Digital comics let you explore the history of the medium, enabling you to read work by various writers without needing physical storage. ComiXology Unlimited or Marvel Unlimited are two subscription services full of digital comics, but which is best?
In this article we pitch Marvel Unlimited vs. ComiXology Unlimited, looking at the costs, content, and user interface before declaring a winner.
What Are Marvel Unlimited and ComiXology Unlimited?
Marvel Unlimited and ComiXology Unlimited are subscription-based services which offer digital comics for your PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone.
Marvel is owned by Disney, and ComiXology is part of Amazon, so they’re both entirely legal. By subscribing to either (or both) you’re supporting the creative teams and the comic book industry as a whole.
There’s an important distinction to be made before we continue. ComiXology is different from ComiXology Unlimited. The latter is, at the time of writing, only available in the United States, while ComiXology itself is an international service. ComiXology without the Unlimited is just a platform for buying digital comics.
ComiXology Unlimited takes the same principle, but subscribers get to enjoy more issues without incurring additional fees. Not everything is covered by the subscription fee.
Marvel Unlimited expands this remit, giving subscribers a huge library. Again, not everything is included, but you’re more likely to find a complete series here than on any other digital service.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: Costs
ComiXology Unlimited offers the cheapest monthly rate: a 30-day free trial followed by a recurring fee of $5.99/month. There’s no annual subscription available, but you can cancel at any time. While not everything is included, members get a discount on subsequent digital purchases.
Marvel Unlimited costs $9.99/month, with two annual options available.
International readers will prefer the $69/year subscription, which works out to $5.83/month, but American citizens can enjoy an Annual Plus ($99.99 a year). This gives further discounts on merchandise purchased through the official site, invites to events, and a bundle pack that changes every 12 months. It typically includes a comic with a variant cover, an action figure, and pin badge.
You’ll first need to sign up as a Marvel Insider to join Unlimited, but that simply adds your profile account to a mailing list.
Beware: these prices exclude tax. An annual Marvel subscription, for instance, bills at $82.80.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: What’s Included?
ComiXology itself offers more than 100,000 comics (many of which you have to pay for), while its Unlimited iteration includes over 20,000 comics. Both have a limited number of titles—largely debut arcs, to give you a taste of different series. Beyond that, you’ll need to pay for individual issues.
Marvel Unlimited trumps this. Though boasting some 25,000 comics, the actual figure is significantly higher, with new issues added weekly.
If you want to check out which titles are on ComiXology Unlimited, explore ComiXology’s online library. Anything with the “Unlimited” banner on the cover is included. Amazon Prime members can also read a selection of graphic novels for free.
The core difference is the number of publishers featured. ComiXology is backed by over 75 companies, from giants like Dark Horse, IDW Publishing, and Fantagraphics, to lesser-known ones like Action Lab Entertainment, Scholastic Graphix, and Soleil.
Marvel Unlimited is Marvel.
This isn’t entirely fair. You won’t be interested in the portfolios of a few publishers on ComiXology, even if you’re exploring independents. Panini France and Deutschland reprint stories and aren’t included in your subscription.
It’s good for bilingual readers, yet prices are grossly inflated. Many publishers only list graphic novels, so charge retail prices.
Equally, many publishers only have a few titles on offer. But the library is large, so you’re bound to find something to your liking. The same is true of Marvel Unlimited. Although you’re confined to one company’s titles, they vary widely.
Anyone familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) will probably latch onto Avengers, Spider-Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Fans of Marvel’s Netflix shows will enjoy Daredevil, Iron Fist, and The Defenders. Or if you’re looking for some more obscure names, try Moon Knight, Howard the Duck, or Ka-Zar.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: What’s Not Included?
Are new comics included in Marvel Unlimited or ComiXology Unlimited? Sadly not. But if that’s a dealbreaker for you, Marvel Unlimited has the edge. Issues are typically uploaded to the service around six months after physical copies go on sale.
Don’t expect the full Marvel range your local comic book store stocks to be available on Marvel Unlimited. However, there’s a fair chance most will be, if not less than a year after release, then probably within a few years. The best-selling characters appear in the library faster than most.
New issues are added weekly, so the “New This Week” section is vital. They won’t all be current series, though. “New This Week” literally means new issues from the catalog, so you’ll see comics from all eras.
