Digital or Bust: Marvel Unlimited

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What is this? Some sort of follow up to the mega-popular Digital or Bust? Stop the presses! Or, I guess, stop the internet-posting? There really aren’t presses for this kind of thing, unless you imagine that internet is one big press and every blog or webpage post is “pressed” onto the net… heavy man.  But that’s not the point here and really serves no relevance so let’s move on.

Today we’re going to talk about Marvel Unlimited. You know, that digital service that costs anywhere from $69 to $99 per year, depending on whether or not you want regular or “plus”? Unless you’re Canadian and then plus isn’t even an option for you so… there’s that. So this little idea boasts “instant access to over 13,000 comics” and in theory it’s a great idea for those that want to sample comics, from the past and relatively recent releases, without jumping right into a trade or collection.

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Marvel Unlimited Banner from the official website. Ooooh, shiney.

Now, for my money I managed to get a special $10 off coupon so I tried the yearly package—something I probably wouldn’t have done if I didn’t get that coupon, to be honest. After the first week or so of playing with it and downloading the comics and reading a few I, admittedly, haven’t touched it. I plan on going back to it eventually, but here are some of the things that quite possibly have turned me off of it:

You can only “take” 12 comics with you. That is to say, you have a limit of 12 comics at any one time you can download to your device and read while you’re “offline”. This really isn’t a huge deal but it would be nice to be able to download whatever, whenever on the off chance the 12 that you picked while connected to Wi-Fi (pronounced Wiffy) might not be the ones you suddenly want to read. Just saying, it happens. Sometimes the comics you’re in the mood for change from the morning to, say, lunch time. So if you load up a bunch, like you can on say that little thing called Comixology, you should be able to read ‘em all. Just saying… its minor, but it’s something I’ve thought about.

Another thing, and this thing is more major than that last thing, and that’s their “panel view”. I know they can’t outright rip off Comixology and their fantastic guided view, but they already have an app that uses their technology and ideas so why the hell couldn’t they have worked together with Comixology on this one? Hell, even the look of their Comixology Marvel app is better than Unlimited. To me, it’s an absolute no brainer. The panel view that Unlimited uses is not unusable, but it’s much better to just read it as a full page at a time, providing you have something the size of an iPad 2.

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Aside from those two things I think, really, the selection is pretty decent. I can find stuff that I haven’t read in a while, like the early 90s Venom series that was my last series until my resurgence into the comic world just a few years ago, and I can find stuff that I’m interested in checking out but maybe can’t find trades to, like Devil Dinosaur. There are some holes in their selections, especially in the older stuff, which is to be expected, but it gives the impression that they’re going to tease you with, for example, a really great Black Panther issue from Kirby—who we lost 20 years ago today, RIP King—but then not follow up with the rest of the issues. It’s almost as if Marvel Unlimited is forcing you, if you enjoyed it, to go hunting for the trades that may or may not even still be in print which leads to a whole other set of issues and problems.

Maybe that last part is imagined, but you have to think that this new feature is just another way to get people hooked and to get people into comic shops. This, really, is great because the comic industry can always use new readers hungry for good trades which eventually turn into making them a monthly reader and then they turn their friends onto comics and the cycle continues.

Unfortunately, I’d almost rather spend the $69 bucks on a few trades instead of bothering with Marvel Unlimited. I’m spoiled with the Comixology guided view which, as I said, is just far superior to what Unlimited is offering. Right now, I need to go back and read some more comics from Unlimited and give it another go but as far as I can tell, I won’t be renewing my subscription for another year once this expires.

Call me picky, or a digital snob, or whatever—I can handle it, I think—but I don’t know if Unlimited is for me. But I want to know what you true believers think about this. Have you tried it? Do you love it/hate it/are indifferent? Has this jumble of words turned you off of it or onto it? Comment below! No, seriously, comment. I want to know if I’m just nuts.

Regardless of my craziness, at the end of the day read comics, folks. That’s the absolute bottom line. Read ‘em however you can and however you want to. Share the love with friends, family, pets—whoever. Just read comics. Oh, and comment below.

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