Comic books are cool. They’re also extremely pricy, with single issues costing upwards of $6.99 / £4.99. This can cause the hobby to be extremely expensive, and mean that fans of these characters can only ever experience their adventures through movies and TV shows rather than through the original print medium.
There are people who absolutely adore characters such as Spider-Man who haven’t been able to pick up a single issue of Spider-Man, nor a trade of his adventures due to the perceived inaccessibility of comics.
Luckily, with technology rapidly becoming better and better, iPads are able to emulate and enhance this experience at a fraction of the price, mainly thanks to the subscriptions that both DC Comics and Marvel offer.
The Digital Knight
Digital comics had a place in the industry, with Comixology being the best way to read comics on your phone, tablet, or laptop. You could get both mainstream comics from the Big Two (DC and Marvel) and indie comics from smaller creators. But recently, Comixology self-destructed. Amazon had a stake in Comixology and decided to merge it into the already-existing Amazon Kindle app, which had unintended and extreme side effects when it came to Comixology itself. People lost their libraries, the ability to view their comics in panel-by-panel view, and just generally the ease of access. Luckily, other services stepped up to fill that void.
Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe Infinite are some of those options. For an affordable fee every month ($9.99 / £9.99 for Marvel Unlimited and $7.99 / £6.99 for DC Universe Infinite), you get access to the entire back catalog of both Marvel and DC (up until a certain point, more on that later) , and the ability to read those books on any compatible device. This means that you can turn your iPad into the perfect e-reader for comics and catch up on all your favorite characters without needing to destroy your bank balance to do so.
I myself have been catching up on the X-Men, and it’s so much easier to work out the current status quo of both the team and mutants as a whole without having to buy seven different books, keep up to date with several different events and buy books that also happen to feature the characters. Everything is also in a specific order, with reading orders meaning that you don’t have to deal with the complicated continuity of characters that people always fear.
The biggest drawback with Marvel Unlimited is that you only get books three months after they release. So for example, you can get all of Brian Michael Bendis’s seminal Ultimate Spider-Man run since that ended back in 2015, but if you want to read up to date on Zeb Wells’ much-maligned Spider-Man run, then you can only read up till the issue that released three months ago and will have to purchase any issues past that either in a physical format or through the Amazon app (which as previously mentioned, doesn’t really work that well at all).
DC Universe Infinite actually solves this issue somewhat. A recent addition to the service added a brand new tier called DC Universe Infinite Ultra, which is a tier that can only be purchased as an annual subscription for an increased fee to the regular annual subscription, but has the added bonus of having every book added a month after the print release.
What this means is that you’re basically up to date on every book as long as you’re willing to put up with a month’s delay. For example, Chip Zdarsky’s Batman book could be released in the first week of July, and it’ll be released on DC Universe Infinite in the first week of August, meaning you don’t have to wait an egregious amount of time to read the latest one.
There are also more DC Vertigo books (the more adult branch of DC), among other benefits, but it’s this shortened release schedule that is the key selling point of the service.
Truth, Justice, and the iPad Pro way
Previously, the biggest issue with reading digital comics has been ease of access and the size of the screen that you’re reading it on, but as we’ve already established, one of those problems has been fixed through the streaming and subscription era. The other issue has been fixed by the advent of high-tech tablets, with the iPad Pro, in particular, being a brilliant way to read books. The 11-inch iPad Pro is roughly the same size as your standard trade paperback, so reading on it is just the same as picking a comic off your shelf and reading it. As much as I love print comics, they’re expensive, and they take up space.
All of my shelves are taken up by massive print editions of comics that I adore, and the iPad Pro allows me to read a wider spate of comics from a more diverse collection of creators, and read books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t ever touch . I read the entirety of Paper Girls in a digital format, and that’s one of the best stories I’ve ever read, to the extent that I went out and bought a physical edition of the book for my collection. I’d never have found it without my tablet, though.
Using an iPad also means that you can take your books on the go. I travel quite a lot, for both personal and professional reasons, and having the ability to download any book that I want to read on either app is an absolute godsend. It turns long train rides into journeys that pass by in an instant while also allowing me to catch up on characters such as the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Superman, The Flash, and the X-Men. And before picking up my iPad, all I had was my phone, which has a tiny screen and isn’t exactly great for reading, so having a tablet has completely changed my reading experience.
Comic books are cool, and the modern tablet has made it so much easier to get into the hobby. With people becoming more and more interested in the medium thanks to the modern Marvel movie (and, to a lesser extent, the modern DC movie), why not pick up one of the best iPads, a cheap subscription to either Marvel Unlimited or DC Universe Infinite, and catch up on your favorite characters?