ComiXology doesn’t include up-to-date comics either. It’s there to get you hooked. Once you invest in a series, it won’t be long until you must pay to continue reading.
ComiXology does at least have MAX titles, which is bizarre, as these aren’t on Marvel Unlimited. MAX is Marvel’s adult content imprint. They’re mainly series featuring the Punisher, but the line includes other notable series. Alias, for instance, introduced Jessica Jones, but you won’t find it on Marvel Unlimited.
Admittedly, you have to pay extra on ComiXology Unlimited if you want to read Elektra: Assassin, Deadpool MAX, or Miracleman (as graphic novels only), but the option is there. Marvel wants to keep its platform accessible to all ages; nonetheless, an age verification system is preferable.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: Exclusives
Both services offer original stories, though Marvel’s isn’t exclusive. ComiXology’s Originals pool is wider (and Amazon Prime members benefit from free access to these).
Marvel Unlimited has an increasing number of digital-first stories. Complete arcs are collated into trade paperbacks a few months after they appear on Unlimited. The same digital-firsts are also available on ComiXology, though cost extra. Exceptional digital-firsts include Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter, Luke Cage: Everyman, and Cloak and Dagger: Shades of Grey.
If this is important to you, opt for Marvel Unlimited as they’re included in your initial fee.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: The User Interface
Both mobile apps have broadly the same clean, easily-navigable layouts. In fact, this is the best way to view digital comics.
Searching for your favorite heroes or titles is simple, and once you find an issue you want to read, you can add it to My Library (on Marvel) or My Books (on ComiXology) without having to navigate away from your search.
What ComiXology claims as a “unique” Cinematic Guided View, Marvel Unlimited has as smart panelling. For ease of use, you can read entire pages or double click on a panel for close-ups, then swipe to get to the next panel. You’re taken to the next issue once you’ve finished one. Just be careful you don’t have to pay extra.
Their online presences, however, are more troublesome.
For Marvel, this is mainly because you access everything through Marvel.com. It lists every single comic and graphic novel, right through to the present day. But many aren’t available through Unlimited. Fortunately, everything you can read has the “U” logo in the bottom corner.
You can filter search results to only include Unlimited issues; it’s disheartening to see the number of available comics dwindle when filtering. It all depends on range popularity.
The user interface is much the same on ComiXology, except you can further search through different publishers. However, the number of titles you have to pay extra for is overwhelming.
They’re decent enough, but could be improved.
We especially like the curated lists on Marvel Unlimited, catering for trends, movies, and upcoming arcs. Love the recent Thor run? There’s a list of classics featuring the God of Thunder, chosen by the series’ current writer.
Marvel vs. ComiXology: Reading Offline
Offline reading is useful for when you have no wifi or data. So can you read issues on Marvel Unlimited and ComiXology without an internet connection?
Marvel only lets you download 12 issues onto a device. Just find what you want to read offline, add to “My Library”, then click “Read offline?” Once you’ve run out of space just delete what you’ve viewed and start over. It’s a pain if you’re stuck on an airplane and you’ve read every Deadpool issue you’ve downloaded, but it’s better than nothing.
ComiXology is much better. If you have the space on your device, you can download up to 50 titles. This includes full graphic novels.
Marvel Unlimited vs. ComiXology Unlimited: Which is Best?
I love early to mid 70’s Marvel fare. Tomb of Dracula epitomises the Bronze Age Marvel thrust with beautiful bold Gothic art, and colourful standardised frames and titles. I am SO tempted to start buying them again, but Marvel Unlimited will suffice! pic.twitter.com/1KNEF0fZ7d
— Englander / Chris (@CPH76Hawk) April 16, 2019
And so on to the question you’ve been asking… Marvel Unlimited vs. ComiXology Unlimited: which is best?
Marvel Unlimited is the clear winner. It has a bigger library of content, with books from all eras and genres, making it much better value for money. It has its downsides, namely that it has no adult content; offline reading is limited; and some issues are omitted. Nonetheless, it caters for a massive audience. Make Mine Marvel!
ComiXology Unlimited is a great service if you want to explore other publishers and try new titles. But once hooked, you’ll need to part with more cash. Thankfully, it is affordable, and you can cancel at any time. And you can always sign up for the 30-day trial to see whether it’s right for you.
For serious comic book connoisseurs these two services well worth considering. However, if you’re more of a casual comic book reader here are the best sites to read comics online for free.