Comics subscription service Marvel Unlimited got an overhaul Thursday, with the iOS and Android app showing off a new look and improved interface. It's designed to help new readers excited about the , and long-time fans too, find what they're looking for in a library of more than 29,000 issues featuring Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men and countless other heroes.
Along with the relaunch, subscribers will get access to exclusive in-canon Infinity Comics, which are Marvel's answer to web comics -- full-screen, high-resolution vertical comics designed for phone and tablet. Unlike the traditional guided view of digital comics (which brings you from panel to panel with a tap), these feature full-bleed images that you scroll through.
Subscribing costs $9.99 a month, $69 for a full year or $99 for an annual-plus option that includes an exclusive membership kit, invitations to in-person events and 10% off at ShopDisney.com. You can also try it out with a one-week free trial.
Watching a demo of the new app ahead of the release, I was struck by how smooth the interface was compared to the old version. The Infinity Comics in particular seem like a major leap forward for digital comics, with the first issue of writer Jonathan Hickman's X-Men Unlimited taking full advantage of the format to create a sequence in which Wolverine falls as you scroll down.
"It's just super easy to read, you just dive right in and scroll from top to bottom -- it feels very immersive and really created for a phone first," Doug Vance, product and marketing vice president at Disney's media and entertainment distribution technology division, told me over Zoom. "We think this format will make these comics perhaps more accessible for casual fans, at least off the bat."
As of Thursday, there are 27 Infinity Comics available on the app, with over 100 issues planned by the end of 2021. Aside from X-Men Unlimited, the series will include Giant-Size Little Marvels, Captain America, It's Jeff (a cute one about a Land Shark adopted by Gwenpool), Black Widow, Amazing Fantasy, Deadpool, Shang-Chi and Venom/Carnage.
Some old comics, like Spider-Man Loves MJ, are being converted to the scrolling style too, but you'll still be able to choose the old guided panel view if you prefer. You can also download as many issues as you want for offline reading.
Beyond the visual tweaks and Infinite Comics, the upgraded Marvel Unlimited is designed to help new readers find their favorite characters' greatest adventures -- it can be overwhelming to get access to a massive library of comics that goes back 80 years. You can choose to follow certain heroes, villains or creators, and then you'll be presented with curated reading lists.
"If you happen to have just seen Shang-Chi, then want to dive in and learn more about that character's origin story, we'll let you do so right off the bat," Vance said. "So you don't have to necessarily search through all the different Shang-Chi comics going back to first appearance in the early '70s. Our Marvel editorial team put together a collection of comics [related to the character], so we have that all curated for you."
Vance also cites Loki and his many variants as prime examples of characters people are searching for after the wildly popular Disney Plus show.
"We have comics that feature each of those variants, from President Loki to frog Thor -- lots of deep-cut stuff in there," he said of the curated lists.
Other major changes lie in the backend, with a completely new search function powered by the same tech used in Disney's other brands ESPN and National Geographic. Coupled with the personalization engine, it gradually learns which characters you like and presents you with more of their adventures.
That library of 29,000 comics is growing all the time too, with new issues being added every week. They come three months after they're released in print and for individual digital purchase, the same length of time it takes for Disney Plus Premier Access movies to come to that service's regular library, so Marvel Unlimited subscribers aren't too far behind in their favorite heroes' adventures.