CIVIL WAR #4 ADVANCE REVIEW
It's getting tougher and tougher to write these previews without spoilers. The good news is that the big shocking surprises in this issue haven't been well spoiled by leading covers and tie-in issues, like they were with the grand Spidey unmasking in the second issue. There are a few moments in this book that came out of left field in a good way for me.
Basically, Thor is back and he's pissed. Why? How? Well, you'll have to read the book, but Mark Millar does provide a satisfactory and somewhat scary answer to both questions, while leading the reader in the direction that the next events might follow. The big fight in the beginning of this issue truly feels monumental and epic, even if it doesn't last as long as you might think. There are real consequences from this Big Superhero Fight scene, which is definitely nice to see.
Also nice to see are all the pieces of the puzzle coming together. Unlike with previous issues, I don't think you need to read the tie-in issues to get what's going on here. I think the developments in this plot have been set up nicely from within the three previous issues. Again, I don't want to spoil you on the developments or even lead you in their direction. For now, you'll just have to take my word that they're consistent with the series so far, and pay off on some previous scenes in a satisfying way.
There is a dramatic shift to the status quo of one corner of the Marvel Universe in this book, but I have a hard time buying into it completely. It's the kind of thing that can be reversed in a heartbeat -- or, at least, in one well-written issue of the main Marvel title. Peter Parker taking off the mask would require a cosmic event or a deus ex machina to reverse. This particular event would not require nearly as much work to undo.
Steve McNiven's artwork is brilliant in this issue. I'm not kidding here -- there's a range of storytelling talent on display here in one single issue that's not often seen in a typical superhero comic. He draws the heck out of the big battle scene complete with wide panels, bloodied superheroes, and a downpour of rain. But he excels in the moments afterwards, where characters often look confused, frightened, or quietly scary. The illustrations do as much to tell the story as Millar's word balloons. The body language of these characters looks unsure, not typically superheroic. There's a fair bit of moping happening in the issue, but it's well-deserved and contemplative.
Morry Hollowell's coloring is vibrant throughout the book, and I just hope it translates well into the printed page. The PDF preview I have is bright and energetic and detailed. Paper usually soaks up too much of it to convey the same feel, but I'll cross my fingers on this one.
While I don't think this particular issue will have the large outcry and conversational quotient that the second one did, I think there's enough in here to keep fans buzzing. I think there might even be a political aspect that some will gripe about. And I'm very curious to see some of the fallout from this book in a couple of the other main Marvel Universe series. The final few pages should result in major status quo changes in two different series, in particular.
I had a shaky moment with the series last issue, but I'm back on board again with this one.
FEAR OF COMICS
I have more hardcovers and trade paperbacks coming into the house each week than I have time to read. Believe it or not, I do have other interests besides comics, and those interests often take up more time than expected. In the end, that stack of unreads gets larger and larger.
So why don't I only buy the books each week that I know I'll have time for?
I need to buy these things while I still can. They're not going to be in print forever, and the comics market is such that you need to jump through the hoops on the first week to guarantee your copy of a book will make it to your bookshelves. Sure, the point of this new trade paperback economy is that books will be available over the long haul. But look at the list of books from Marvel and DC that are sold out each month. It shows up in the back of the PREVIEWS order form. It's bigger than my weekly grocery list.
If you wanted to read the SPIDER-MAN: THE OTHER hardcover collection, it's too late. Marvel's sold out of it. Find it at a local comic shop, or you're out of luck. Or, yes, you can wait for the trade paperback in this case and get on the merry-go-round all over again.
MARVEL MASTERWORKS: AVENGERS Volume 5 or ANT-MAN/GIANT MAN Volume 1? RAWHIDE KID trade paperback? X-MEN: PHOENIX ENDSONG hardcover? X-MEN: X-TINCTION AGENDA trade? Maybe you wanted Frank Miller's BATMAN: DARK KNIGHT RETURNS HC instead of the ABSOLUTE edition?
All of those titles are listed as sell-outs. Some of them might go back to print eventually. But do you trust either company to do that? And if so, how long will it take? The print runs are so small and the audience so limited for these books that it doesn't make sense to keep everything in stock with multiple reprints.
