Marvel Unlimited is an “all-you-can-eat” subscription service that allows readers access to Marvel’s enormous back catalog, starting with their first-ever comic, Marvel Comics #1. For $9.99 per month, or $59.88 per year, you can dip into their library of over 13,000 comics and read as much as you like.
There are two drawbacks to Marvel Unlimited, although they are really marketing choices more than drawbacks. One is that it’s streaming, so you have to have an internet connection to read the comics, although the iPad app does allow a small number of downloads. When your subscription ends, the comics go away, although you are always offered the opportunity to buy them via Marvel’s web store. The other problem is that the comics are not super fresh; nothing is less than six months old, and the vast majority of the collection is much older. If you’re OK with that, though, Marvel Unlimited does offer really good value for the money.
Unfortunately, reading comics on a computer isn’t very comfortable, and when Marvel brought Marvel Unlimited to iOS, I thought it was a huge improvement. So when they announced an Android version, available on Google Play, that was even better news.
I tested out the app on my Nexus 7 tablet, and it worked fine—as long as I was reading in single-page mode in the portrait format. Double-page spreads were too small to be read, and Marvel’s “Smart Panels” are anything but—this attempt at a panel-by-panel view fails miserably, from sheer carelessness. The panels are poorly cropped; often parts of the panel are chopped off and bits of other panels intrude. It’s a shame, because good panel-by-panel view would add a lot to this app; the reading surface on the Nexus 7 is rather small. However, the resolution on the Nexus 7 is good enough that the full-page view works fine. Also, an annoying feature from the iOS app, giant “left” and “right” arrows that don’t disappear until you tap twice, have been eliminated from the Android version. The screen isn’t as sensitive as I would like—sometimes I had to swipe two or three times to get the page to turn—and the comics are a little slow to load. Aside from that, it’s a very nice comics app.
My other complaint still stands, though: The app is poorly organized. You can search by series, character, creator, or release date, and there’s a keyword search, but with this many comics, it’s often hard to find what you are looking for. After all, there hae been a lot of series named “Daredevil” over the years. Making it harder is the fact that the browse function won’t let you jump to a particular letter of the alphabet; you have to start with “A” and scroll down through a lot of comics each time. And since the app is organized around single-issue comics, one feature that would be really nice would be a pointer to the next issue on the last page. Instead, the reader is prompted to buy the comic and then sent back to the main page for the series, which interrupts the flow of reading.
The app is free and offers a good selection of free comics to non-subscribers. Not surprisingly, this week’s selections are heavy on Iron Man, with a lot of issue #1s, but they also offer a six-issue story arc to read straight through. This service definitely works better as a mobile app than a website—it’s more comfortable to read on a tablet, and the higher-resolution screen makes it easy to read comics even at a smaller size. The Android app makes it even more convenient and portable. Download it today from the Good e-Reader App Store!
A former book editor and newspaper reporter, Brigid Alverson started MangaBlog to keep track of her daughters¹ reading habits and now covers comics and graphic novels for Comic Book Resources , School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Robot 6, and MTV Geek. She also edits the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. Brigid was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards. Send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org