Marvel’s pre-comiXology digital comics service, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, has been redbranded as just Marvel Unlimited; it’s essentially the same service that’s been available since it’s launch in 2007 but is now accessible as an app for the iPad, iPhone, and “soon” for the Android market.
And it’s a pretty big deal.
The first major digital comics subscription service for mobile devices is officially here.
It will also likely become the biggest digital service provider alongside comiXology. At least that’s Marvels plan. As reported by Gizmodo, subscriptions start at $10 a month, or you can subscribe annually for $60 (coming out to $5 per month). The library has over 13,000 back issues, you can store comics on your device for offline reading, sort by character, series, creator, or events and you can sync your downloaded comics across all devices.
Sounds amazing. And it kinda is. I mean $10 per month for access to over 13,000 comics, makes me light headed just thinking about it. And I’m a DC guy.
Course, the app and service isn’t without it’s own drawbacks:
The reading experience isn’t as smooth as what most digital readers are used to; no swiping of pages, no high-def/res pictures,
no panel-by-panel view, the pinch-to-zoom feature is a bit unresponsive, there is no double-tap to zoom, a permanent menu bar at the tops keeps the experience from going full screen, the large arrow buttons to turn the page don’t always fade, and there is no options to see all the pages of the comic.
That’s quite the list.
Not to mention that the ability to store comics for offline reading is limited to six issues. Which fits most story arcs but is hardly enough to hold you over for a long plane or car ride. The Gizmodo article makes mention that there is a “decent chance” Marvel moves that number to 12, 15, or maybe 25 in the future, which I’d hedge my bet on. Most apps launch with bugs and limitations. In fact the SVP of Marvel Digital Peter Phillips said that this is just “Phase 1.” So I’d expect an update and whatever “Phase 2″ is pretty soon.
And that 13,000 back issue library doesn’t mean everything is available. Most selections are what you’d expect, characters that their pushing across all their media, movies especially. So don’t expect every issue of something like John Byrne’s Alpha Flight. But to be fair, it’s an impressive library. I subscribed to the service a few years ago and quit largely due to the holes in their collections, a lot of those holes seem to be filled. And with new issues uploaded every week it’s only going to get bigger.
I mean, this about this, using Marvel’s Civil War as an example; you can buy the trade at full price for $24.99, on Amazon for $16.50, the digital trade for $12.99 on comiXology or…you can pay the $10 for Marvel Unlimited and read Civil War plus the 11 tie-in issues/series in their library. Then you can read Fear Itself and it’s many tie-ins, then Planet Hulk, Infinity Gauntlet, Marvel 1602, and whatever else for that $10. It’s the Netflix of Marvel Comics. You’d be a fool not to pay up right?
The only catch is that day-and-date new release comics do not and probably never will apply to Marvel Unlimited. Every comic in their library is at least six months old (although even that is in question) and Marvel won’t commit to every title eventually making it over. Phillips did say in the article though that most major titles “should be in there at six months.” He also summed it up pretty well by saying, “It’s more of a borrow function, meant to be used in tandem with the Marvel app.”
So it’s not really a catch at all, it’s their model.
It’s waiting for the trade, digitally.
For less than the cost of a trade.
I have to confess, this is impressive. Sure, the app seems to have been rushed; there are bugs and the reading experience isn’t as impressive as devices like the iPad are capable of, but those seem petty in the wake of what this could mean for the future of digital comics and my back issue reading history. Not to mention the bugs can be fixed. It will be interesting to see how publishers react in the coming months/years depending on how successful this is. It’ll also be interesting to see, if successful, how this effects the back issue market in local shops and with online retailers. As the collecting element to comics fades a little this seems like a natural progression for a certain portion of the casual and serious fans a like.
I’d imagine that this peaks the curiosity of most fans. And I’d imagine that most fans might be willing to at least try it for $10. And if Marvel just figured out a way to get another $10 out of their fans you can bet the rest of the industry will want some of that pie too.
It’s a fairly low-risk move on Marvel’s part. A lot of these comics were already scanned from the previous web-based service, all they had to do was launch an app and see what happens.
I think fans will like this. And I think it’ll push the digital comics evolution.
Now we get to sit back, choose whether to participate or not, and see what happens next.