15 Great Comic Series You Can Read for Free
ComiXology is a treasure trove of, well, comics.
There are a lot of ways to read comics. There are DRM-free readers like iComics, DriveThru Comics, web comics platforms, PDFs, and, oh yeah, regular ol' floppies from your local comic book shop. Another option is ComiXology. It's loved by some for its ease of use and vast library, and it's not-so-loved by others for being owned by Amazon. Either way, it has got its advantages.
One of those alluring advantages is the impressively affordable ComiXology Unlimited subscription. For $6 per month, you get unlimited access -- eh? Get it? Unlimited? -- to a full troll's hoard of comics. That includes classics like Lone Wolf and Cub, indie comics, newer releases like Kelly Thompson's run on Black Widow, major publishers like Marvel and DC, and a whole lot of publishers putting out some of the best comics around like Dark Horse, AWA, Image, Humanoids, and others.
Part of the appeal is that Unlimited has great entry points into ongoing series as well as absolute must-read classics. To that end, here are some great comics you can find on ComiXology Unlimited that aren't just the source material for that show you just watched on Netflix or the latest superhero movie from Marvel or DC. (Though, there's definitely that, too.) Here are some of the best comics available to read on ComiXology Unlimited right now.
Abbott (Boom! Studios)
Writer: Saladin Ahmed, Artist: Sami Kivela, Colors: Jason Wordie
Abbott is a journalist in 1970s Detroit. She's an outcast at a newspaper that protects the status quo while she tries to write the truth about race and police brutality in a divided city. This comic would have been fascinating if it stuck on that path, but it slowly becomes a world where monsters of Greek mythology are real and used to uphold the structures of white supremacy in the world. Entrenched white powers won't let go of their stranglehold on power. The art is gritty, beautifully grabbing the surprising slide into a realm of magic that takes both the detective and reader by surprise in how the villain uses it as a tool to cling desperately to his sense of power in the face of a changing world.
Abe Sapien (Dark Horse)
Writer: Mike Mignola, Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander, Colors: Dave Stewart
Pirate ships, zeppelins, ghosts, demons, cattle mutilations: What's not to like about The Drowning, Abe Sapien's first adventure without BPRD stalwart Hellboy? Mignola's Hellboy universe has a whole lot of characters, but one of the most fascinating is one who has more or less been relegated to B-Squad. The fish man Abe Sapien, discovered long ago at the bottom of the ocean and only alluded to in the latest film, provides some of the freshest, most abstract adventures in the demon and witchcraft-heavy universe. You can get 23 issues of Abe Sapien on Unlimited right now. (That's in addition to other in-universe titles like Hellboy, BPRD, Baltimore, the wonderful Frankenstein Underground, and Lobster Johnson.)
Afterlife with Archie (Archie)
Writer: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Artist: Francesco Francavilla
Archie and his perpetually teenage friends might not strike you as the most exciting set of characters in modern comics. (Though, maybe Riverdale has changed your opinion.) Afterlife with Archie, however, was a totally different kind of Archie comic when it arrived in 2013. The story of Riverdale being overtaken by an army of zombies led by Jugdead, err, Jughead and his pup Hot Dog only ran for a handful of issues, but they're twisted, dark, weirdly fun, and the art and colors are stunningly beautiful. It's a different side of Archie, using an apocalyptic landscape to surface the familiar tensions and emotions that the gang usually confronts in a less apocalyptic manner.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (DC)
Written and illustrated: Frank Miller
There is a lot of classic DC and Batman available on Unlimited, and that includes what might be one of the greatest Batman stories ever told. The Dark Knight Returns rewrote the book on Batman, flashing forward to years after Bruce Wayne has retired from the crime-fighting game. Of course, as you probably have already guessed, he doesn't stay in retirement for too long and goes full-on Michael Corleone when gets drawn back into the streets along with a spunky new sidekick, Carrie Kelley, who assumes the Robin mantle. It's an essential read if you haven't read it yet, and it's one worth revisiting if you haven't paged through it in years.
Writer: Joshua Williamson, Artist: Andrei Bressan, Colors: Adriano Lucas
It's almost like Williamson and Bressan threw every available bit of fantasy folklore into a blender and poured the results into the world of Birthright. Yet, this 50-issue series somehow comes together beautifully, even if it is at times so winding and warped as to defy a simple synopsis. Nonetheless! The story follows a family where the youngest brother, Mikey, disappeared in the woods and was never found. Through a mysterious passage to another realm and subsequent discovery by a group rebelling against the God King Lore, Mikey winds up in a war-torn fantasy world as the hero promised by legend -- only time passes at a different rate there, so when the worlds collide, his family hasn't aged much and he's a burly adult that can't disprove the theory among investigators and his mother that he was killed by his father. Intrigue! Everything that seems to be understood about the situation is never what it seems, including the lines between heroes and villains, the magical world of Terrenos and Earth.
