20 TRADES IN DECEMBER
One of the things I do every month when I get the latest massive tome called PREVIEWS is to make a list of trade paperbacks I want to pick up. Making such a list allows me to see how massive my monthly comics load could get if I allowed it. It helps me to narrow down the list a little bit ahead of time. My initial list this month ran twenty volumes. From there, my hope is to narrow it down to less than six.
Taking a look at the original list should prove interesting, and might add some extra food for thought for those of you putting together your pull lists ahead of time.
1. Dark Horse starts off with GROO: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD. I picked up the original issues of this mini-series as it came out and just now realize that I haven't yet read them. From this, I learn two valuable lessons: The first is that I'm not going to willingly buy the same series twice that I haven't read yet, even though GROO's quality has remained pretty consistent through the years. The second lesson is that I'm going to hold off on the upcoming DEATH AND TAXES mini-series until the inevitable trade collection. I'm taking GROO out of my long boxes and on to my bookshelves. I'll miss Mark Evanier's letters columns, though.
2. Dark Horse is also soliciting for STAR WARS TALES Volume 1, an anthology collection of stories by all sorts of creators. I'd be getting it mostly for the Peter David contribution, but I have faith in some of the other creators listed, including Rick Leonardi, Claudio Castellini, and John Ostrander. On the other hand, I'm not a huge STAR WARS fan and it is $20. Decisions, decisions.
3. DC, as usual, has a few select trades coming out in December. The first is THE SPIRIT ARCHIVES, Volume 6. The previous collections of the classic Will Eisner strip have been presented extremely well. I only have one of them in my collection right now, but hope to add more soon. However, at $50 a pop, this one is easy to leave off the final list.
4. DC is also offering Frank Miller's RONIN trade again, to coincide with THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN. I'm hesitant. I found the first four issues of the six part series in a quarter bin once and have been holding out hope of finding the fifth and sixth somewhere else. It's been a couple of years with no luck. I might need to break down and buy the trade. I've been enjoying LONE WOLF AND CUB so much that I'm in the mood for more samurai-style action.
5. Finally from DC's listings, WildStorm is putting out a MISTER MAJESTIC collection. It has the first six issues of the regular series, written by Joe Casey with art from Ed McGuinness. There's also the first issue of WILDSTORM SPOTLIGHT, which featured an Alan Moore-penned story starring Mister Majestic. This one is well worth it, although I wish they had included the Eric Canete-drawn issues that came after it. Yes, the story had to be dramatically shortened when series sales slid, but a complete trade would have been preferable. Still, this is well worth the $15 they're asking for it.
Hmmm, DC ran short on trades for me this month. They're usually the king. This list is really short, but their backlist is filled with amazing reads. Give it a read through someday. You're bound to find something of interest.
6. Image has one collection of interest in December, and that's POWERS: ROLEPLAY, the second volume of collected stories from Bendis and Oeming. It skips over the Warren Ellis story from the seventh issue and presents the entire next storyline under one cover. Some extras are planned, but don't expect the same tireless treatment that the first trade got you. This one comes out to $14. It's a bit breezier than the first storyline, but reads nicely all together.
Marvel is next in the book and clearly steals the show. They're trying real hard to make up for their deficiencies in their trade program of the past. I have to hand it to them – they're pushing all the right buttons. They're reprinting things on a higher grade of paper. They're updating the coloring, where appropriate and necessary. They're standardizing some of their cover designs, improving some designs to make them more readable (take the ESSENTIAL volumes), and reprinting things worth reading. They're reprinting Byrne FANTASTIC FOUR, McFarlane SPIDER-MAN, Miller DAREDEVIL, Simonson THOR, and more. This is very impressive, to say the least.
Yes, there have been a couple of hiccups, but they're minor. In some cases, they're good bits of news. The lack of availability of the first ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN trade is due only to its wild popularity. They sold out of years' worth of stock in six months with the book. The incident with double-page spreads in MARVEL BOY was regrettable, but handled nicely with input from the artist. Furthermore, steps have been taken to prevent it from happening again. (Pity the poor intern who gets to count pages in single issues to ensure that the artist didn't mistakenly put a double-page spread at the wrong starting point.)
