Quick Review: Marvel Comics for iPad

Marvel Comics for iPad [Free - iTunes link] and iPhone [Free - iTunes link] finally brings one of the big two old media giants to the mobile age -- albeit kicking and screaming. And... this is the future of comic books. They look gorgeous on that big 1024x768 screen. There's a ton more functionality shown off in the video below but they get the core experience right and that's the most important thing.

There are other comic book stores and readers for iPad, and we'll be looking at them, but Marvel deserves huge kudos for even entering this space -- unlike DC which continues to sit on the sidelines, treating the digital revolution as confusingly as their cross-over events. (What?)

Now I'm a comic book geek from way, way back. Among my first comics were the now-Classic Dark Phoenix Saga from the X-Men. I love Marvel and I want to love this app. In many ways I do, but it makes me as angry as it does happy.

So if you just wanted to know about the app itself, stop reading and go get it. It's free. If you want to hear me rant because I care, read on after the break!

First and foremost you can use this app to finally, legitimately, read digital versions of some of Marvel's vast library of titles. A pretty tiny amount, however, given the size of that library. It will build over time, no doubt, but I have a sneaky suspicion their faustian pact with comic book retail shops will keep it hamstrung for a long time.

Evidence of that exists in the "buy print version" and "find local retailer" options in the app. Will Time Magazine's app direct you to the closest newsstand for a print copy? I don't want to store 1000s of comics in plastic bags anymore, thank you very much, and while the option is nice, a simple order from Amazon is nicer. I feel for the retailers, of course, but the world is changing around them the same way it changed for floppy disk makers. Marvel should be leading the charge into the mobile age of comics, not tip toeing on eggshells or tripping over fear of the future. (Ironic for an industry that made its fortune giving us incredible views of the future...)

And this manifests for the casual user how? You can buy all 24 issues of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's brilliant Astonishing X-Men series right in the Marvel Comics for iPad app for $1.99 each. Two problems with that 1) the series was 25 issues and they don't seem to offer the Giant Size final issue! (Imagine getting Matrix off iTunes without the last 10 minutes!) and 2) while you could have bought each printed issue separately, you also now have the option to buy collections, 4 softcovers of 6 issues each, 2 hardcovers of 12 and 13 issues, and an Omnibus of all 25(1) issues. Discounted bundles would be smart, but being able to buy collections (including the bonus material!) would be wonderful. (iTunes doesn't sell TV like this either, but TV is longer form and the precedent for collected volumes isn't there).

Another pet peeve that I'll rant on is the need for a Marvel.com account to download or buy issues. I understand they do it because their scheme is to keep the content on the Marvel.com cloud, but in-app purchases via iTunes would have been so much better. I don't want another account, thank you very much, let alone an account per-publisher. Imagine if you needed separate Warners and Disney accounts for movies, a separate Random House account for books. That kind of thing should be consolidating, not expanding.

YouTube link

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Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Got this for my iPhone and it could be better, but I'm still in love with it. On the iPad, it takes things to a whole new level. Watch out though, this app can get addictive and expensive real quick.
  • Can u create a different site for the ipad? Not interested on the ipad. Your site is called theiphoneblog. Make theipadblog.com. If u notice all ur posts are for the ipad. I'm more interested on what is happening the iPhone. Leave the iPads for our girlfriends if u know what I mean.
  • @CJ
    The site is called "TiPB," meaning it covers the news for not just the iPhone, but also the iPod touch and the iPad. Also, if you didn't notice, this is iPad launch weekend, so of course there are a ton of posts on the iPad.
  • When/if they get DC comics (the company that publishes V for Vendetta, Watchmen, and The League of Extordainary Gentlemen), then I'll consider buying an app for the sole purpose of reading comics.
    Until then, Superman is on his own...
  • Would like to see more up to date content.
  • While I applaud Marvel, this app seems like a waste if it doesn't give me access to the 1000's of digital comics their website has and that I pay $50/year to read... Since my iPad 3G hasn't yet been released, anyone know if the Marvel app let's you access the online digital comics library?
  • You know what? I just thought about it. What the Comic Book Stores need to do is develop a store for online comics. Marvel shouldn't be going around the store owners to the consumer this way. This ain't Music. That kind of "going directly to the fans" stuff is for music artists only. lol That way Marvel gets what it wants and the store owners get to stay in business. If you're telling me that the "CBS"es are on their way out (blasphemy) and THIS is the near future (ugh... I'm faint of heart here)... well, I'm just beside myself on that one. Say it ain't so...
  • @mattheous HARSH! lol
  • I can't test this app yet, as I have no iPhone, but I am thinking about getting an iPad. Now my question is, if (with this app) you can buy comics via credit you have in iTunes (for example via a gift card), or if you need to pay them separately (to Marvel, as mentioned in the review, you have to have an account on Marvel.com...). When reading the review, it sounds like it's not possible to pay their comics with iTunes credit, but I'm just asking to be sure. Thanks for anybody who can try it out and help.
  • " I understand they do it because their scheme is to keep the content on the Marvel.com cloud, but in-app purchases via iTunes would have been so much better."
    But purchases are done via iTunes in-app. The marvel account simply lets you download your comics on multiple devices, which i consider a huge plus.
    Also, I've spent the last weeks buying and reading the Astonishing X-Men, and i just got to what I thought was the last issue. Major fail. Your review is spot-on, that left me pissed. Pissed enough to get the last issue for free on the internet. I paid $50 for the whole series, and all i get is a cliffhanger?
    Pro-tip, Marvel: Don't sell comics with missing issues in the story-arch.
  • The issue pricing is too high. At 1.99 each that can add up fast. Bundled pricing, subscription pricing, would help. I definitely would prefer to get most of my comic issues digitally, and save print for special issues. I'm tired of tripping over those boxes.
  • I spend enough money on comics to not be able to afford an ipad, also comics just look better in print its a proven fact.