Marvel's newly revamped Marvel Unlimited app features a sleek interface and even some exclusive content, but it still lacks the most basic feature that would improve the user experience by leaps and bounds: reading "playlists."
The current Marvel Unlimited binge-reading experience is great if all you want to read is a single series at a time. Looking to binge the early part of the classic Chris Claremont run on Uncanny X-Men ? First of all, great choice. And secondly, that will work great for you… until the book starts regularly crossing over with titles like New Mutants and X-Factor, along with various spinoff mini-series. Once you hit the 1990s, you're pretty much screwed.
The reason is that Marvel Unlimited does not offer a way to chronologically read multiple series at once, jumping to the next published issue of a set of series. Part of the reason this functionality is missing is because there is no custom playlist feature. You cannot, for example, put Uncanny X-Men, New Mutants, and X-Factor into a playlist and order the issues by release date, which is a basic feature of similar apps for music or video. But even that missing functionality could be forgiven if flowing between series worked for Marvel's own custom event reading guides. Unfortunately, the functionality isn't there either.
For example, if one wanted to read the Hellfire Gala event, which crossed over between twelve different X-books, there is a Hellfire Gala "Event Reading Guide" that lists all of the issues in the crossover in their preferred sequential reading order. But the app does not guide the reader through the list. Instead, after reaching the end of a single issue, the app tries to direct the reader to the next issue of that series, not the next issue in the reading guide. That means that, after reading Planet-Size X-Men #1, a dialog pops up informing the reader that they are all caught up and there are no more issues of Planet-Size X-Men (or, if there were more issues, it would give the reader the option of skipping to the next one). There is no option to move on to the next book in the reading guide, which would be New Mutants #19. Instead, the user must close the dialog, tap on the screen again to get the UI overlay to appear, tap the "X" button to exit the issue, returning to the reading guide. Then the user must tap on the next issue to begin reading. At the end of that issue, they need to repeat the whole process again.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn't a huge dealbreaker for Marvel Unlimited, which does offer an otherwise smooth reading experience and features an incredible amount of content for the price. But it does take the reader out of the flow when reading a crossover, and since Marvel can't seem to go two weeks without announcing a new crossover event, one would think making the reading of them on Marvel Unlimited would be a top priority.
If Marvel wants Marvel Unlimited to present their comics in the most enjoyable way possible, they need to add playlist functionality that allows readers to read books from multiple series in sequential reading order. Then, they need to allow users to create their own playlists for reading crossovers or interconnected series that Marvel hasn't yet created a custom reading guide for. Bonus points if Marvel would allow users to publish or share these lists with each other.
It's not clear why this functionality isn't available already. From a programming perspective, without knowing the exact details of how the Marvel Unlimited app is put together, it doesn't seem like it should be a very difficult thing to add, especially when the ability to display playlists (or "reading guides") already exists, and when the "go to next issue" in a series functionality already exists. Marvel just needs to expose the playlist creation functionality in a user interface and then modify the "go to next issue" functionality to use the playlist order instead of the series order.
It's hard to imagine Marvel hasn't heard this complaint before, so hopefully, this is something they're already working on. If not, then let us be the first to suggest it: Marvel comics are not made to be read as isolated series. The interconnectedness of the Marvel Universe is a major factor in its success, not only in comics but in the movies as well. The Marvel Unlimited app should celebrate this quality by making it easy for readers to enjoy the comics in this way and removing the obstacles to reading Marvel comics the way they're meant to be read.