“The Netflix of Comics” is a pitch that’s been rattling around the internet for years as something of the killer app for digital comics. It’s the genesis of Marvel Unlimited, the Webby Award winning application that allows subscribers to binge read from Marvel’s library, for a fairly steep price, with the caveat that there’s plenty of unexplainable holes in Marvel’s library, an often frustrating user interface and the limitation that Marvel comics are the only ones available.
Comixology, Amazon’s digital comics behemoth, is throwing its hat in the ring with Comixology Unlimited, a program clearly aiming for the same audience as Marvel’s service. So what exactly does Comixology Unlimited offer? Well, you’re certainly not going to find that on Comixology’s site.
They’re oddly stingy with details about what you’re actually getting for your $5.99 a month but what it comes down to is the first volume, sometimes more and sometimes less of comics from publishers that have partnered with the service. With some holes, you’re getting the first volumes of series from Boom, IDW, Valiant, Dark Horse, Oni, Image, Fantagraphics, and a myriad of small press printings and manga publishers. Marvel and DC are notably absent from the service.
That’s all to say that Comixology Unlimited is making up for a lack of depth with an abundance of breadth. There are a ton of comics available here and for readers who’ve rarely stuck their toes in independent waters, it can be a veritable treasure trove of content. It’s especially nice for books that only had one volume or told a single story. Comics like Barrack Hussein Obama, Parker: The Hunter and various volumes of Hellboy are available here which tell snappy, self-contained stories that don’t run up against the service’s limitations.
Some readers are going to be frustrated though. Just clicking around a little on what’s offered comes up with some major limitations. For books that use multiple titles to tell one continuous story, like IDW’s acclaimed runs on Transformers and G.I. Joe, there are pivotal series not available on Comixology’s service, which could leave readers scratching their heads. The service also, much like Marvel Unlimited, doesn’t seem to be collecting more recent series at all. While there’s tons of Hellboy available, Hellboy in Hell isn’t offered, nor are many of Abe Sapien’s recent adventures or much of B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth.
It’s clear that Comixology Unlimited is meant to offer more of an appetizer than a seat at an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s meant to hook readers in with the first issue or volume before enticing you to subscribe to the series or pick up the next couple books but I think some readers will find plenty available here without ponying up too much extra cash.
If you’re the kind of reader who’s happy to bounce between books, trying lots of different genres and creators, it’s going to be an ideal service for you. Just don’t expect to binge read your favorite series in a weekend.