One of the great things about Netflix is that it has a complete history of your viewing habits. Want to know exactly what you were watching in June of 2010? It’ll be there, saved in the bits of the Netflix video cloud.
Sadly, the same is not true for Marvel’s Unlimited digital comics service. True, when I open the app on the iPad, it has a list of the books I’ve recently read, and this does only show the latest issue for a specific title. But it also only shows the last twenty or so, which for me only goes back into the last month.
I got Marvel Unlimited initially due to a 99 cent sale in celebration of Guardians of the Galaxy. I liked it enough I got another year subscription. Because while the far back issue coverage is spotty and there’s a six month lag time from print, it is pretty comprehensive for recent history and served a pretty great way to catch up on a number of books.
My subscription ends today, though. I may pick it back up again in the future, but there were several blank months where I didn’t read anything, and then ended up doing a reading binge to catch up. Not really the most efficient use of the app.
Still, it was a good thirteen months. And while I can’t comprehensively list what I’ve read, here’s a few things that I dug:
Among recent series, Ms. Marvel, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Storm and Thor are all great. These formed the core of my “regular” titles that ideally I would have read every month.
Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. Fantastic. As a general rule, I don’t care about big events. In fact, I find them unenjoyable, since they tend to throw roadbumps into the books I read, which are often on the fringes of the main universe offerings. (Crossovers between a handful of related books, or a couple diverse ones, are fine.) So the Fear Itself story didn’t really grab me. But Gillen’s take on young Loki had a lot of humor and pathos and was great reading.
Actually, I went on a bit of a Gillen kick. I didn’t get to his X-Men run, or his pre-JiM Thor, but did cover most of his other stuff. I’m not yet at the point where I can see his linguistic tics (unlike, say, Warren Ellis or Brian Michael Bendis), but it’s still great to see how he constructs a comic story.
On that thought of big events, yeah. So, I abhor Civil War. It’s complete excrement, with a bad plot and characters who are written terribly. And this distaste means that pretty much anything related to it is unreadable. So all those post-Civil War comics that covered stuff about the Superhuman Registration Act? I couldn’t read them. I’d heard the Fraction/Aja Iron Fist series was pretty great. I couldn’t get through the first issue.
Of course, the exception to the previous statement, because I’m not consistent, is that I did read Avengers Academy. Because if there’s a comic trope I am ALL ABOUT, it’s super kids in trouble. This isn’t the best example of the format. There’s some rocky bits and character transitions that don’t feel entirely smooth, but it’s overall enjoyable and some of the new heroes (Hazmat!) are great.
I followed that up with Avengers Arena which is… not quite as enjoyable. It’s still mostly fun, but it does highlight a problem with characters like Arcade. If “murder” is the point of the character, then you need to strike a fine balance to make sure you haven’t crossed some murder event horizon. AA pretty firmly shoves Arcade beyond that, which undermines his ability to return to the goofball villain with a lethal side and instead has him in that realm of “why is anyone putting up with this any longer?”
The ultimate attempt to address this discrepancy in Avengers Undercover is a bit unconvincing. Still, over the course of the three series we did get some fun characters. I’m all about more Hazmat and X-23.
And most recently I settled down and caught up on some Bendis, by reading through his X-Men and GotG runs. As far as the merry mutants, Bendis has a somewhat iffy history. I mean, House of M is terribad. It’s saving grace is that it’s sandwiched between Disassembled (Bendis’ absolute worst book that I’ve read) and Civil War, so you can sort of say it’s not quite as bad as the complete shit around it, but still. I sort of drifted away from Bendis after that, outside of Powers, which has a spotty track record.
Still, thanks to Rachel and Miles, I heard that his X-runs are good. So I gave them a shot.And, yeah. Both All New and Uncanny are very good, bordering into great at times.
All New starts off especially strong, because it’s a really fun and keen concept. It’s especially neat because Bendis is jumping off of a very pre-Claremont point with the characters and then developing them. So young Jean is absolutely fantastic and I kinda want to read any book she’s in.
Uncanny also has a pretty killer hook and does a great job at humanizing Cyclops, which I wasn’t sure was possible. I haven’t read Schism or AvX (events, natch), but what I’d heard seemed to put Cyc through the Cap in Civil War bender from which no character turns out well.
Both titles suffered a bit after their first arcs because they felt like they were spinning their wheels and didn’t have a strong direction. But then it came clear that they were joining up at the Battle of the Atom crossover. Which is okay. Bendis’ stuff is still good but the other books were less so. I don’t want to go into all the stuff surrounding X-Men and why I didn’t read it even though I liked the characters and concepts, but I will say that Wood’s scripts felt like the extreme weak link in this crossover.
The post Battle of the Atom work on both books is great. The Ultimate Adventure for All-New is super keen, and I really liked the lettering changes. The Dazzler stuff in Uncanny is hype. And Eva Bell is just fantastic.
I read GotG because of the All New crossover for the Trial of Jean Grey. Good fun there, though GotG felt like a weaker book than the X-titles. The art is more haphazard and I felt like a number of plot developments happened without sufficient explanation. Still fun, though. And used that to springboard into the Star Lord series, which I could take or leave, really. It’s okay, but feels a little forced. And as a final read is Scottie Young’s Rocket Raccoon book, which is DELIGHTFUL. It’s easily the best of any GotG-related title since the Abnett/Lanning era.
There are a few books I didn’t quite read as much as I wanted to. I got sidetracked from the recent She Hulk book and I’d like to finish it, but I should probably sit down and read it all again from the getgo. Also, due to the time lag, I’m left one issue shy of completing Fraction and Aja’s run on Hawkeye, which is a little agonizing. I should read that from start to finish as well.
I just recently read the first issue of Silk, which seems pretty fun, especially the art. And I wish I’d been able to read more than the very initial appearance of Spider-Gwen. I’m still bitter about the whole One More Day bullshit, but have to admit that Spidey does have a really cool extended cast. Sadly I’ll have to wait to check out any more of this stuff.
So, as a thirteen month attempt, I’d mark Marvel Unlimited a success. I spent $70 or so, which would probably get about 5 TPBs, and I probably read an order of magnitude more than that. Finances willing, I’d probably plop down for another year at some point, but I could also see just doing a month from time to time and doing a binge.
If they can fill in the back issue holes, add a few UI tweaks, and give you a comprehensive list of everything you’ve read, it’d be damn near perfect.