Now that I’ve written reviews of Marvel Unlimited for most of the decade, I’m well aware that most “Is Marvel Unlimited Worth It” conversations can be quite succinctly summed up by a simple one word: YES!
In an increasingly crowded digital comics streaming landscape, though, this question isn’t quite so simple. Although Marvel Unlimited continues to offer the single best value for digital comics subscriptions by several thousand miles, the service has historically had notable limitations that truly reduce new users ability to actually read their comics.
An evaluation of pros and cons is well worth it before you commit your money.
What Is Marvel Unlimited Exactly?
For the uninitiated, Marvel Unlimited is the digital subscription service offered by Marvel Comics. For a monthly fee of $9.99, or an annual fee of $69.99 (or $99.99 for Marvel Unlimited Plus), you get access to the Marvel Unlimited digital library of comics on your desktop or mobile app.
Once you’ve paid and signed up, you can read as many Marvel Comics as you like, as often as you like, whenever you like.
In short, it’s a Netflix or Spotify “all-you-can-eat” style service strictly for Marvel Comics.
I’ve detailed what’s in the Marvel Unlimited library here, but essentially you can read the entire history of Marvel Comics, and well over 30,000 comic books, at whatever pace you choose. Seriously, the library of comics is immense, to the point that Comic Book Herald’s reading club (and podcast!) covers Marvel Comics published in every year from 1961 through present day with more than enough to read, and only very minor gaps.
The question has come up several times, so note that Marvel Unlimited is different from reading comics on the Marvel Comics app. Once you have subscribed to Marvel Unlimited, you do not need to pay for individual comics on the Marvel Unlimited app.
Why Wouldn’t You Sign Up For Marvel Unlimited?
Honestly, if you’re interested in getting started with Marvel Comics, or catching up on series you may have missed, Marvel Unlimited is a fantastic value.
Seriously, for the price of an annual subscription you could purchase maybe 7 new trade paperbacks of Marvel stories, totaling something like 42 issues of comics. As a reminder, Marvel Unlimited has well over 30,000 comics plus the Star Wars comics universe.
It is insanely good value.
As such, I find it easier to discuss the reasons you might not want Marvel Unlimited. Since I brought it up in the intro, we’ll look at technical issues first.
Marvel Unlimited Service Downtime
Following the launch of the Marvel Unlimited app in 2013, there were a number of years where app functionality was the primary setback for MU.
At this point in time, that’s largely a thing of the past, but as with any app, your mileage may vary pending device and usage. Both Android and iOS apps are generally easy to use and operate, with fewer of the quirks that prevent you from reading comics. Personally, the most consistent issue I run into reading comics these days is difficulty with a few pages of an issue loading. Obviously, if you’re reading a 22 page story, and missing 2 pages, that can be a problem!
(As someone who used to read Marvel Unlimited on a Kindle Fire, I should also point out that since Marvel Unlimited isn’t actually available through the Kindle store, I’m a little less surprised by technical misfires on those devices. I do wish Marvel would commit to a Kindle friendly version of the app, though, instead of leaving it up to owners figuring out how to add Google Play to their tablets.)
Throughout the years Marvel Unlimited has also sported strange password issues, making it a challenge for users to log in and out. This concern comes and goes, but it’s worth noting that the service has more preventative bugs than I’ve ever encountered with apps like Spotify or Netflix. There are times when I feel like I need to re-enter my password dozens of times a week just to use MU and that’s solvable, but annoying.
Marvel Unlimited does have a support team, and while they have improved at responses (particularly on Twitter), it can be a challenge to get hold of a fix when locked out.
Heading in to the year, I’ve been happy with my ability to access Marvel Unlimited, and with very limited downtime. Mileage may vary, but fingers crossed this trend continues.
The Great Marvel Unlimited Update of 2021
In Fall 2021, the Marvel Unlimited development released the biggest app updates since the true mobile app push of 2013. The intent was a push for improved user experience for new readers and rolling out Marvel’s new line of “Infinity” comics, vertical scrollers (similar to the Webtoon model) released exclusively on Marvel Unlimited. And visually, there’s a lot about the update that does look nicer.
