Marvel Unlimited and DC Extended Universe: are they worth it?
Both Marvel and DC have decades of history and hundreds of characters. It’s great if you like to fully immerse yourself in a fictional universe, but finding and buying all those comics can get very expensive, very quickly.
Fortunately, DC and Marvel have made their extensive collections more accessible through online services: DC Extended Universe (DCEU) and Marvel Unlimited. By paying a monthly or annual fee, you get access to thousands of digitized comics dating back to the companies’ earliest publications.
Sounds good, right? Especially if you’re, say, a contributing editor on a book-themed website and need access to large volumes of comics to do your job. (If you’ve read nearly all of my articles, you’ve definitely seen me discuss and post comic panels I’ve read through these services.) But if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, it’s a good idea to wondering what it costs and how much you get for your money. Hopefully this article will answer some of your questions.
For the next few hundred words, I’ll go over the benefits each service offers, how much it costs, and even compare the two services, all to help you decide which is right for you – or if you think it’s worth worth jumping for two like me!
Note: All comments here are based on my personal experiences with the services’ annual subscription options. They also offer a monthly and, in Marvel’s case, yearly supplement.
DC Extended Universe
This is the more basic of the two services for reasons I’ll explain in the next section. While they previously offered access to DC TV shows through this platform, all shows have since been moved to HBO Max, so you now only have access to their comics through DCEU.
But like I said, DC has a plot of the comic story behind it, so if you read a lot of comics, you’ll get a lot out of the service anyway. This includes stories from the very early days (although the scan quality of these can be a little blurry) to ongoing titles. New issues are generally available six months after their official publication.
I like this service’s interface a lot more than Marvel’s: it’s nice and easy to use, and it automatically keeps track of the books you’re reading – just log in and they’re there. You can even stop in the middle of a problem and it will mark your spot so you can return immediately.
Based on my personal taste in comics, I’ve noticed bigger gaps in DC’s service than Marvel’s, especially when it comes to Silver Age stories. But they still have more good stuff there than I could read in a lifetime, so it’s hard to complain (but I do anyway).
Current price: $74.99 annual subscription
First, because it confused me a bit: Marvel Unlimited is separate from Marvel Insider. Insider is a free rewards system that grants you a certain number of points for every activity you complete on marvel.com. Reading a comic book is 50 points, for example. You can use these points to purchase digital prizes such as comic books, wallpapers, and access to exclusive behind-the-scenes videos.
I don’t use Insider: If I remember correctly, I only signed up because they kept bugging me about it and wouldn’t let me read comics through Unlimited until I do. But hey, if collecting digital prizes sounds good to you, what have you got to lose? (Plus, if you sign up for Marvel Insider first and collect 75,000 points, you can get a month off a new Unlimited Membership.)
As for Unlimited, I like it less than DCEU. For starters, their user interface is pretty terrible? Unlike DCEU, they don’t automatically save your place in a comic. And heaven help you if you try using their search engine: I just did a search for “Amazing Spider-Man 149” and got a bunch of nonsense like this.
I usually end up plugging my request into an internet search engine, for example, “marvel.com amazing spider-man 149”. It works quite well.
From the comics I’ve read, I feel like Marvel has a better scan quality on really old comics. However, they also engaged in some downright ugly recoloring of some issues, most notably during Walt Simonson’s run on Thor. This doesn’t happen very often, though (again, based solely on what I’ve read).
Current price: $69 annual subscription
What is the best?
I’ll give a cop-out answer and say it depends on what you’re looking for.
Both sites essentially offer the same service for around the same price, but Marvel’s is harder to navigate. With DCEU, it’s so much easier to read and search for comics. On the other hand, when combined with Marvel Insider, Unlimited gives you the opportunity to earn plenty of extra points for digital prizes that may appeal to hardcore fans.
Both services add new comics regularly, so you always get more for your money. Individual physical issues of current comics are around $4 or $5, so it’s worth the price of admission if you read more than 14-15 comics a year. Even if you’re a dinosaur like me who prefers to read physical comics, it’s easy to recognize the value and savings of signing up for one or both of these services.
But really, it depends on whether you prefer reading Marvel comics or DC comics. I imagine that’s the driving factor behind most people’s decision. Rest assured that DC and Marvel will give you plenty of reading material at a reasonable price.