The only other complaint I have is that the price point can sometimes seem a dollar or two higher than it should be, but given the superior quality of the materials being used, I can understand why.
7. The first Marvel trade is U.S. WAR MACHINE, on page 155. It will be collecting the 12 part weekly series by Chuck Austen. I've reviewed the first couple of parts here already. It looks to be turning into a good story. If you missed the first couple of issues, you may just want to wait for the trade. It's an interesting publishing format that's not been used in the U.S. before. You get your story in weekly doses, and then a quickly turned around collection of all the parts is available afterwards. The 288-page black and white book comes in at $14.95.
8. Marvel is working hard to keep trades in mind for all their current titles. To that end, on-going series are segmenting themselves into storylines that make for logical collections. One such book is THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: COMING HOME. It will collect the six-issue storyline by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. that just finished up in the pages of AMAZING this week. It's a good story with some nice art. If you missed it when it sold out off the shelves of your local shop, give this trade a chance. It's $15.95 for 144 pages.
9. PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN also gets a well-deserved collection, titled ONE SMALL BREAK. It collects Paul Jenkins' stories from #27, #28, and #30-34. With art by Mark Buckingham, it's well worth the read. Jenkins excels in these stories. Issue #33 is the baseball issue that I fawned over so much just a couple of months ago. Pay special attention to the plot structures he employs if you're a budding writer. I think there's a lot to learn in there. Final cost is $16.95 for 160 pages.
10.ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN gets its second volume, LEARNING CURVE, collecting issues #8 through the unbelievably well done #13. It is only $14.95 for 144 pages. The WAR MACHINE trade is twice as many pages, yet costs the same. It just goes to show you how expensive it is to print in color. The ULTIMATE price point is a dollar less than the AMAZING level, I presume, because they expect to sell it in bigger numbers. Judging from the runaway success of the first volume, I can't say that I blame them.
(Wow, three good trades of recent Spider-Man stories in the same month. After the storylines of the past 5 years or more, who would have thought we'd ever see this?)
11.X-MEN: FALL OF THE MUTANTS is a storyline I remember reading a lot about, without ever having read it. The storyline took place just before the time I started reading comics. At the time I started reading X-Men titles, the story was in the past but still recent enough to be sending shockwaves through the mutant titles. I have to admit to being just a bit curious about it because of that. This volume reprints nine issues, split across the three titles involved in the crossover, NEW MUTANTS, X-FACTOR, and UNCANNY X-MEN. 272 pages can be yours for $24.95. Alan Davis is doing a new cover for it.
12.Speaking of Davis, his art is on the cover and in the interiors of the CAPTAIN BRITAIN collection. It's the first sign of the thaw in the Cold War between Marvel and Alan Moore. Moore has given the OK to reprint the series in a 208-page trade that clocks in at $19.95. This is another series I've heard a lot about over the years without reading any of. As a big fan of Davis' EXCALIBUR title, I'm looking forward to seeing what you might consider an indirect prequel to the series.
13.BLACK PANTHER gets a second collection to finish off the first year of its title, with ENEMY OF THE STATE. In these issues, Christopher Priest pulls together the year long story he plotted out to start, with an array of art styles. It seems that nobody had a clue as to what to do with the art on the book, so Mike Manley was brought in to do an animated style after Joe Jusko did his painted part for a couple of issues. $16.95 buys you the 160 pages. If you got the first trade, you have to get this one to finish the story. I'll be buying it to support future trades of this excellent title. Plus, it'll look pretty on the shelf. The book is also worth rereading, I might add.
14.Finally and most excitedly from the House of Ideas, THE ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK reprints just about the entire Steve Gerber series, including the first 27 issues of the series, MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #12, and GIANT-SIZE MAN-THING #4 and #5. I first read HOWARD last year, when I picked up a batch of the issues (from the mid-20s) at WizardWorld in a fifty-cent bin. I got much more than my money's worth. Gerber's satire and parody skills are bountiful, and the wisecracking duck steals every scene he's in. The STAR WARS issue is the best satire using that movie that I've ever read. All this can be yours in black and white for $14.95. It's the best deal of the month. Let's just hope the new series comes out half as good as the original.
