If there’s one thing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left people with, it’s free time to discover new things to read, watch, and listen to. But if there’s one thing the Covid-19 lockdowns haven’t given folks, it’s disposable income to spend on those things. For comic book fans, though, there’s a bit of a silver lining: All kinds of publishers are making a lot of their material available for free right now. But with so many choices out there, which comics are worth the time and effort? Fear not, dear reader: Here are five free digital comics available right now that you need to check out.
The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1
Sure, everyone is excited about the second season of Netflix’s adaptation of Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s superhero comic—it’s back July 31, if you haven’t heard—but for those who really want to get ahead of the crowd, now is the perfect time to pick up the first issue of the third series of the comic itself. This one is set after the family has fallen apart, at a time when everyone needs to put their baggage aside to save the day, and is yet another smart installation in the cult series. And no, this group of characters has never managed to put their baggage aside, so get ready for a bumpy ride.
How to read it: Available on ComiXology.
The Seeds #1
And now for something completely different—but with an incredible pedigree. The Seeds, which debuted a couple of years ago, was a complex sci-fi thriller that brought together three disparate, singular talents: Writer Ann Nocenti, whose paranoid, beatnik Daredevil of the 1980s remains a high point of the character; artist David Aja, who made his reputation as a visual stylist on Marvel’s Hawkeye with Matt Fraction; and editor Karen Berger, who headed up DC’s Vertigo through titles like Sandman, Hellblazer, Y the Last Man, Fables and many more. Sure, it can be scary to step into something entirely new—especially a story intended to unsettle—but when these veterans are at the wheel, you’re guaranteed of a good time.
How to read it: Available on ComiXology.
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol. 5
Made available for free precisely for those shut in during these Covid-19 times, the fifth volume of the complete Judge Dredd contains what might be the high point of Dredd’s early days, if not the entire 40-plus-year history of the character: The Apocalypse War, in which what remains of Russia goes to war with the East Coast of the US using both chemical and nuclear weapons. The resulting story manages to be both thrilling and grimly hilarious as it speeds toward a conclusion that lives up to its name, and remains genuinely shocking even four decades after it was originally published.
How to read it: Available from 2000 AD.
Ms. Marvel: No Normal
One of the undisputed high points of the last decade of Marvel’s comic book output, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel updates the classic Spider-Man formula with the invention of Kamala Khan, a superhero fan who finds out that her own destiny is far from the humdrum future she imagined for herself. Charming, understated, and entirely aware of how ridiculous (and genuinely wonderful) it really is, it’s everything that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man movies are and then some, featuring a character who’s far more in tune with today’s world than Peter Parker ever managed to be.
How to read it: Available from Marvel.
On paper, the idea of combining DC’s superheroes and a zombie plague story feels like something that really shouldn’t work—couldn’t the Justice League just take care of it immediately?—but DCeased, one of the biggest hits from DC in the last few years, doesn’t just manage to sell the premise, it also pushes you to the edge of your seat as the world’s greatest superheroes are revealed to be left defenseless as the world starts to end around them. Credit writer Tom Taylor, who’s had experience bringing the DC heroes to their knees in the Injustice comic book series, and artists including Trevor Hairsine, with making the seemingly impossible seem logical, plausible, and terrifying to boot.
How to read it: Available from DC Comics.
If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.
Updated 5-18-20, 8:35 pm EST: This story was updated to replace a comic that was no longer being offered for free.
More Great WIRED Stories