LibraryPass’s Comics Plus | Reference Database Review

With wide-open access for readers and custom title control for institutions, Comics Plus is a versatile digital comics collection that will serve graphic novel lovers well.

Library Pass’s Comics Plus

Grade Level K Up

Cost Pricing for annual subscriptions varies by package, institution (school, public, or academic library), and population served (for public libraries) or full-time enrollment (for K–12, colleges, and universities). Pricing packages for schools are available by age and grade level: elementary school (kindergarten through grade five; ages five to 10); middle school (grades three to eight; ages eight to 14); and high school (grades six through 12; ages 11 through 18). Schools can sign up for more than one package and can remove titles too mature for their population. For public libraries, packages include the children’s library (for ages five through 14) and all-access (which includes mature content).

Content Comics Plus is an online collection of graphic novels; roughly 20,000 titles are available in the full collection and 13,000 in the K–12 categories. Books include award winners—such as “March” and They Called Us Enemy—and titles from big franchises: “Bone,” “Avatar the Last Airbender,” “The Legend of Korra,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” for starters. DC and Marvel’s superhero universes are absent, though the Valiant universe and plenty of stand-alone, non-conglomerate superheroes more than adequately fill the void. Nonfiction and memoir comics occupy space alongside surface-level political profiles and ­parodies. A series of curated lists targets subject ­specialties such as Pride, Silly Reads, and Graphic Medicine.

Readers can filter titles by age, publisher, language (the majority of non-English comics are in Spanish), and more than 60 categories (music, horror, biography, etc.). All ­titles are available for simultaneous checkout, meaning there are no wait times or limits.

Content is accessible through a web browser (desktop or mobile layout) as well as iOS and Android apps. Comics can be downloaded to the app version for seven-day increments and can be redownloaded on demand.

Users can save their place to resume reading later; copy a link or share it via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest; switch between one- or two-page view; zoom in and out (there is no panel-by-panel view); or go directly to a page elsewhere in the book.

Manga deserves some separate considerations. Users read titles right to left; however, this reversal is not explained in the book’s information page, nor is there a pop-up to correct readers if they try to advance past the cover by tapping to the right, as one finds in other digital comics apps. Manga fans probably won’t require such a disclaimer, but its omission could lead to confusion for some students. Comics Plus has an expansive definition of manga, as several titles included in the category are from American publishers and creators. There’s plenty for purists to ­enjoy, though. The “Manga Classics” lineup will come in handy for English teachers. A substantial portion of Osamu “­Godfather of Manga” Tezuka’s catalogue is here, ­representing a classic era of Japanese comics. Deals with Kodansha and Yen Press are flooding the service with titles more familiar and actively marketed to teen manga ­readers, though Dark Horse’s manga catalogue has some strong titles, too. Some of the comics categories include manga-specific genres such as isekai, shoujo, yaoi/yuri, seinen, and josei. This is probably the strongest manga subscription service available in English outside of Shonen Jump and Crunchyroll.

Student and Educator Resources An FAQ explains how to use Comics Plus in its different modes and how checkouts, lists, and search work.

Resources for educators are extensive, from lesson plans to themed webinars featuring subject experts, including leaders in publishing and education, who explain the value and uses of graphic novels. More than a dozen title-specific reading and teaching guides provide quizzes on the book’s contents, activities, suggested age ranges, and further reading. A summer reading PDF provides lists of recommended titles in age and grade categories, with a challenge that asks kids to complete a series of reading, creative, and app activities. Comics Plus also offers tips for hosting book clubs and templates for those writing book reports or creating their own comics.

Verdict The sheer breadth of content ­represents a value proposition that cannot be ­ignored. With wide-open access for readers and custom title control for institutions, this versatile comics collection will serve graphic novel lovers well.

Thomas Maluck, Richland Lib., SC

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