The only thing I want in this world is an all-you-can-read monthly comic subscription service, which I can use on the iPad. Which is why Marvel launching Marvel Unlimited on iOS seemed like a dream come true. But in actual fact, it’s like promising a feast and delivering a few mouldy Saltines. I’ll eat them because I’m starving, but I won’t like it.
The so-called Marvel Unlimited has a list of limitations that are sure to take the wind out of any comic fan’s sails: the catalog of titles available in the app is severely dated, for instance, with the newest titles available coming from around mid-year 2012. And Marvel limits how much content you can store offline at once to a paltry six titles – hardly adequate for a six-hour cross-country plane ride, for instance. For access, Marvel is charging $10 a month, or $60 for a year as a limited time offer.
Marvel is sticking to a six-month delay for Marvel Unlimited, too. According to Gizmodo, “most major titles” will be available six months after their print release date. Note the use of “most,” which signals another limitation. There’s no guarantee that your favorite hero will grace the virtual shelves of Marvel Unlimited at all.
One final limitation is the reader itself, which is based on HTML5 tech and can’t compete with the performance or smoothness of apps like Comics by Comixology, or the standalone Marvel digital marketplace provided by the same company. Unlimited started out as a web-first service, however, so that’s not necessarily that surprising, and it’s a minor concern compared to catalog size and title availability.
I get that Marvel wants to keep its peas on one side of the plate and the potatoes on the other, by maintaining day-and-date releases as a primary cash cow and this subscription offering as a way to monetize its extensive back catalog, but that doesn’t make it hurt less. Marvel maintains that this is “phase 1” of the service, however, so hopefully it’ll get better with time.