WHAT TO BUY (YOURSELF) THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
I had planned to spend this week's column talking about the end-of-the-world as seen in "Final Crisis" and "Dark Knight Strikes Again." But I got a chance to read an early copy of "Image United" #1 earlier today, and I'm all end-of-the-worlded out. Plus, it's Thanksgiving week, and who wants to think about apocalyptic comic books when you have Turkey and football and shopping to spend your hard-earned brain cells on?
I'll save the heavy stuff for after - you recover from your flying wedge through the crowded aisles of your local Wal-Mart.
Clearly, what you need from me right now - and what you won't get from any other website or magazine - is some sort of Holiday Gift Guide. Some sort of description of various items that you'll want to put on your shopping list so that you'll have that plan of attack you need to be successful this Friday. And don't forget your walkie-talkies when you're out on the town, sales flyers in hand. You'll want to coordinate your offensive and call in air strikes when needed.
But let's be honest. You're not going to buy any of this stuff I'm going to suggest for other people. Okay, you might, but you probably don't have a lot of money this year, and you don't really know a lot of family members who really care all that much about the lights-and-sound Star Trek phaser with the certificate of authenticity signed by Zach Quinto. So what I'm going to give you is a list of upcoming collected editions that you're going to want to buy for yourself.
Sure, you could ask Santa for this stuff, but good luck waiting around for that guy. Every Christmas Eve I go to bed hoping to wake up to the sounds of a brand new Milton Bradley Dark Tower game, and every Christmas I get stuck with the same old zippered sweaters and boxes of peanut brittle. That St. Nick is kind of a hack when it comes to getting us what we really want now that we're all grown up.
Some of you might be on the generous side of the greed fence, though, so I will include appropriate disclaimers as necessary, fully explaining why you would or would not want to buy these items for the loved ones in your life.
COMING SOON TO A STORE NEAR YOU
Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 2 Hardcover
This volume of the critically-acclaimed-and-rightfully-so Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben revisionist horror/superhero masterpiece hits the shelves this Thanksgiving week, and comics just don't get much better than this. They might get a tiny bit better, but not much - better. You probably own these stories already, but if you don't, then what better way to read them then in a handsome hardcover volume? It will make you feel smarter just because of its heft. And it is, honestly, a collection of some of the greatest DC comics ever published.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Probably not. It's nothing like "NCIS: Los Angeles."
Shade the Changing Man Vols. 1-2
DC's re-releasing the first volume of this Peter Milligan/Chris Bachalo series about a guy who has a Technicolor dreamcoat and has very little to do with the Steve Ditko character who knocked a few heads around in the "Suicide Squad," and they're also releasing a second volume. "Shade the Changing Man" is Milligan's best long-form comic book series ever, and though Bachalo's art looks nothing like his current, expressively blocky style, the series was a pretty unique look at America in the 20th century. Buy both volumes for yourself and figure out what it all means. That's the fun.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Does your loved one enjoy the films of Terrence Malick as imagined by the Brothers Quay? Then, no.
Captain America: The Death of Captain America Omnibus
To go alongside your Ed Brubaker "Captain America Omnibus," Marvel is releasing the rest of the saga - at least up through issue #42 - in this massive tome. Not as massive as the first volume, sure, but the big secret (that's not so secret to anyone who's read this comic or my reviews of it for CBR) is that this series gets even better - after Steve Rogers bites the dust. A lot better.
Well, I guess he doesn't actually bite "the dust." He bites the time-travel-plot-thing-with-the-Red-Skull-stuff that you won't find out about until the "Rebirth Omnibus" hits the stands.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Do they shake their fists in unison as Glenn Beck demands that we take back America? Oh, well, then they might actually like it. If you tell them that the book is a documentary account of what went wrong with this country.
Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition Hardcover
This sucker has been delayed for so long it was on my Christmas wish list last year. Is that possible? Maybe not, but it was supposed to come out a while ago, and I was supposed to spend my summer reading 1000 pages about a samurai rabbit in feudal Japan. I know I'll be spending my Christmas break doing that instead, because I have sadly never read these stories before. I think I've read two issues of "Usagi Yojimbo" ever, and both times I felt like they were good comics but I needed to read the series from the beginning to fully appreciate them. That's what this gigantic volume is for. And I'm sure you feel the same way.
Unless you have been buying Stan Sakai's epic since the beginning and have since had all of your issues bound in hardcover, in which case you can ignore this recommendation.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Actually, yes. Unless they liked the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" television series better than the comics because "the color-coded headbands made it easier to tell the turtles apart."
Teen Titans: Deathtrap Trade Paperback
Just kidding. This is terrible.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - No, because, as I said, it's terrible and even if they don't read comics they can sense terrible a mile away.
Dreadstar: The Beginning Hardcover
Jim Starlin used to be amazing. His early "Dreadstar" stuff may or may not fall into that category - I think it does, or at least it seemed to when I read it back in the days when new age cosmic spacefarers and evil empires and characterization seemed like the gateway to greatness. I haven't even looked at anything "Dreadstar" related in at least 15 years, but I do recall that these early, painted issues were the real quality of the series. I know I'm going to check out this reprint and maybe add it to my list. I know it's not a ringing endorsement, but it's early Jim Starlin, and you can never ignore that.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Maybe. Nah, probably not. It's got aliens and spaceships and love.
Grendel: Behold the Devil Hardcover
Didn't this Matt Wagner miniseries conclude over a year ago? We've certainly been waiting a long time for this collected edition, and when it comes to Grendel, when it comes to Matt Wagner, it's hard to go wrong. Maybe you can with this series - I don't know, I haven't read past the first issue, which I put down and said, "Yes, this I will wait for the trade on" - but I'm confident that this is worth picking up. Like I said: Grendel. Matt Wagner. You've read all his other stuff, right? His Grendel is better.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - No. It's a comic book, silly.
Marshal Law Omnibus
Imagine if the demented minds of Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill crafted a vicious superhero satire that so destroyed the minds of a generation of readers, so seductively seduced the innocent, so gorgeously eviscerated all the sacred cows of a genre, and…oh wait, they did that a couple of decades ago for Marvel's Epic imprint. And then they kept doing it over the following years, constantly bopping and weaving to new publishers because if they stayed in one place, the world would have destroyed them. "Marshal Law" was, and continues to be, the comic book Frank Miller might have written and drawn if he actually had a sense of humor.
Will your loved ones enjoy it? - Oh God, no. Don't even let them see you - read it. What are you, crazy?!?!
That's about $300 worth of comic book goodness to get yourself through the rest of 2009. It's the stuff I'd recommend, anyway. And I wouldn't dare ask Santa for any more than that. You know how much of a bastard he can be.
In addition to writing reviews and columns for COMIC BOOK RESOURCES, Timothy Callahan is the author of "Grant Morrison: The Early Years" (which explores "Zenith" in great detail) and editor of "Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes" anthology. More of his thoughts on comics can be seen every day at the Geniusboy Firemelon blog.
Follow Tim on Twitter: gbfiremelon