Pipeline: Pipeline, Issue #467

Tue, May 23rd, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

IN PRAISE OF TRADES (AGAIN)

I've talked a lot lately about my accelerating switch from monthlies to collections on specific titles. Every month when the new PREVIEWS listings arrive, I'm overwhelmed more than ever by the number of trades coming out for series I had given up the monthly habit on. This would be a great thing if I weren't trying to cut back a little bit as part of this move to the trades. I have too many books sitting unread in boxes or on shelves as it is. I could likely not buy a new comic for months and not run out of fresh reading material. Throw in prose books and that number would stretch to a year, at least. Not buying books, as it turns out, is a tougher thing to do than waiting for new books to come out in collected formats.

The first phase of moving to trades was relatively simple -- stop buying the monthly books. In many cases, that was easy. I had fallen a couple or three issues behind on a title I like for whatever reason, so I could quit it cold turkey and not miss it until the collection came out. This is true with CAPTAIN AMERICA, for example, and ULTIMATE X-MEN. It's also been a better way to enjoy the story. Reading a collection of a book I had already read the individual issues on a few months earlier (in part or in total) helped put all the story elements in their proper positions. With the surprises out of the way, I found myself understanding the storyline better. I paid attention to the little details and the clues that the author left along the way. The first read-through often became a more visceral one, while the second read was in appreciation for the craft of the storytelling. That may seem boring to many of you, but it's half the enjoyment I get out of studying comics today. As a reviewer, it helps me to keep aware of the storytelling tricks and styles that writers use today.

It's the second phase of this switching process that's caught me a little short -- stop buying the trades. I sit down every month with PREVIEWS and create a master list of books I'd like to buy. Then, I look at the stacks of books I already have, realize I don't have room or time for all the new ones, and winnow down the list. Out first are the really expensive books, often limited editions. (ABSOLUTE editions are the one exception here, and even that's iffy. I'm ordering KINGDOM COME this summer, but not DARK KNIGHT.) Next come the books reprinting older comics that I already have the issues for. After that, I need to carefully consider what I'm enjoying and anticipating, and what I'm just buying out of habit, albeit in a new format.

Last month, I whittled down an initial list of 15 books down to five using those criteria. This month, I've narrowed down a list of 18 to eight. That's not going far enough just yet, but I'm working on it. It's like paying down the national debt -- you have to curb the excess spending before you start cutting into the meat. You can't keep adding books to the unread stack if you ever expect to cut a swath through the unreads.

The first step is accepting you have a problem. The second is to stop adding to it. The third is to attack the problem directly.

The new PREVIEWS catalog comes out this week. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we can begin discussing it now. The major parts of the solicitations have already been announced on-line. Let's look at the major hurt that Marvel wants to put on my wallet in August, shall we?

MARVEL ZOMBIES HC collects the just-concluded five part mini-series from Zombiemeister Robert Kirkman and artist Sean Phillips. It went to multiple printings, received generally positive reviews from other columnists, and was a quick fan favorite. I'm not missing this one for the world. I hope there's a cover gallery in the back for all of Arthur Suydam's alternate/second printing covers. I don't mind paying the $20 for five issues, because it's done in the oversized print format, not the smaller Marvel Premiere Edition size.

NEXTWAVE: AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. Volume 1 is a Premiere Edition hardcover with the first six issues of the title that I really need to review soon. It's a fantastic and fun book from Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. Ellis' glee shows up on every page, as he gets to insert smart alec remarks into the mouths of Marvel mainstream characters, add his own insane brand of new characters, and mix the Marvel Universe into his sandbox. For a man who prefers to write nearly anything else in comics, his superhero titles always end up doing all right. It's a conundrum. This is another twenty dollar book, but I already bought the individual issues, so it's not a must have. Buying comics twice is something I need to cut back on, too. If you haven't read this one yet, do yourself a favor and pick up the collection. It's a lot of fun.

SPIDER-MAN: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT finally gets a hardcover treatment at standard comic book size. This reprints the classic J.M. DeMatteis/Mike Zeck story from the late 1980s. It hardly seems like the kind of story that Spider-Man fans would embrace, does it? It's dark work, with hardly a wisecrack in it. It takes place mostly in the characters' minds, putting Spider-Man in the deepest danger. But it has beautiful art, and the script is smart. I haven't read the book since I borrowed a copy of the earlier trade paperback off a friend more than a decade ago. I'm looking forward to adding this to my collection for another $20.

SPIDER-WOMAN: ORIGIN is another premiere edition hardcover book. It collects the five part mini-series from Brian Bendis and Brian Reed, with art by The Luna Brothers. I would normally skip over this, but the character's storyline through the second two NEW AVENGERS hardcovers is so interesting that I want to know more. I was hoping to skip this one, but now it's a must-read. The only unpleasant thing about it is that you're paying the standard $20 price tag, but only getting five issues' worth of story.

ULTIMATE X-MEN Volume 6 hardcover collects another (roughly) year's worth of stories from the second Ultimate title. I gave up on this series right after Bendis' short run on it, and have been waiting for hardcovers ever since. It seems like these hardcovers take forever to come out, unlike the ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN ones. That likely has something to do with Mark Bagley's ability to do two books a month on occasion, but it certainly seems like forever. The long time lag also means I've forgotten everything that happened from the last book. Maybe it's time to reread the old to get ready for the new. It's thirty bucks for 256 pages.

