If you're a fan of DC Comics, then the announcement of the all-DC-all-the-time streaming service DC Universe likely sounded like a dream come true for you. It promised to put the DC world's movies and shows (both live-action and animated) all in one place, and give you access to the comics that inspired them as well. I splurged on a yearly membership about a month before the service went live and have been living with it ever since. It's been a few months now having the DC-centric service in my life, so it seems like an ideal time to figure out whether it's worth the price. Is the Bat-juice worth the super-squeeze?
The answer is not as easy as a simple yes or no — like many of the DC heroes and villains themselves, there's a lot of gray in the mix here. If you're still on the fence about whether to jump into this service, there are definitely some things you should know.
First and foremost, the price. At the moment, you can either pay $7.99 a month or a discounted $74.99 a year. With so many streaming services wanting a crack at your wallet (and so many more on the way), is this a necessary Kite-Man "Hell yeah!" or a Green Arrow "Your streaming service has failed this city?"
Time to break out the pro and con chart and go through it all.
For fans of DC's animated projects, this service is a jam-packed Batcave full of it all.
DC Universe has all of the classics, including Batman: The Animated Series in glorious HD. There's Superman: The Animated Series, all of the Justice League shows, Batman Beyond, Teen Titans, and, most importantly, Young Justice. Not all of these shows have been available to stream before now — it is with great shame that I admit that I had never seen Teen Titans or Young Justice before. That has now been rectified thanks to this service. The only shows missing (that I am aware of) are The New Batman Adventures and The New Batman/Superman Adventures.
The animated films are mostly all here as well, so if you want to catch Batman: Ninja or Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, they're here. Aside from the missing shows (which they could always add at some point), the animated side of DC is incredibly well represented. A huge pro.
PRO: ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING
It's early in the game in terms of shows that will be exclusive to this service, with Titans having just finished Season 1 and Young Justice: Outsiders having just launched. Still, this is another positive. Personally, I enjoyed the Trigon-hell out of Titans and look forward to more of it. I'm not caught up on Young Justice yet (sue me) but from what I've seen, I'm quite sure that I want as much of it as humanly possible.
(Editor's note: Young Justice: Outsiders is a revelation. – CB)
Titans featured some of the cast of the upcoming Doom Patrol series in its fourth episode, and I fell for them instantly. My hopes for Doom Patrol are high (higher than my hopes/expectations were for Titans, to be fair), so I am glad that I will have a way to watch it immediately. Throw in the upcoming Stargirl, Swamp Thing, and the animated Harley Quinn project, and there's nothing but upside here.
I should also mention the DC Daily program, which gives you a little (and sometimes a lot) of DC news and fun every weekday. The hosts are enjoyable, and from time to time they'll have someone like Marv Wolfman stop by. At its best, it feels like a fun Comic-Con panel that you don't have to leave the house for.
CON: NON-ORIGINAL FILMS AND TV
Though the service is laden with riches when it comes to animated films, the same cannot be said for live-action film fare. For one thing, if you are looking to find every single DC-based film ever made, you won't find them — you've got the original four Superman films, the first four Batman films, the Supergirl film, and that's about it.
None of the newer DCEU films (Wonder Woman, Justice League, etc.) are here at all, and a lot of movies seem to come and go as they please ... which is another issue altogether. While the four Superman movies are almost always available, the Bat-movies aren't. Sometimes they're there, and sometimes they're not. You could have a random craving for Batman Forever (could happen, I won't judge) one night, and it won't be listed. The next week, it could pop up again after the craving has passed. The Dark Knight trilogy also has this problem.
In terms of live-action television (for shows that are not original to the service), you've got Constantine, Lois & Clark, the original Wonder Woman, and a handful of others on tap all the time. The Arrowverse does not exist here, and neither does Gotham. To see those, you'll still need Netflix ... or regular cable, as those shows are all still on the air.
So when it comes to live-action projects, it is not everything DC all the time — it's some of DC, some of the time, with some special guests coming and going. (It should be noted that though you can't stream the Arrowverse or the DCEU films, they are talked about often on DC Daily.)
When advertised, the makers of this platform made it sound like any DC comic you'd ever want to read would be available here. See something related to The Court of Owls in a Batman show and want to know more? Just call the comic right up and get reading!
It's not like that.
For one thing, you're not dealing with a full library of comic titles. For another, you usually have access to just the first issue of a series — you can read the first installment of The Court of Owls, sure, but that's it. There's not an option to read more or even purchase more, but for that, you'll still need Comixology or your friendly local comic book shop. You'll also need more money.
There are some titles that are here in full and can be read in their entirety. I'd never read Robin: Year One before, and I was able to binge-read the whole thing. It was nice, but not essential. I also ended up reading it using the DC Universe iPhone app — not just because the full-screen comic reader doesn't always work that well (it's not great), but because of the biggest issue the service has overall:
CON: RA'S AL ROKU, OR HOW TO ACTUALLY ACCESS DC UNIVERSE
This is partially my fault, I admit it, but the details here aren't necessarily advertised. Yes, I should have looked harder, but I didn't. I made the mistake of just assuming that an app for the service would be available for the Samsung SmartHub (very, very foolish of me) and, failing that, certainly available for the PlayStation 4. That seemed like a safer bet. In both cases, I was wrong.
The problem is this: DC Universe can only be accessed using Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, and supposedly Amazon Fire TV, though many users have reported issues with the last one. If you don't have any of these things, then you'll be watching on your computer, or through the app on your iPhone or Android device. Yes, I did try to pair my phone with my TV, and the results were disastrous. I'm not Victor Stone over here, and, frankly, I shouldn't have to be.
DC Universe has said repeatedly that more options will become available (with a PlayStation 4 app right at the top of the most-requested list, along with Samsung), but there's no way to know when that will be. No date or timetable has been provided. Henry Cavill's mustache could have its own show by the time this thing gets a PlayStation plugin — as a comparison, CBS All Access had one at launch.
Honestly, before I was able to access the system on a regular television, I would have advised against it. I'm no stranger to watching things on my phone, but there are limits. I ended up buying a Roku Express for reasons unrelated to the world of DC, however, and got it working that way. Once the service was on my regular television, the game changed completely. I instantly went from "I kind of regret paying for this" to "this is rad, good job, me!"
SO … BRUCE'S LOVE, OR THE DARK KNIGHT'S JUNIOR PARTNER?
For me, it all comes down to what equipment you have. If you already have a Roku or an Apple TV (or don't mind watching things on your computer or phone), then yes, it is worth it. For the animated shows and the original programming alone, it's definitely worth it. If you're thinking of jumping in, I'd highly recommend having a compatible device that can access it — don't be like me and figure DC will catch up and add a PS4 app tomorrow. At the moment it's still not an option, and it's been months.
If you're a big DC enthusiast with a Roku or an Apple TV, you're getting a grand amount of content for a fair price with DC Universe. If you're a die-hard DC obsessive, then I don't care what tech you have — you'll love it more than Barry Allen loves playing with time.