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.
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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!
Need Help Getting Started With MU? Try These Comic Book Herald Guides
Comic Book Herald’s Complete Marvel Reading Order
The Best 100 Marvel Stories From 1998 to 2015
Where To Start With Marvel Comics in 2023?
If you have any questions of your own, you can send them to @comicbookherald on Twitter, or email@example.com. If you want to join a Marvel Unlimited reading club, check out My Marvelous Year.
Mike N says
I’m 47 and have been into reading (and drawing) comics since the late 70’s. I gave up a regular reading experiance in the early 2’s as the priorities of the creative landscape was changing…$#!+ stories, basically…also a value for money consideration, as the more comics you read that you don’t enjoy, the less likely you are to come back and invest your time and money on something that has become unpalatable…comics is my first love, storytelling as a general theme is what drives my interests though, so I switched to buying dvds…now that’s gone because of cvd and we (me) are all watching netflix/disney/utube/ufcfightpass…etc. all subscriptions…no in-hand product…can’t smell the paper (or toxic plastic)….dangit….I’m just not sure I like where this is all heading…”you will own nothing and be happy!” …In my mind I’m fantasizing about reading early 90’s Simonsen ffs and Jr Jrs short Ironman run…I love the art he did in that!….but will I own it? Or will I have to view it from a distance?…like from behind a glass plate at a museum, not allowed to feel, taste or smell….and don’t get me started on the digital recoloring! They butchered BWS’s weapon X coloring in the digital reprints. Sad state of affairs. So if there are holes in the early 90s stuff would I be waisting my time even having a look? …and apps that don’t work get uninstalled, no mercy from me on that one, got better things to do (like draw) than be frustrated by poor coding. Okay, I know…I’m a grumpy old man, it’s just a phase, I’ll grow out of it. Thanks for writing the article, it’s given me something to consider. Maybe I’ll give MU a try. Cheers.
Dylan Ross says
I simply read comics on a website called read comics online for free it’s tremendously good it has all kinds of comics every single comic published on earth is there ( well accept for some like astonishing Ant-Man but never the less ) it has everything from special editions to director cuts to events and it releases them the day they are published.
And you know what’s great it is completely fucking free not a single cent is spent well maybe there are some disturbing ad’s but i just use an adblocker
Lucas Skoff says
And then they screwed it all up :(. Gone is a useful app to read “all comics from 1982 by Byrne” and replaced is an app designed to spoon feed you what Marvel wants you to read.
Oh well, hopefully the new update marks a point where the give 1 crap and we can have a feature complete app again someday.
An experiment: find The Illuminati special from the event Civil War using the new app. It is very very difficult.
69$ sure, plus taxes its 82$ so they just lie with the Price..dont buy with anual fee!
So you’re saying that $82 is more than $9.99/month (not including tax) over the course of 12 months? I’m confused.
Mike Coxmaul says
iPad Pro Latest IOS version as of this post.
I have been trying for weeks to sign up for this. Apparently if you are logged in with a different iTunes account than what the app is trying to access you get an error. If you’ve tried to sign in with a Marvel Unlimited account you registered online and THEN try to subscribe you get an error. If you change iTunes accounts you get an error. If you delete the app then try again, you get the same errors. If you email customer service they say “we could not find an account with that email address” despite me looking at the bill charged to my credit card.
I give up! Terrible app, terrible customer service, for such a massive company like Marvel you’d think they could do an app that works right.
Stop using Crapple products! Apple hates anything that it can’t completely control.
Roger Casselman says
I subscribed to Marvel Unlimited for a year. I found it to be a total ripoff. Support was useless and virtually non-existent, The interface was terrible, really had a lot of trouble getting back to where I was. Had a lot of trouble reading older books. The index I liked but it kept disappearing and I was bombarded with marketing of new books I did not want to read. It was like they were saying ” we know what you want to read but we want you to read this instead…and we want you to pay for it”. I thought that by paying a subscription fee I could read the books that were free online that I wanted to read. No… extremely frustrating. I have been reading Marvel books for decades but I don’t recommend their online service. Don’t waste your money or your time.