But for power users, and the existing fanbase, the changes were… controversial. To say the least.
Personally, I was deeply disappointed to see the ability to filter and sort comics by publication year completely removed, as I used this feature constantly (especially for My Marvelous Year). Likewise, my reading history – that handy homepage feature showing you the comics you’ve been reading recently – has become badly unreliable.
It was honestly a very strange update given that frequent user requests for features like “smart custom playlists” were entirely ignored in favor of Marvel’s own push toward curated lists designed for beginners.
The good news is the Marvel Unlimited crew is aware of this. Given the clear competitive pressures increasing from the likes of DC Universe, Webtoon, Comixology Unlimited, and elsewhere, I fully anticipate changes and improvements will continue to be made throughout the year. But if you’re returning to Marvel Unlimited after a spell away… you may want to wait until these issues are updated.
If you’re new to the app, though, honestly, you probably won’t notice! It’s like any user base, the longest running fans are the most annoyed with significant changes, but otherwise, I’m not sure you’ll know what you were missing.
You Only Want To Read The Newest Comics
Marvel Unlimited is most useful for anyone who wants to catch up on a vast, overwhelming library of 30,000 plus comics. It’s for readers who want to consume every story ever told.
It’s not as great for readers who want to keep up with the latest and greatest in Marvel publishing. If you want to know what’s going on in Amazing Spider-Man right now, Marvel Unlimited may not the service for you. Your best bet is going to be picking up Amazing Spider-Man issues from your local comic shop, or digitally through Amazonology.
That said, as of late 2020, Marvel Unlimited adds new comics 3 months after their publication date. This is the best update to Marvel Unlimited services since the app debuted! For example, Marvel’s Inferno began publication in September of last year, and heading into the new year nearly the first half of the event is already appearing in the Marvel Unlimited library.
It’s worth noting as well that the Marvel Unlimited team has gotten very effective at adding more comics to the library over the past few years, filling in everything from 90’s X-Men to 70’s Tigra! New comics are added weekly, so the library is constantly expanding.
You Use a Kindle or Surface (Or non iOS & Android compatible device)
I’ve previously enjoyed reading comics on a Kindle Fire, but as I mentioned one of the biggest downsides is there is no Amazon compatible Marvel Unlimited app.
Tech savvy comic fans will point out that you can sideload Marvel Unlimited onto your Kindle. For a long time this sounded like brain surgery to me, and not necessarily a risk I wanted to run on my tablet. I can assure you now it’s very achievable for even those who don’t consider themselves tech savvy.
It’s unclear whether Marvel has any plans to add compatible app versions for Kindle, Surface, and the other outsiders. It’s possible Amazon’s ownership of Comixology makes Marvel less likely to play within their ecosystem, although that’s purely conjecture. If you’re home on WiFi or have plenty of data, you could also always use the desktop application of Marvel Unlimited, although I certainly prefer the in-app experience on a mobile device.
Why I Love Marvel Unlimited
If you’re comparing services, Marvel Unlimited offers full runs of series it includes, separating it tremendously from the sampler platter mentality of Comixology Unlimited.
DC Universe is interesting competition (finally!), and did launch with the immediately superior ability to download comics. Nonetheless, the comic offering is following Marvel Unlimited’s lead in every other way, and lags behind on the depth of the catalog I’m excited DC Universe exists, not least of which because it pushes Marvel Unlimited to improve. But make no mistake that MU is still the best game in town, regardless of preferred content.
If you’re into my other favorite digital comic library service, Hoopla Digital, Marvel Unlimited offers a perfect complement, since Hoopla will carry various Marvel collections, but not the depth of full runs in MU.
I’ll continue happily subscribing Marvel Unlimited, and expect that their team is hard at work improving a service that has only gotten better in the decade I’ve been using it.
There’s no other way to enjoy Marvel Comics so easily so despite its flaws…
Make mine Marvel Unlimited!