I think we all have different ways of using Marvel Unlimited. After about six months of being a subscriber I have come to realize that I use MU as I would a library. I never really considered that Marvel Unlimited was for me – I already have more books than I have time- until I decided I wanted to read Civil War over Christmas. And as I was traveling abroad, doing it digitally made sense. A free month trial was enough to encourage the leap.
First, subscribing to Marvel Unlimited has not replaced any of my monthly comic purchases. (This is anecdotal evidence, but DC you should still take note). I read most of my comics physically and not digitally. I have an account at my local store and since I am lucky enough to live close to a fantastic comic book store (the most excellent Strange Adventures), going there –almost– every week to pick up my pull list is part of the experience. I am at the point where most people behind the counter are actually friends. And my visits, may they be a quick exchange or a more lengthy discussion, are always enjoyable.
I did not think Marvel Unlimited would replace that, but I was wondering if I would start prioritizing differently what I buy, especially in light of any reshuffling, rebooting, etc. And I need to say it didn’t have much of an impact. The comics I read monthly, even if I fall behind more often than not, are things that I want to be able to discuss with my friends, make sure I do not get spoiled, etc. I have several Marvel titles on my pull list and if the titles have changed over time their number stays pretty constant. Currently they include Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck, Daredevil, Invincible Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hellcat.
What I was anticipating, is that maybe it would replace the books I tend to wait for trades for. But it didn’t either. When I get to trades, they are usually books I want to own as books that can stand on a shelf. So Marvel Unlimited did not compete with that. I mainly got a subscription so I could read older runs that I had not touched. And the same way I do it with borrowing books from the library, it is actually a way to know if I really want to buy a book. One example, I had never read the 2014–2015 run of She Hulk. And as my favorite corner of the Marvel Universe keeps developing, it seems natural to trace back the parentage of books like Howard the Duck and Hellcat back to that run. So I read it and then I read more She Hulk and even more She Hulk. Last month as I attended Calgary Expo, Charles Soule was there and I got the two volumes of the trade to get them signed. And as I stood in line surrounded by people holding the Death of Wolverine, I became conscious that I would have never bought the book without Marvel Unlimited.
One thing that I did not expect, is how variable my usage would be month to month. Sometimes I read several issues a day, every day of the month. Sometimes I barely touch it. Overall, it still makes sense financially. Regardless of how much I read on Marvel Unlimited on a given month, there is some glory in making lists in notebooks (yes, I am that person) of things I may want to read and know they will just be available at my fingertips when I choose to dive in. The way you can browse in MU also means I got to discover some titles that I had no idea creators I love have contributed to. Going back to the roots of a creator when he or she was a one-time filler artist can be extremely satisfying.
Overall, I do use Marvel Unlimited as I do the library. Things I wouldn’t buy, but still want to read. At a time when piracy in comics is a growing concern, one cannot help wondering if Marvel Unlimited is not the only real legal alternative. The convenience certain websites offering a Netflix like ease to find titles and binge does not seem to have any other counterpart.