DC Comics launched their DC Universe app Thursday night on both iOs and Android. The app, which was announced at San Diego Comic Con earlier this year, is a streaming service for DC-related content. Like the Marvel Unlimited app, DC Universe features a library of comics that can be downloaded to your device, but unlike Marvel Unlimited, also has a host of DC movies and TV shows that can be streamed.
I sat down with the app on Friday, browsing the content and trying out some comics and movies. Both the comics reader and the movie streamer are crisp and easy to operate. There are intuitive controls on both. The comics reader is very similar to comiXology’s.
Now for the movies themselves. DC Universe sports all of the Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Unfortunately, these were the only live action theatrical releases available on the first days of app. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was also available, arguably the best Batman movie ever made, so no complaints there. Thankfully, DC quickly added more theatrical live releases on Saturday’s Batman Day, adding 1989’s Batman through 2008’s The Dark Knight. The rest of the movie selections are an assortment of DC’s direct to video animated releases. There is a section under the My DC hub listed for video downloads, but users don’t appear to be able to download movies onto their devices just yet, just stream them.
Fans of DC’s television cartoons over the years will be happy to see the wide range of animated fare offered, going back all the way to the Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. The essentials are all here: Batman: The Animated Series, Static Shock, Young Justice. Live action TV shows include all four seasons of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, as well as complete runs of short lived shows like Constantine and Birds of Prey, among others.
And then there’s the comics. I was surprised to see how robust the library is in this initial launch. It’s much more filled out than Marvel Unlimited was when it debuted, but at the same time, it is light years behind where Marvel Unlimited is now in terms of comic book content offered. On the plus side, DC Universe boasts essential comics to the history of the DC Universe, like Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1, or Green Arrow and Aquaman’s first appearance is More Fun Comics #73. DC Universe also has a large number of titles offered and a large number of issues for the few of those titles. Want to deep dive in James Robinson’s excellent Starman series from the 90s? The first 38 issues are almost all there (Why are issue #5, #24 and #32 missing? Is DC trying to recreate the feeling of back issue hunting and having gaps in your collection?). Full runs of both Ellis’s and Millar’s The Authority are available. The start of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run is here. Even the first 12 issues of the originally-released-under-Image Comics WildC.A.Ts: Covert Action Teams series from 1992 is here.
There are some glitches in the app that need to be resolved. Interested in reading Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel’s run on Nightwing from 1996? You’re in luck! The first twelve issues are there. Unfortunately, issue #4 is from the New 52 Nightwing series. Oops.
And then there are the odd choices. Crisis on Infinite Earths is available, but only three issues of the series, and those issues are #2, #3, and #4. Because why would reading issue #1 be important in a series as easy to jump into as Crisis on Infinite Earths?
In terms of new comics, DC Universe is current through Rebirth, but only the Rebirth specials and first issues of most Rebirth series. Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is the lone exception. The first 7 issues of that series are already in DC Universe. Still, Rebirth launched in the summer of 2016, and Batgirl and Birds of Prey #7 was released in February 2017, meaning we’re looking at an over a year and a half lag between the newest comics on DC Universe and today’s new releases.
Comics download and load quickly to the reader. Once they are downloaded, they are available to read on your device whether or not you’re online. I’m not sure what, if any, limit exists on the number of comics you can download at any one time to your device on the app, other than available storage space on your device. Marvel Unlimited limits you to 12. DC Universe is definitely more than that, as I have 13 comics currently downloaded to my iPad.
There is an alarming line in the comics section of the app. It reads “Can’t find the books you’re looking for? The full DC Comics digital library will be available for purchase in October.” I’m hoping that this doesn’t mean what I fear it means, that this small offering is all I’m getting with my subscription, unless I want to pay for issues. I’m here to rent the DC library for a yearly fee, not subscribe to a sampler package.
DC Universe has a lot of promise. But I feel that its success will largely hinge on how quickly DC adds more content to the service, and I don’t just mean “F**k Batman” Teen Titans episodes. I mean comics. Marvel Unlimited has been leading the way in terms of streamable comics content for years now. DC needs to devote resources to catch up, and catch up quickly, as well as articulate to fans when newer comics can be expected in the app as part of their subscription to the service. Is it weekly like Marvel Unlimited? Is it monthly? Will it be a rolling 6 month lag on all new releases, like Marvel Unlimited? I am cautiously optimistic. I guess we will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography.