Review: Exploring the Marvel Universe

I have had Marvel Unlimited, Marvel Comic’s digital service, for a little over a month now. I was an avid reader of mostly X-Men and Wolverine in the mid-to-late 90s and recently rediscovered comics as an escape from heavy grad school reading. While some might scoff at the price compared to popular online streaming services, you may be pleasantly surprised what you get for the price.

Bang for the Buck: Membership starts at $9.99 per month, less if you buy a whole year, and I have not seen any promotions to lower the price. When you compare that to the average price of a single issue these days, between $3.99 and $4.99, you will easily get your money’s worth.

This is especially the case if you take into account how modern storylines are rolled out. Often times, an event will take place between numerous of different comic book titles, forcing you to pick up books in print that you otherwise had no interest in. This is not so with the digital service, making it easy to follow a storyline through to completion.

Functionality & Format: I started out using Marvel Unlimited on my laptop computer using its web browser-based platform, but quickly changed over to my iPad due to slow loading times and frequent crashes. After the switch, there have been very few problems: it will still crash but it is very rare and saves your page, it takes a little bit for a new book to completely load, and links some times point to the wrong comic.

Those issues can easily be brushed aside though, as the interface and navigation are very intuitive. You can not only search by comic book title, but also by comic book character, which is especially helpful if he or she made their debut in another title (Wolverine in Hulk #181, ignoring the one panel in #180). In the Discover tab, many of the more popular characters or teams will also have a “best-of” or “essential reading” compilation. It also does the same for notable artists and writers, so you can see their work across all the big titles they have worked on.

Lastly, the ability to save comics from the app for off-line reading has been so useful, especially if you know if you are going to be in an area with poor or no wifi connection like a basement lecture hall.

Limited But Expanding: Unlike the name, there are limits to the catalog of comics that are available.  They still do not have the run of Wolverine I remember reading growing up, but there are a ton of retro comics of key character stories that are now hard to come by. The selection of both old and new comics continues to expand, and never become unavailable once added. It often will not have the most current issue of any title, but will often provide a good starting point.

Verdict: If you are looking to get back into comics and worried about the cost, Marvel Unlimited is a great option. If you think that you will not have the time, I have been amazed how much has flown by while reading. The app has its problems, but they are rare and easily ignored when you take into account what you are getting.

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