Marvel Unlimited brings 70 years of back catalog comics to iPhone and iPad

Marvel Unlimited is a new, native app front end for the existing Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscription service. It lets you read 70 years and 13,000 issues of back catalog comics -- Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Wolverine, the Avengers, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. -- right on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. That means you don't get the really new stuff -- you need a pay-per-issue app like Comics by comiXology to get almost anything from the last year -- but you do get an incredible amount of the classics.

If you're not a Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited subscriber, you can sample some free comics and preview issues, and you can learn all about the service, but because of Apple's revenue-sharing requirements, you can't subscribe inside the app, or even get pushed out to Marvel's web site to subscribe. If you don't know where to go already, you'll need to Google it, which is a terrible user experience, but sadly not an uncommon one, given the iOS subscription impasse. (Luckily, I can point you right to the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited here.)

Marvel Unlimited on iPad screens

You can browse the catalog, get information on individual issues and their creators, see related issues, and either start reading them then and there, or store them in your library for later, optionally off-line, reading.

You can view comics in portrait or landscape, and page or scrub through issues. Unfortunately, the interface is kind of janky. Sometimes it doesn't pinch-to-zoom properly, and sometimes the entire interface, not just the comic, zooms and pans around. Hopefully that gets fixed.

Marvel Unlimited works on both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad/iPad mini. I like it best on the full-size iPad, because it's closest in size to a real paper comic. It's fine on an iPad mini as well. It's a little small on the iPhone/iPod touch, however, and you'll likely need to zoom and pan a lot more. It's convenient but not as enjoyable.

Marvel Unlimited on iPhone screens

While some have called this a Netflix-like service, the parallel breaks down when you realize you only get Marvel titles. It's a Netflix-like service if Netflix only had movies and TV shows by Disney/ABC. I'd love a real, Netflix-like service for comics, where titles from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, and all the rest are available for one subscription price, but I doubt we'll see it.

For new comics, Comics by comiXology remains your best option. For back catalog, if you want collected trades with convenient if spotty coverage, iBooks or Kindle can do you. If you want all-you-can eat Marvel, however, Marvel Unlimited is the way to go.

Even though the interface is glitchy and the content is from only one garden, I still subscribed and I still imagine I'll be losing hours of sleep to it.

If you're a subscriber, or if you just try out the samples, let me know what you think of Marvel Unlimited.