Monday, August 17, 2009

Review: Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited

While attending the San Diego Comic-con in July, I signed up for Marvel Comics ‘Digital Comics Unlimited’ online membership. Marvel had an exclusive trial membership offer available only during the event that was too good to pass up. With a paid three month subscription, you also received an exclusive Hasbro Nick Fury action figure and an exclusive variant edition of Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth issue 1. So I signed up, came back from the show, sold the two premiums off for a substantial profit beyond the cost of the subscription fee and after playing around with the service online for the past month I have to say…it’s totally worth any comic fan’s money and time.

It’s a very straightforward service. You are paying for access to Marvel Comics digital library online, anytime you wish. I was really surprised at how deep the catalog is at this stage. You can select to read comics books as far back as the golden-age (‘40s, ‘50s), just about all the favorite classics from the silver-age (‘60s), then onto each decade since up to just a few months ago. Every comic book cover and page available is reproduced in beautiful high quality resolution. Even the titles from the golden-age have been re-colored and look even better than they did originally published. Basically any series of older titles that have been reprinted in the Marvel Masterworks series of hardcovers, can be found in here. The online service is a great way for the publisher to re-use the digital files they already had to produce in order to print up any volume of the Masterworks series…why not offer them to fans for a fee online as well?

Once you log in you have many library browsing options available to you.

You can search by new releases.

You may search by series.

You could choose to search by a creator’s name. This includes the writer, artist, inker or even colorist.

More search options than you’d need really.

Once you select an issue to read, simply click to open it and a new screen will open. This is the patented Marvel Digital Comics Reader.

Once the digital reader is open you will find several viewing options. You may view the book as a two page or single page spread with the added features of magnification, moving the open page up and down or (my favorite) viewing via ‘Smart Panel’. This feature allows for single panels at a time to open nice and big in the viewer and eliminates the need for magnification.

With a click of the mouse anywhere on the screen, the next panel of the book slides into view. It’s very cool but there is a slight drawback to this mode. When in ‘Smart Panel’, the viewer can get confused on the really oddly laid out pages with panels that are very large or cut up and down vertically on one side of the page or the other. When this happens, some of those more odd shaped panels will get cut off or in a few cases for me even skipped as the viewer just moves onto the next page. A minor issue only found in some cases.

One of the best advantages of viewing any Marvel Comics online even compared to holding the actual printed publication is the elimination of the center crease and staples of the comic’s binding that hinder the impact of a great two page spread!

I think Marvel is really ahead of the game here with this service. Especially ahead of DC Comics which offers nothing close to similar in a service to date. Instead of watching TV reruns this summer, it’s been a blast to take my laptop out onto the patio on select nights and re-read how Spider-Man first tangled with the Hulk back in the ‘60s or discover how Thor has been revamped in recent years.

You won't find every single comic book Marvel has ever printed in this online timecapsule. But there are thousands of issues here already with more added nearly every day of the week.

Worth a trial for any comic book fan old or new.

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