This kind of thing, as a rule, is much more Jim Shelly's domain than mine, but right off the bat I think I can hazard a guess at two of his criticisms of Marvel's plan.
- "Marvel Comics has launched a new subscription service called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which allows you to traipse through their back-issues via a web-based browser." - In short, you have to be connected to the internet to read your comics. Do you want to read comics on your laptop while away from internet access? Too bad. You're paying Marvel to read their comics when they say you can. Maybe I'm crazy, but if I'm going to pay for the pleasure of reading Marvel's books (and I'm being sincere here, I genuinely enjoy their comics) I think that it's only fair that I should be able to read them when I, the consumer, want.
- "While you won't be able to stay current - it'll be at least six months before new comics are eligible for inclusion in the service - you will be able to catch up with your favorites without having to pay through the nose for back issues." - In short, don't expect to read anything new and exciting through this service. You might get around Marvel's well-placed attacks on your bank account. You can read what everybody was talking about six months ago though... so long as you've got internet access. (Okay, that was a cheap jab at point #1 above, but I still think it was called for.)
I think it's great that Marvel wants to address the growing segment of comic book readers that would like to get some kind of cheaper method of distribution, but this is a half-step at best. It shows the same kind of 'Rights Management' paranoia that's made the RIAA the punchline of so many jokes, while still jealously guarding their monopoly in the comic shop. If you want to read what your friends are talking about right now, you still have to drag yourself down to the store and put your dollars on the counter.
At the risk of plugging him again, Jim Shelly is making a real attempt to prove not only that comic books can be created for a digital format, but he's also trying to show just how it should be done. With Flashback books, you download them and they're yours to read as you please, on any device.
But if you want to read some of Marvel's back-issue catalog digitally, allow me to suggest an alternative. Eagle One Media has produced a selection of DVDs containing massive numbers of Marvel comics viewable as PDF files in Adobe's Acrobat Reader. While I gather that PDFs are distasteful to the online comic scene, they have the distinct advantage of being something that you can read where/when you want.
That counts for something, right?