An Ode to Marvel Unlimited
Last year, I watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and I completely lost my mind. I kind of have an extreme personality, you see. The heart of this once-casual Marvel fan was ravaged by love for Bucky Barnes, the eponymous Winter Soldier, and the films alone could not quench that fire. I needed more. As much as possible. I’ve always been a fan of comics, but in the dc vs. marvel analysis that always seems to happen with fans, I often find myself giving my support to Marvel. So after seeing Bucky Barnes on the big screen, I had to go look for more.
It was time to read the comics.
I invested in a significant number of trade comics before I realized that this path was unsustainable. Navigating the labyrinthine world of Marvel was fine when I was just collecting the mainline Captain America books (specifically the excellent Ed Brubaker run where Bucky takes over as Cap), but once you start getting into the wider world of comics, you realize that there are Avengers, but then there also are Uncanny/New/ Dark/Secret/Young/Mighty Avengers – and there are very few guides to help a noob jump in.
Luckily, I stumbled upon the single most magnificent online service ever created: Marvel Unlimited.
Think of it as Netflix for Marvel comics. Available as both a website and smart-phone/tablet app, Marvel Unlimited gives readers access to a comic archive that numbers into the literal thousands, with titles stretching as far back as 1939. About 18-24 new issues are added every week on average, as soon as six months after they hit the streets. (A long wait, but an understandable one, from a business perspective.)
Confronted with this bounty, I went insane all over again. After a wild three months, I had read every single thing Bucky Barnes had ever been in ever, basically (though I’m still working on those old 1940’s wartime comics, I’ll admit). Then, with that Marvel fire still burning strong, I proceeded to tear through the lengthy histories of other characters: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Daredevil …
Today, I’ve become an obnoxious person who wrinkles her nose at costume choices (is that track jacket really what Winter Soldier is going to wear in Civil War?) and laments that they’ll never adapt the World’s Most Wanted arc for another Iron Man movie (why won’t you make my dreams come true, Marvel?). Yes, I am that person.
In a year, I’ve read more Marvel comics than probably 95 percent of humanity will read in a lifetime. And I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything the service has to offer.
The cost may seem hefty for “just comics”: $9.99 a month or $69.99 for a year (or $99.99 for a premium membership that includes figurines and other swag). But when you consider that the average single issue costs $3.99, as long as you read at least three chapters of something each month, it pays for itself. The app (I prefer to read on my iPad) is reliable, fast and much improved from a year ago when I first signed up.
You can check it out at marvel.com/unlimited.
Now, let’s cross our fingers and hope that DC adopts a comparable service for its comic archive, too. I love Bucky, but I also love Dick Grayson. What can I say, I like the sidekicks.
Editor’s Note: Staff writer Paige Takeya is temporarily filling in for Christa Wittmier. Follow Paige on Twitter at @lordmayocloud. Christa’s SuperTech column will return shortly.