology app has going for it is its animated presentation. The app has an assisted panning mode that darts from panel-to-panel like your eyes would with a regular comic. This extra touch brings your comics to life and makes them into faux-motion comics. Comixology also has a handful of other useful features, like thumbnail previews for browsing pages and the option to manually zoom in much farther in than you can on the Nook app.
One thing that really sets Comixology apart from the competition is that it has the most complete selection of issues from most of the mainstream publishers going as far back as the 1940s. If I wanted to find any particular story, I could always find it in the Comixology store. It also has a healthy number of smaller titles like The Darkness, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Scott Pilgrim.
Unlike the Nook or Kindle stores, most of the comics are sold as individual issues instead of whole books of 300+ pages. You can also buy brand new issues on the same day and date that the real, paper issues show up on store shelves. So this is the app to use if you want the latest issue of the new 52 Superman or the new Ultimate Spiderman immediately.
The only thing that Comixology doesn't have is Dark Horse comics like The Guild, Hell Boy, and Star Wars comics. If you want to read any of these comics, you’ll have to get them straight from the publisher's own digital comic store.
Unlike all the other panel-by-panel viewing options, the Dark Horse app zooms the panel into view without blacking out the rest of the page. In some ways it’s a little bit disorienting compared to Comixology’s super-linear approach, but it does preserve the original shape of the frames. You’ve also got the option to manually zoom around the page yourself.
Since all of these digital comics are coming straight from Dark Horse, you can buy new issues day-and-date as well.
Which to pick?
Comixology wins hands down. It's the only app that currently has a panel view that works 100 percent of the time and looks great while doing it. It also has the widest and most complete selection of digital comics.
Of course, you're free to make your own call on all of these free apps. They also come with a few sampler comics to let you get a feel for whichever one you like best.
Have a favorite comic book app? Leave a comment below.