15.The first entry in the back half of PREVIEWS that catches my eye is from AiT/PlanetLar. It's Warren Ellis' AVAILABLE LIGHT. This hardcover oversized book reprints pictures he took with his Handspring Visor camera alongside short text pieces inspired by them. Might be interesting. Might be self-indulgent tripe. I don't know. This is one I'll have to flip through at the shop before buying. I like the concept, though, and hope it gets some outside attention from the fanatical world of Handspring lovers. (I know about that world. I carry a Handspring with me to work every day.) The book is hardcover, 66 pages, and runs $24.95.
16.Checker Book Publishing Group makes its mark on the world with ALIEN LEGION: FORCE NOMAD. It's a hefty 312 page full-color trade collecting a swath of issues originally done by Chuck Dixon and Larry Stroman. For $25, it sounds like a pretty good value. Let's just hope the reprinting quality is high. This is another one of those nearly hidden series that I'm glad to see pop up again, after a nearly ten year absence.
17.If you didn't order the hardcover last month, you can still get the softcover this month of El Capitan Books' MURDER ME DEAD. It's 232 pages of David Lapham black and white crime drama for $20, a few sheckles less than the hardcover.
18. and 19. I mentioned these two here last week already. It's the DON ROSA ARCHIVES, Volumes 1 and 2, from Gazette Book. Each is $30 for 190 pages, and reprints the pre-Duck comic strip stories Rosa did. It's the Pertwillaby Papers and Captain Kentucky, collected at last..
20. OK, this is a stretch, but I need to fill in a twentieth selection. Full Bleed Studios presents DALE KEOWN'S PITT SKETCHBOOK. While the series may not have been the most interesting thing ever printed (that's putting it mildly), Keown's art is always pretty. The book is only 32 pages. I'm hoping that the $5.95 price point means it's square bound and glossier than all get out.
Of course, I also have to recommend the AMERICA'S BEST COMICS SKETCHBOOK from the DC section and now I have 21 listings. Why don't we just combine the two sketchbooks and call them one trade?
See, it all works out!
There you have twenty collections worth reading. I'm certain to pre-order the DON ROSA ARCHIVES, ESSENTIAL HOWARD THE DUCK, ALIEN LEGION and CAPTAIN BRITAIN. They're all books that will be new to me. It's gotten to the point where my reading list of trades and graphic novels has gotten so large that I have to find some way to winnow them down. The first cut is usually for material I already own in their original monthly format. After that, I like to keep up with series of collections, so books like BLACK PANTHER and POWERS will get special thought.
In the end, I'll scrap all the well-thought out plans and get the ones that look prettiest on the Wednesdays they come out.
AND SOME OTHER THINGS…
There are two or three other items that I can't let slip by without mentioning.
The first is Jay Hosler's newest story, called SANDWALK ADVENTURES #1. The solicitation copy has no information that would lead you to believe that it's a mini-series or a longer story, so I'm going on the assumption that this is a one-shot. It's 24 black and white pages for $2.95. As is Hosler's wont, it's a scientifically skewed story. Here's the description:
"Charles Darwin has company and she's living in his eyebrow. A follicle mite named Mara has emerged from deep in her follicle in search of the answer to life's ultimate question. But will she be happy with what she learns and how it will impact her world? Join Mara and her brother Willy as they drive Mr. Darwin to distraction during his sandwalk stroll."
Sounds like fun.
Hosler's web site indicates that a CLAN APIS sequel is coming in – well, Summer 2001. Whoops. It's called INTREPID FORAGER, and will hopefully come out next year now. Two pages of the story are available on his web site, as well.
Speaking of cartoony books, Marvel is publishing a collection of Chris Giarrusso's "Bullpen Bits" comic strips. It's called GIANT-SIZE MINI-MARVELS: STARRING SPIDEY #1. For $3.50, you get 48 pages of funny book entertainment. It includes a brand-new 28-page story that I'm looking forward to.
Speaking of cartoony art, Chris Eliopoulos (DESPERATE TIMES) has a contribution in the December-scheduled MARVEL KNIGHTS: MILLENIAL VISIONS special. Keep an eye out for that one. It's slightly warped. What else would you expect from him?
Next year's con schedule tentatively includes Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, Bethesda, and New York. I'm seeing the country, one con at a time.