Virtual Oasis says
I’m considering this but as of April 2019, DC Universe has 800,000 comics. They have every issue according to what I’ve read minus the past 12 months. That and the inclusion of all the new TV series, every Superfriends episode ever, lots of modern cartoons, and more makes Marvel look like Marvel “Bullet Holes” instead of Bullpen.I’ll join when they list everything. Until then I’m not going to “Make My $10 a Month Marvel.”
halsted welles says
Marvel Unlimited is overpriced, that’s why I get my comics from Hercsdvds dot xyz. He has a huge library of digital comics with better deals, his sets are complete and up to date for a fraction of the cost on comixology or marvel unlimited.
Does DC Universe have Marvel books? (Just asking that feels weird…) Because I couldn’t care less about DC properties. Not trying to sound douchey-ish. I just never could get into DC Books (No, not even Batman!) I only ask because it sounds like you’re citing DC universe as a better alternative to marvel unlimited but if the properties on those apps are still separated by publisher (which it certainly sounds like they are,) then that sounds like it’s really only a satisfactory alternative to people who are happy with DC comics INSTEAD of Marvel comics. I do appreciate the recommendation however and I totally respect your opinions and taste in comics; but I think I’ll continue making mine marvel!
No FLIPPING WAY! Thanks dude or dudette, I just read this i heard of MU but considered it a paid service or useless value. My ignorance is clearly visible. This thing sounds great. HOLY FLIP BRO THX.
Steven Whyton says
Since I joined at the start of 2019, my experience is nothing but positive with MU so I can only assume that, since this piece was written, that things have improved. There is the very occasional ‘cannot load’ message but that sort of thing happens with pretty much every online digital service… you”re kind of at the mercy of your data network.
So, I now while away my bus commute with my new iPad pro; the comics look amazing and the responsiveness is extremely impressive as is the size and scope of the catalogue.
I have been away from comics for a long, long time; it is only recently that my interest has been re-kindled and so I use my MU subscription for two reasons:
1. To wade thru Marvel’s back catalogue, using the reading guides here to decide what I’m interested in… the major events and also my favourite characters from when I was a teenager
2. To read the latest comics.
The latter might sound odd because you do point out the 6 month gap between hard-copy publication and digital publication and that MU isn’t ideal for the latest and greatest. The question that I had to ask myself is whether or not I’m bothered about being 6 months behind the ‘bleeding edge’ of comic book story arcs… and the answer was … not really! I’m perfectly happy to consume just about every comic book that marvel produces while being sometime behind the story lines… but I appreciate that this approach is not for everybody.
Whatever you use it for, I’d happily recommend MU as I think it offers tremendous value for money, great enjoyment, a pretty stable service and on any modern tablet computer the books themselves just look amazing… honestly… they’re stunning.
2018 was bug free for Marvel Unlimited. I use it regularly and never had an issue.
Andrew Buckle says
Pondering about re-starting my subscription especially as they have added a lot of great comics of late such as many old Daredevil issues + Sub Mariner (finally) but the technical issues have been a concern – the password issue is a frustration, can’t see why they haven’t resolved that as surely they must receive many e-mails telling them about it (I know I was one). Still, it is great value (just a pity DC doesn’t have a comparable service)
Dave D says
1990s Ghost Rider is missing issues 21-25 and then 28-92. And everything after 93. It’s a real big bummer to me – that was my favorite book as a teenager. But there’s all the X-Men anyone could ever want… sigh.
Dave D says
Silly me, 93 is the last one from that series. Still, years and years of gaps before that. I hope they digitize those eventually.
Cam T says
It’s a good deal, but don’t expect the backlog to be as robust as the author says. There are huge gaps in a lot of the popular titles. Notably in the early 90s when the new school artists (Liefield, Lee, Macfarlane, Silvestri) were in their prime. If you’re looking to fill in the blanks on any X or Spider-Man stories… not going to happen.
Mariano Cholakian says
Oh… it has its blanks? I thought it was really complete…
Before the 2000s, there are plenty of gaps, which makes sense given a lot of these comics would need to be scanned page by page as there would have been no original digital file for it.
