- Excellent reading experience
- Fast and speedy
- Few free comics
- Doesn't integrate with Marvel Digital Comics subscriptions
The Marvel iPhone app (Free) includes many popular comic series, including Wolverine, X-Men, Captain America, and Amazing Spider-Man. While the app offers a fantastic reading experience, the developers still have a few kinks to work out.
More than 500 comics
The Marvel app launched with 500 comics, and new comics are added every one to two weeks, often on Wednesday, the same day new comics arrive in stores. Each comic costs $1.99, which is billed automatically to your iTunes account. Surprisingly, I could find very few recent comics released after 2008. I did find one comic released this year -- Black Widow Saga -- but most comics available through the app right now are from the early 2000s, with a healthy sprinkling of classic 1960s titles.
The app also includes some free comics. The number and selection of free comics changes every week or two though, at the time of this writing, only four were available for download.
To start a download, simply tap the green price bar. Like most iPhone comic apps, downloads aren’t exactly speedy -- averaging about 5 minutes over 3G. Once you download your first comic, the app will prompt you to view a comic about how the app works.
Reading comics on the Marvel app is virtually flawless. Pinching to zoom or swiping to navigate are both nearly instantaneous. The frames move very fast with just a swipe of your finger, and I rarely saw the dreaded “loading” icon. I tested this app on my iPhone, but the comics must look even better on the full-screen iPad version (Sam adds: They do indeed. Reading comics on the iPad is terrific.)
No Digital Comics support
Not surprisingly, the Marvel iPhone app only includes Marvel comics. This may not be a downside if you’re a Marvel junkie and don’t care about other publishers. However, other comic apps like Comixology include Marvel comics in addition to dozens of other comic publishers. So, if you like more variety, Comixology might be a better bet.
There are also a lot of complaints at the App Store from subscribers to Marvel’s Digital Comics subscription. The Digital Comics subscription costs $9.99 a month ($4.99 a month with a one-year contract) and provides access to online comics at Marvel.com. Many users who signed up for Digital Comics expected they would be able to access those online comics in the Marvel app without paying extra, and that's not supported -- at least not yet. Marvel’s app is still pretty new, so there’s a chance that the outcry will prompt a change in a future update.
The Bottom Line
I have mixed feelings about the Marvel app. On one hand, the reading experience is fantastic -- it’s fast and seamless, which makes it easier to get engrossed in your comic. On the other hand, it appears that the app still has some kinks to work out, including the issue with the Digital Comics subscription. The app should really include far more recent comics as well. Fortunately, both of these issues can be addressed pretty easily. The Marvel iPhone app has a lot of potential, but it’s not quite there yet. Overall rating: 3 stars out of five.
What You’ll Need