ULTIMATE GALACTUS BOOK 3: EXTINCTION is the last trade in Warren Ellis' Galactus trilogy. It's $13 for five issues. I'm going to be greedy and wait a little while longer to see if they ever package up all three books into one hardcover book. As tempting as Brandon Peterson's artwork is for this book, I'm remaining strong.

SENTRY: REBORN is being released as a trade paperback. That surprised me a lot. While it is a hefty eight issue mini-series to be collected, John Romita Jr.'s art is usually enough for Marvel to put out a hardcover. (See BLACK PANTHER Volume 1.) It's $22 for 184 pages.

There's a fifth volume collecting the CABLE/DEADPOOL series. I've heard lots of good things about this book, but sadly just can't fit any more reading into my life. Also falling into the "I Can't Read Everything" pile comes IRON MAN: INEVITABLE, collecting the six issue series from Joe Casey and Frazer Irving.

The recent DEAD GIRL mini-series spun off from X-STATIX also gets a trade in August, but I'm far enough away from X-STATIX now that it doesn't bug me not to read this one. The momentum is gone.

SPIDER-MAN VISIONARIES: KURT BUSIEK Volume 1 begins collecting the excellent UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN series from a decade or so ago. This was the 99-cent monthly book that Pat Olliffe drew so well. It was a wonderful series, but I'm going to be fine with keeping it in my past, in a long box somewhere. I can't read everything, and I can't buy everything twice.

The most annoying new release from Marvel in August is, no doubt, DAREDEVIL Volume 1 HC. It's a new printing collecting DAREDEVIL #1-15, which is the entire Kevin Smith/David Mack/Joe Quesada run. You may notice that DAREDEVIL #12 is now included in there. That was the fill-in issue from Jimmy Palmiotti and Rob Haynes that filled in a minor gap of time from the storyline but that wasn't seen as being fit to include in the original printing of this book. I don't know if they expect people to buy the book a second time, just to get that one issue in a hardcover, or if they figure it's better late than never. But I know I feel gypped at having bought a book which Marvel now admits was incomplete. It must be a stellar issue, too, because the price for the book just jumped up from $30 to $35. To be fair, that's likely due to time and inflation and lack of interest today as compared to the original release. Kevin Smith's name doesn't sell as many books today as it did five years ago. But you know what? It's still a shame.

I think I'm also still bitter than there was never an INCREDIBLE HULK Volume 3 hardcover to finish off Bruce Jones' story. It bugs me that I have a bookshelf with 2/3rds of a story I had invested $60 in without ever getting the ending.

In the end, though, this is supposed to be a column about cutting back on comics, with a possible back door review of a title or two. Looking at the list I've outlined above, I can see five books I will be pre-ordering at my local comics shop. All but one of them will be completely brand new to me. The last one (KRAVEN) will effectively be new. I read comics completely differently today than I did when I was 13. I can't imagine reading that storyline and thinking the exact same thing now. It's virtually new, then, right? Or am I acting as my own enabler? These crises of faith are overwhelming sometimes.

Hello. My name is Augie D. And I like comic books too much.

BUT WHY MARVEL?

I've focused a lot in recent weeks on Marvel titles. It's not some concerted campaign. This column has always been driven by what I find interesting at any given time, and this just happens to be my reading pattern of late. Part of it is my effort to catch up on several titles to be better prepared for the CIVIL WAR crossover. Part of it is my disinterest in DC's big event comics. I'm glad they're putting their house in order and all, but I'm just not a big enough fan of all those DCU books to care about the whole thing. I've always picked and chosen my DC reads carefully, and usually it's based on favored creators being at the helm. Sadly, not too many of the One Year Later books have captured my interest. At this point, I think AQUAMAN is the only one I'm looking forward to each month, and even that is based more on art than story.

I think the biggest reason for all the Marvel-centric book reviews lately has to do with the pendulum swings of comics reading. Read comics -- or novels, or watch movies or TV shows -- long enough, and you'll find yourself falling into patterns. You'll read too many superhero books and start searching out the independent comics, mostly black and white. Read enough of those, and you'll want more full color spandex-clad fun in your life. If straight-on superheroics bore you, you'll want to read more funny superhero titles, or crime comics that happen to star superheroes, or just books with really cool art and who cares how good the story is? It happens. Right now, I'm enjoying embracing my inner Marvel Zombie, and catching up on all the Marvel comics cluttering up my bookshelf, unread.

Part of that has to do with listening to too many comic podcasts in the past couple of months. I'm saving that topic for a future column, but the ones I've listened to lately are very much Marvel- and DC- centered. And that's all right. They have fun with that. Right now, I'm all for a little fun in life.

This all leads to another problem facing Ye Veteran Comics Columnist: What happens when you don't have time to review everything you read? If you think I've reviewed a lot of Marvel titles in the past month or two, you should see the list of unreviewed titles I've read in the same time span. It's neck and neck.

As soon as I win the lottery and quit my day job, I'll tell you all about them.

Next week: Reviews of more than just Marvel comics.

The Pipeline Podcast has its own homepage now. It's updated every Tuesday night with a fresh look at the top ten comic releases of the week.

My blog, Various and Sundry, takes a hard look at Amazon's web page design, questions a strange LOST plot point, finishes up the IDOL commentaries this week, throws more link dumps at you, and more.

You can e-mail me your comments on this column, or post them for all the world to see and respond to over on the Pipeline Message Board.

More than 600 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.

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