Bitch Planet (Image)
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Artist: Valentine de Landro, Colors: Cris Peter
Unlimited will let you get through the first volume of Bitch Planet. It's violent and absolutely gorgeous with its stylized pastel colors creating a stark contrast with the unflinching brutality of the prison planet for women. It's not only entertaining in a dark sort of way, Bitch Planet is smart and unlike almost anything else. You'll find yourself becoming complicit in the inherent violence of the Megaton, a handball-like game prisoners are forced to play. You're watching every bit as closely as the story's audience, enjoying the violence for sport and entertainment.
Black Hammer (Dark Horse)
Writer: Jeff Lemire, Artist: Dean Ormston, Colors: Dave Stewart
Black Hammer, the opening series of a whole world of misfit and morose heroes, is often tongue-in-cheek (see: the variety of potshots at Rob Liefeld in Issue #10, including the cover being credited to "Lemirefeld") as it follows a group of golden-age-esque superheroes who, in defeating the mega-villain Anti-God, were transported to the mysterious country village of Rockwood. They don't know why they're there or where "there" is. They aren't able to leave the city limits without instantly dying. We pick up the story after they've been trapped on a farm for 10 years, and it plays out more like a mystery than an underwear-on-the-outside adventure. You'll probably want more, a lot more, after you finish the 13 issues of Black Hammer and five issues of Black Hammer: Age of Doom available on Unlimited. There's a lot more Black Hammer out there -- and Black Hammer: Reborn and Skulldigger & Skeleton Boy are worth a read, and Barbalien is among our favorite comics of 2021 -- but those comics aren't available on Unlimited.
The Black Incal (Humanoids)
Writer: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Artist: Moebius, Colors: Yves Chaland
The Incal is more than a decade older than anything else on this list, but it's worth noting that Unlimited has a lot of classics available. That includes filmmaker and writer Jodorowsky's science-fiction wonderland, partly created to showcase the off-the-wall beauty of Moebius's art. The series spawned spin-offs, prequels, and sequels and is a classic comic that still holds up with an unexpected electric energy running throughout. If you get deeper into the series, it's worth appreciating the change to the art of Juan Gimenez through The Metabarons. Gimenez recently died due to complications with COVID-19.
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet (Marvel)
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates Art: Brian Stelfreeze
The same year Chadwick Boseman donned the Black Panther suit for the first time, author Ta-Nehisi Coates started a new era of Black Panther comics. The story starts after the (sort of) death of Shuri who was acting as Queen of Wakanda. Now, King T'Challa is facing a new type of threat from within the borders of his country. It's a brooding arc that kicks off Coates' run on the series, exploring what it means to be king and the divide between a leader and those being led, among so many other things. Illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze, it's an exciting run that doesn't easily reveal who the enemy is as Wakanda struggles for its identity.
What's available in Unlimited goes well beyond that first arc. All five volumes of the trade paperbacks are currently available through ComiXology. The collections include Black Panther 1–18, 166–172, which is a good jumping on point if you've only ever seen the movies. The books also include older stories like Black Panther's first appearance in Fantastic Four (1961) #52, as well as Jungle Action (1972) #6–7, and excerpts from New Avengers (2013) #18, #21, and #24.
Black Widow (Marvel)
Writer: Kelly Thompson Art: Elena Casagrande
Thompson and Casagrande have brought in a whole new era of Black Widow with their current ongoing series, the start of which is available on Unlimited. Their run started in 2020 with a story about a group of villains who have taken Natasha Romanov captive—sort of. She's living in San Francisco and doesn't really know she's a prisoner of their plan, but over the course of just weeks, she's gone from Black Widow to a mom and wife living with no memory of her past life. Not only is the story great, but the action is utterly unique and exciting. Casagrande's art is special among superhero comics on shelves right now.
The first seven issues are available through Unlimited, and it's all but a guarantee that you're going to want to read up through the current issue.
