Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Service


Rating: 3.5/5 – YMMV based on platform

Rating Breakdown when used on:
iMac: 4.5/5
iPad: 3.5/5
iPad mini: 3.5/5
iPod Touch: 2.5/5

Perhaps the first thing to acknowledge when talking about Marvel’s digital service is that it isn’t Comixology. It’s just not. However, for the cost, it doesn’t need to be. They aren’t pretending to be either. For one thing, there’s no hint of owning an issue you download. You’re paying into a service that gives you access to whatever titles they choose to make available to you. The service has it’s share of detractors, I read some of the comments before downloading the app and buying into the service. The complaints ranged from the quality of the reader/app to the availability of titles and issues. I don’t recall any complaints about the price, $10 per month or $70 per year.

And it’s that price that makes it really difficult to shrug off the service. Trade waiters should especially take note because titles become eligible for the service after 6 months. At current Comixology prices for Marvel comics, reading 35 comics in the course of a year through Marvel Unlimited would be less expensive for the yearly price and one comic per week would make the monthly cost less expensive. There are tons of titles available, from the 1960’s up to the relaunch of Marvel Now.

There are downsides and glitches to the service. Some issues are only available for purchase and the only way to find this out is by accessing the site through your computer. When accessing through an app on a mobile device, a comic may show as available, but instead of downloading you eventually get an error message indicating difficulty connecting to the internet. The reader isn’t as nice as the Comixology reader. The navigation buttons obscure part of the page, making anything near the borders of the center of the page difficult to read. A tap makes them go away, but this must be done every time you go to the next page. On the iPad, the page zooms just slightly with each page turn so that as you advance from page to page you slowly lose the edges until you’re missing part of the text or action. Ultimately it amounts to a lot of minor page manipulations every time you advance. These are minor annoyances that will eventually be resolved as the app is updated. Marvel currently has a beta version for use with on your computer’s browser. The reader is fairly nice, allowing two pages to be viewed side by side at all times. The navigation buttons are reasonably sized. The reading experience is fairly good, if you don’t mind sitting at your computer or laptop to read.

I tried the service out on a variety of Apple devices. Sorry if my prejudice shows here. I used an iMac with a 27 inch screen, which gave me the best viewing experience, a first generation iPad, an iPad mini, and a new iPod touch. All were serviceable, but some had very clear advantages over others. The iMac provided the best viewer with the least glitches and the largest view of the comic. The iPad was my preferred way to read because of the size of the screen and portability of it. The iPad mini was no different than the iPad except that the screen was slightly smaller and it was considerably lighter. The iPod was functional. You can read a comic on it, zoom in using the iPod’s native controls – no tap to zoom like Comixology. A full page is readable and you can see the artwork. However, because of the size, the iPod isn’t the best way to go.

So, who’s this service for? I think there are tons of people out there who would really enjoy or make good use of the service. If you’re a trade waiter, or a casual comic reader, this service could benefit you. If you’ve been away from Marvel for awhile and want to come back, check out some titles you’ve been hearing about, this is definitely for you. If you collect back issues, this could be a way to be more discerning in what you collect. It also would allow you to read a title without actually reading (and devaluing) your print copy. If you like to buy old runs and get them bound, you can try a run out and see if you want to buy it or not.

Unfortunately, the people this service probably isn’t for are the people who are going to most vocally bash it, the diehard Marvel Zombie. If you are current on the majority of Marvel’s titles, need to be up to date, and know everything that’s going on in the 616 universe and beyond, this service may not be for you.

Reviewed by: Dave Frank – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

ComicSpectrum Comic Blog Elite

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