If the second volume of a five volume series ships on a week that you don't have the time to read it, do you skip it? There are trade paperback series right now in which volumes in the middle are out of print. Do you want to miss that part of the story, or take the chance that they'll go back to print on it eventually? Sure, it makes sense to keep earlier volumes of a series in print for those who come into it late, but you and I both know how this industry works. That's not a given.
Thus, there are those of us who buy books we have no time to read for fear that we won't be able to get them when the time comes around.
It's a sickness. I know.
In some ways, it reminds me of my overly large stack of DVDs. I have hundreds in my collection. The reasoning for this is partly the same as with the comics -- even if I'm not in the mood for it today, there will be a time down the road when that new release will be what I'm in the mood for. I never bought movies or TV show collections that I wasn't interested in, but I knew there were releases that I wouldn't get to watch right away. So what? I'll find time later.
Eight years later, I'm learning that time doesn't easily manufacture itself, short of a winning lottery ticket.
There's more to it than just that, though. DVDs stay in print much longer than comics -- or, at least, their initial printings are far larger so as to supply the outlets for a longer period of time. It can be advantageous to buy DVDs the week they come out, just because the big box stores will have a better sales price that week. Somewhere down the road, though, there'll be a massive price drop on what become "catalog" titles. This holds true for movies and popular TV show sets alike.
What impresses me about DVDs is that there's very little collector's market for them. When they first came out, you could almost make your money back by putting your used discs up on eBay. The secondary market was fairly strong. In a day and age now where any business with a cash register sells DVDs of some sort, that's not so true anymore. The big box stores regularly discount movies to $5 and $10. And you can buy most second hand DVDs on eBay for about the same price.
With the exception of the Criterion Collection titles and a few random examples (MST3K: THE MOVIE), DVDs are inherently worthless as a collector's item. Some are released in two and three different editions, but only the most recent release with all the bonus features on it is wanted by anyone. The previous editions are absorbed into back room storage areas and quickly forgotten. No DVD collector ever comes forward to say, "Yeah, but I want that super-rare original collector's edition DVD, not the most recent Platinum Edition Special Edition Collector's Edition re-release with the second disc full of extras."
Wouldn't it be nice if the comics world worked in a similar way? If the supply was generous, distribution was omnipresent, and catalog titles sported lower -- not higher -- prices?
Dare to dream.
MY SPACE UPDATE
But I want to feel more special next week. I'm greedy. Let's see how far I can push MySpace until it breaks -- or until the weight of the awesomely awful HTML backing it up finally crushes the thing. If you haven't "friended" me yet, please do so today!
And then, of course, tell a friend all about The Pipeline Podcast. Thanks!
FOR THE FIVE OF US THAT CARE. . .
You might have heard that Marvel reached an agreement with a large number of newspapers to include a Sunday supplement reprinting classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic books. I got my hands on one of them last week. While it's nice to see the comics being placed in front of the "mainstream," there's a small corner in the back of my head that screamed when I saw how they had presented the material.
To whit, they used the dreaded and most hated comic sans font. Yes, it's a very good thing to have the Comic Shop Locator Service phone number in the book. It's a great thing. But COMIC FRIGGIN' SANS?!?
Larry Young and I weep for you, Marvel. And we weep openly.
WELCOME BACK, BILL
With word that Bill Rosemann has returned to Marvel in an editorial capacity, I need to run this picture again. I think it's Chicago Comic-Con 1999 or 2000. (The sign for the X-MEN movie should be the biggest clue.)
Your Man -- Back At Marvel.
Sometimes, real life gets in the way of Lotsa Comic Reviewing. This, sadly, is one of those weeks. I promised a review of MAKESHIFT MIRACLES for you this week and I've failed. I'm sorry about that, but go ahead and pre-order the book, anyway, if you want something in the realm of a fantasy tale with some dreamy elements and strong character relationships. Since it's coming from Udon, you also know that the coloring will be nice.
My blog, Various and Sundry is still updating daily. We've talked a lot in the past week about the new announcements from Nintendo and Apple. With the summer reality TV season over, I'm groping for something new to latch onto. Click over and see what I find. . .
More than 700 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.