Tonight at San Diego Comic Con, DC Comics held a special press preview event of their DC Universe activation, an interactive exhibition that celebrates the upcoming release of their DC Universe app. During the exhibition, members of the press not only had the chance to sample drinks from Professor Niles Caulder’s lab and enter the Swamp Thing’s horrifyingly life-like domain– they got their first opportunity to use the new multimedia app as well.
Eager fans will be excited to learn that the DC Universe app will launch with a sizable collection of comics. While titles will rotate in and out of the service on a regular basis, upon launch, fans will be able to gain access to full runs of series including Y: the Last Man, American Vampire, and 52. Not only is the service full of DC mainstays such as the aforementioned titles and books like The Dark Knight Returns, we were able to locate a variety of lesser known DC titles available on the app during the press preview, including an old Ambush Bug miniseries and Cosmic Boy. We didn’t see evidence that extreme deep cuts like Thriller or Hawkworld were available for download, which otherwise would have made this app a godsend for hardcore DC fans and a more direct competitor to Marvel Unlimited, but its clear that even with that catalog as it currently stands, there are titles sure to appeal to fans both new and old.
That said, somewhat frustratingly, the current user interface for the DC Universe app makes searching for titles a bit of a chore. Searching in and of itself is intuitive, but can often lead to unexpected results given the way the system seems to be coded. For example, searching for creators like Grant Morrison will pull up a list of single issues on the app that were written by him, but won’t show any series written by Morrison. On the other hand, searching Ann Nocenti will cause every series with the word “annual” to appear given the letters of her first name. These strange incongruities seem to occur because the search function scrapes front end data such as the titles of books and their solicits. Put another way, it’s not apparent whether there is a backend list of categories for books to determine if, say, Superman appears in a title unless the consumer facing book summary has the word “Superman” in it.
Moreover, we noticed that the DC Universe app indexes a lot of series from the publisher’s catalog regardless of whether or not there are any comics from that series actually available to read. This leads to a lot of empty hubs appearing in search results throughout the app. On the one hand, this indicates that DC may be prepared to bring a variety of new comics to DC Universe over the course of the years, but on the other hand, not hiding these empty results from searches clutters and slows down the user experience.
Reading comics on the app is quite fun and intuitive. There are a variety of reading options such as the standard full page view, a guided reading view, and even a special motion comic view that causes guided reading mode to move through the comic at set intervals on its own.
Then, moving away from comics and towards the TV/Film side of things, while DC did not show us any of their upcoming exclusive television content, they did showcase the variety of legacy titles that will be available to stream on the app from day one. Disappointingly, none of the Christopher Nolan Batman films nor any of the current DCEU film slate, including 2017’s Wonder Woman, will be available to stream from day one on the app. Instead, users will be presented with a healthy mix of older live action films such as the Richard Donner Superman titles, animated movies, and animated series like Static Shock. Streaming video was quick and painless with little outstanding to note but also little to criticize.
Finally, there is a huge amount of ancillary material available to users of the DC Universe app. Perhaps most notably, DC has built an encyclopedia chock full of trivia knowledge about DC characters.
Overall, the DC Universe app is off to a great start. With a large collection of comics and a decent variety of video media available upon launch, all DC fans will find something to love.