Goldie Vance (Boom! Box)
Writer: Hope Larson, Illustrated by: Brittney Williams, Colors: Sarah Stern
There are plenty of all-ages options on ComiXology, and Goldie Vance is one worth reading even if you scoff at the tag because you're a big adult. (Abigail & the Snowman is another great one.) Goldie is very much a Nancy Drew character (and not just because there's a Nancy Drew-esque variant cover) -- she is a detective-in-training who works at a hotel with her dad. At least, she fancies herself a detective-in-training even though she's actually a valet. She finds unexpected adventure and uncovers international espionage that involves NASA, Germany, Russia, and Goldie's crush, Diane. It's charming and captures the awkwardness of childhood inside a detective story.
Infidel (Image Comics)
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote, Artist: Aaron Campbell, Colorist: José Villarrubia
As Black Hammer author Jeff Lemire notes in the afterword, horror and politically charged stories are difficult to pull off in comics. But the team working with writer Pornsak Pichetshote and artist Aaron Campbell managed it beautifully in Infidel. The magic of the story of Aisha, a Muslim woman, is not only that it is engrossing, but that the horror is intense. Aisha, along with her fiancée, Tom, and stepdaughter, Kris, has moved into a building that was devastated by an accidental bomb explosion. The building is now haunted due to the horrific events that occurred, as are the people who live there now, both because of the deaths, and the way the incident has been discussed in public. But there's something more to the haunting. Infidel is like a haunted house version of Get Out with twists that will have you rooting for the characters and empathizing with their suffering.
Lumberjanes (Boom! Box)
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis, Illustrated by: Brooke Allen, Colors: Maarta Laiho
At your local comic book shop, you might find Lumberjanes in the all-ages section. It is great for middle-grade readers, but it's really just a pretty damn good time for everyone. The art is consistently beautiful, and the story is hilarious despite being aimed at a younger audience. A group of friends at summer camp slowly (and sometimes not-so-slowly) discover that the woods around the camp are magical in mysterious and nonsensical ways. Almost every issue is funny, heart-warming, and plain fun.
Mech Cadet Yu (Boom! Studios)
Writer: Greg Pak, Illustrated by: Takashi Miyazawa, Colors: Triona Farrell
Yu might start off a little familiar with an outcast kid accidentally stumbling into the opportunity of his dreams. The son of a custodian at a training facility for youth that will fly towering alien robots in an intergalactic war, he’s always dreamed of bonding with one of the robots himself despite the fact that the opportunity should never present itself to someone of his station. The story nonetheless becomes enormously engrossing as the underdog protagonist is thrust into a war between robots from outer space that bond with human kids to fight giant crab-like aliens called the Sharg. (Yeah, there are certainly some parallels with Pacific Rim.) The action is genuinely fun, and the climax is worth its weight in alien crab meat.
Writer: Ben Haggarty, Artist: Adam Brockbank
This series of vignettes from the Stone Age is a bit hard to define. It's been referred to as "stone age horror," and that starts to get at it, but MeZolith is full of odd dreams, violent neighbors, the rigors of stone age life, and even coming-of-age pangs. Part of its interesting tone comes from it being crafted by two creators who didn't typically work in comics: Writer Ben Haggarty is a performance storyteller and artist Adam Brockbank is a storyboard and concept artist who has worked on Captain America, Spider-Man, and the Harry Potter films.
The Quarter Killer (ComiXology)
Writers: Vita Ayala and Danny Lore, Artist: Jamie Jones
This new ComiXology Original is a weird cyberpunk journey that has tendrils reaching in a lot of directions simultaneously. It can feel scattered, but the life of Quarter Killer (or QK), a hitman stationed in an old arcade that gets paid in quarters, draws you into this future-world in a hurry with a cocktail of brightly colored genre styling, combining cyberpunk with street art. It follows QK and a little girl named Aya functioning in a corrupt world, finding family, and trying to sabotage a dangerous senate vote in favor of corporate personhood. It's almost hard to give each panel the attention it deserves because the art is so frenetic that you have to keep flipping (er, swiping) the pages to see what comes next.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn, Artist: Fiona Staples
Truthfully, I came to Saga pretty late. Something about everyone saying that you had to read Saga turned me off of it, even though the track record of the creators -- Staples and Vaughn could fill a bus with their combined awards -- speaks for itself. But, you know what? Everyone was right. It really is a must-read. The story of two parents on opposite sides of an intergalactic war, planet-hopping to protect their baby while both sides try to kill them all is endearing, beautifully told, and (best of all) insanely weird. The writing is sharp, but the macabre creatures created by Staples are more than worth the journey. Unlimited will get you through Issue #18, but there's still a ways to go before you catch up in time for its return with Issue #55 in January 2022.