If you look at Modern Marvel comics, it feels like you’ll find a gap only 0.1% of the time
Mark Boersma says
What about all of the Marvel Masterworks reprint hardcovers? I would think digital copies of all of those would be available to Marvel?
Chris Burns says
Unlimited doesn’t offer trades, only single issues. Most (all?) of the stuff found in the Masterworks books is there in single issue form though.
Honestly I’ve found very few holes in their library in 3 years of using the service. The only ones I can remember are Power Pack and any of their Marvel MAX (adult content) books like Alias.
They’re over 20,000 books now. You have to work pretty hard to find stuff that isn’t here.
Adam Hill says
Just a datapoint.
I use the iOS app primarily. (6sPlus, 9.7″ iPad 2 and 12.9″ iPad) I have never gotten a “Stopped working” dialog or has it ever asked me to reset my password.
My largest issue has always been older comics where Smart panel was broken (zooming way too far into a panel) and if you click very quickly on the RHS or LHS to advance pages, Smart panel will turn off.
MU is an insanely good value and is the app I use to show off why my 12.9″ iPad Pro is not “too big” 🙂
I find I get very few issues with the app. I’d say it works well 95% of my time (running it on two android devices). If anything, it’s my tablet that will screw up more than the app.
Away from that, Marvel Unlimited has been great value for me. I started off as a comic newbie 6 months ago, and now I’ve read about 100 comics per month. I’ve been making my way through comics from early 2000s with my goal of finishing at Secret Wars, at which point I’ll go back and read specific series in their entirety.
I guess you could say, when Marvel claims their app has over 17,000 comics, I see that as a challenge to read them all.
Trey Conrad says
I’ve sideloaded MU on my Kindle and it really wasn’t that hard and I haven’t had a lot of issues with it. I’ll even go so far to say that between my phone, my Kindle and my PC it seems to be less buggy on the Kindle. It’s really slow but still it’s there and it works consistently.
Planning to get MU in this week.Already subscribed to Comic Book Herald’s reading club hope I will start reading MU from this week
It’s hard, really hard. I love the value we get for the price but right now, with the reading club starting again I have so many problems with the app on my IPad Air 2.
I always have to download the comics because it doesn’t load the just to read the online.
The loading takes sooooooo much time….
But the weirdest or worst or I don’t know is, that there are great HD like looking comics (f.a. X-Man #60) and at the same time there are really bad looking ones (uncanny x-men from the some time period). I like to read in smart panel mode but for some it works perfect and for some It just fails. It’s almost as if there are two totally different modes sometime. One that’s new and working without a flaw and a second which is …. can’t read anything.
Yeah, this is exactly it. The irony is that MU’s biggest upside (value) is perpetually undermined by software issues that devalue. That’s been the story for years. Nothing really beats even the possibility of all those comics at your fingertips, though.
My general sense of smart panel reading is it works quite well for any comic added to the Marvel Unlimited library after 2013. Anything earlier – especially those late 90’s through early 2000’s books – it’s basically unusable.
Tried it on my Android Phone abd there the loading works far better. Seems like the apple app is not as good as the google store app?!
Brandon Harbeke says
I have not seen the “Unfortunately” screen above. What platform/app are you on when you see that?
The main problem I have had is when I get the sample instead of the full comic. To solve that, I generally have to log out, then log back in. This is irritating, but it only happens for the first comic of the day at most.
Really, the value is amazing, and I have gotten to read so much that I would never have sought out in print. 2015’s addition of almost the entire Star Wars output from Dark Horse was a major positive change in the service.
Android tablet gets that error a bunch. Usually I just try, try, try until finally something clicks. Really just a matter of patience, but not something I experience with other apps.
I get the sample problem a bunch, too. I’m always signed in when it happens which is bizarre. I’ve been lucky enough to just click back to the comic details and when I reload the issue it takes me to page 4 as if nothing happened. Logging out terrifies me because I’m worried I won’t be able to log back in without resetting my password!
Like you say, though, I wouldn’t love Marvel Comics like I do without Marvel Unlimited. Not even close. Also, I’d be completely, wholeheartedly broke.