When Nerds on Earth began, I was woefully outclassed by Clave and Jason when it came to comics. I still very much am and will likely always be, but I decided to try and close that gap somewhat so that I might be able to contribute from time to time within the comics genre.
At first I considered rolling up to the local comic shop, requesting a longbox, and subscribing to singles like I did when I was in college. Then I remembered how much money I was dropping every month on those subscriptions and balked at that idea.
I also realized that while I very much prefer physical books to e-books, I did not have that same preference for the comic medium. In fact, I preferred the idea of digital comics well over physical copies. They take up way less space (the dimensions of my iPad mini, to be exact) and they’re easier to travel with.
So I downloaded and subscribed to Marvel Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, $69 a year, or $99 a year, you are granted access to 15,000+ titles in a library that is constantly expanding.
Here are my quick thoughts on the app’s value:
- It doesn’t matter which subscription plan I chose, I was guaranteed to spend less per year than I was when picking up singles. By, like, a lot.
- Titles and complete runs that would take me a lot of time and luck to track down in longboxes holding hundreds of barely organized singles at who-knows-how-many comic shops are at my beck and call.
For instance, Jason recommended that I read the Claremont run of Uncanny X-Men. That run is 16 years in the making and well over 150 issues strong. All I had to do to have them all at the ready is search for Claremont within the app under “Creators” and locate the first issue (#94). Done.
- The app has an “Events and Crossovers” browsing option which collects and sequentially presents those events whose fingers reach multiple titles. So if I wanted to read the Fear Itself event, I could open it up and see the “Core” issues along with the “Tie-In” issues all in one screen instead of having to hop from one series to another.
- While the app requires wifi, it does give you the option of downloading up to twelve issues to your device for offline viewing.
- The biggest trade-off is up-to-dateness (a term I just made up). MU releases titles approximately six months behind their shelving date, so if you’re trying to stay current, you’ll be a bit behind for sure.
- There’s not yet (I say “yet” in the hopes that MU developers get around to fixing this because its a no-brainer) a way to easily add an entire series to your Library. When I first used the app, I was naively adding single after single to my library – which very quickly cluttered it up – because I saw no other cleaner option. The workaround I’ve discovered: Add just the first issue to your library and click “More In [Insert Series]” to access the other issues. It should be easier than that, though.
- I also wish the app cued you in visually as to which issues you’ve already read. You walk away from the app for a few days, forget where you left off, and sometimes have to click through issues to relocate where you were.
- The portrait oriented pages are beautiful and you can zoom in on the art and dialogue as you see fit, but occasionally the landscape, two-page splash pages give me trouble. Sometimes I can turn the iPad and it fills the screen (as it should).
Other times the turning of the screen squeezes the landscaped splash pages onto the same screen with a portrait page (or worse: TWO landscaped pages on one screen as pictured below) and leaves you fighting with the zoom and scroll features to catch the dialogue and appreciate the art. Comixology’s panel view does an excellent job of overcoming this frustration and MU should take note (although its likely proprietary technology).
Overall, I do love Marvel Unlimited. Its solid bang-for-the-buck. In addition to browsing the massive library, you can also purchase digital issues in-app with ease and build a more permanent library of your own on your digital devices.
I do want to implore you not to abandon your local comic shop, though! This app should by no means mean the end of local comic businesses. MU is not the ultimate comic experience. No app is or could be. The good stuff comes through conversations and lively debates with others, not just from consumption. So darken the doors of your local establishments often, support their nerdy endeavors, and invest in the community of comic lovers in your own backyard.