By Craig Lemon
Forget the regular monthly comics, everyone in the industry is looking to trades for salvation. Trades bring an expanded sales platform in the form of book stores and regular online retailers (step forward amazon), trades bring a potential long-awaited respectability to US-format comics, trades bring increased profit margins to publishers. Hence the remit of this monthly look at Previews, checking out what trades therein should command your attention and why.
But don’t let me hog the limelight…why not check it out and see what I’ve missed, or argue with my selections and let me know – either on the message boards or direct, interesting comments and challenges on my selection, and you may just get a forum to explain why I’m wrong!
BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL: BEASTS (Dark Horse)
Admittedly some may feel reluctant to grab the most recent volume in a trade paperback series that is already at least ten books long, but one reason that this book is an excellent jumping-on point is it kicks off with the chief protagonists of the series separated and with very definite and clear ideas of what they are trying to achieve. It’s all described for the neophyte reader early on, so there’s no danger of you getting lost. Another reason that this particular volume is ideal is that it is possibly one of the nastiest in the series so far – what happens to the good-guys ally Hyakurin…well, you wouldn’t see that in the pages of Spider-Man, that’s for sure. Throw in natural sounding and modern dialogue (which enhances rather than detracts from the story) and you have a very interesting and totally recommended series.
BRUCE WAYNE — FUGITIVE, VOLUME ONE (DC)
There’s so much wrong with this that its inclusion here will probably surprise, but the fact of the matter is that this storyline was always going to read so much better in a trade, rather than waiting a week or two between issues of disparate series just to advance the plot by three pages. You get the distilled essence of the real story in those issues in this trade, without the extraneous crap that you don’t really want to read anyway, and all at a bargain price. Previews calls it “groundbreaking”, which is bullshit, but it’s entertaining in this form; what more can you ask?
SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONS (DC)
Feel-good factor ten alert! This book is…nice. Bright and airy where the same creators’ Dark Victory and Long Halloween were dark and claustrophobic. Fulfilling and uplifting by the close of play, contemplative and interesting, it’s a decent Superman yarn, and god knows we’ve been waiting long enough for one of those.
THE INVISIBLES: THE INVISIBLE KINGDOM (DC/Vertigo)
The final twelve issues of the final series collected for the first time in this huge book, and by the end you’d expect it all to make sense. Of course, it doesn’t, and that’s half the point. However, if you are prepared to work at it, you’ll get more and more out of it each time you read – not out-and-out entertainment as such, just mature and modern comics.
WILDCATS: STREET SMART (DC/Wildstorm)
Six months after the team have split up (and the book was shitcanned), the individual members of the Wildcats have grown up and grown apart, but get thrown back together in quite an interesting plotline. Slagged off by almost everyone on the net, it’s actually a good roller-coaster read; it’s fun, it’s nothing but fun, but the characters feel reinvigorated, they are fresh and exciting, it all comes together in the end, and it sets up the superb Casey-Phillips run in other trades.
Not worth the money as a hardback, but more than worth it as a paperback, even if you don’t really care for Wolverine/Logan as a character. It’s barely about him anyway, more to do with secondary characters, and although the last chapter and a half feel rushed and out of place, the first three and a half more than make up for it. Barely any super-powers or fights to be seen, an important book in many ways.
X-FORCE VOL. 2 TP (Marvel)
The second X-Force trade collects the last nine issues under that moniker, as we have new members joining, old members dying, almost constant infighting, violence, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Well, maybe not all of those, but you get the idea. Forget the name X-Force, just enjoy the ride.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN VOL. 4 TP (Marvel)
I managed to get into an argument about this series last week. My local retailer was slagging it off, saying that it was a tired re-tread of classic stories; a fellow customer was stoutly defending it, saying “yeah but no-one has been thrown off a bridge before”…er, right. My view – it’s not ground-shaking, but it is Bendis, and his dialogue-skills are in the top three in the industry. Therefore who cares if the stories are so familiar you can recite them in your sleep? It’s modern, it’s hip, it’s bang up to date, and, frankly, I love the feeling of nostalgia that washes through when reading it.
JUST A PILGRIM: GARDEN OF EDEN TP (Black Bull)
Oh come on. It’s Garth Ennis. You know what to expect – tick these off: Violence? Tick. Swearing? Tick. Outrageous situations involving kids and jellyfish? Tick. A maniac with a gun who seems to have so much ammo he must store it up his butt? Tick. Laugh a minute? Tick tick tick. Just buy it, read it, love it, and shut up.
EDGE & FORGE HOLIDAY GIFT PACKS (CrossGen)
I don’t intend to recommend the Edge and Forge books each month, as that would be boring. Suffice it to say that if you haven’t been keeping up with these bargain priced trades, you can get the first three of each in these packs, plus some limited edition crap thrown in for three. $30 each is sure steep, but not when you figure you’re getting three packed trades for your money – it’s a lot of money, but it’s a shitload of reading too.
SUPREME: THE STORY OF THE YEAR TP (Checker Book Publishing Group)
First problem…who the hell are Checker Book Publishing Group? Second problem…it’s $27, and that’s a lot of money. First answer…who cares? Second answer…well, the book is over 330 pages long. And it’s Alan Moore. Alan Moore. Alan Moore. Do I really need to say any more? How about it’s Superman done right? How about the imagination that goes into one issue would last a whole year of many other series? Oh just order it, already.
KRAZY & IGNATZ 1927-28: LOVE LETTERS IN ANCIENT BRICK TP (Fantagraphics)
I am under absolutely no illusions that you’ll almost certainly skip this one by, but, believe me, it would be a mistake. I ummed and ahhed over getting the first book in this series (the collection of strips from 1925 and 1926) – after all, who really wants to read a bunch of Sunday newspaper strips by some dead cartoonist, from last century? And those idiots who keep on quoting it as being one of the most influential comics ever, what the hell do they know? Well, I hate to say it, but this is fucking ace. Over 100 one-page, eight-panel strips collected, there’s no continuity except: Krazy Kat loves Ignatz Mouse, and believe that said Ignatz smiting him on the head with a brick is a declaration of love; Ignatz Mouse probably secretly love the Kat, but is an evil shit, buying and making bricks for the express purpose of smacking the Kat on the head; Officer Pup loves Krazy Kat (who is oblivious to said love) and keeps on arresting Ignatz Mouse and throwing him into jail to protect the head of his beloved. What do you mean, am I on drugs? It’s the original love triangle, in these strips you see where the likes of the Tom and Jerry, and Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons drew from for inspiration.
JUDGE DREDD: INNOCENTS ABROAD GN (Titan)
It’s that man Garth Ennis again, and whereas you might think that all of his Judge Dredd work had been collected, you’d be sadly mistaken. Emerald Isle’s Irish judge Joyce visits the Big Meg and experiences some severe culture shock – he’s a great character, usually read as if he was Ennis himself, feeling his way in the big city – plus “Babes in Arms” (be warned, this was in a collection several years ago, if you have that you may wish to skip this) and a couple of single issue shorts with a twist in the tale. Overall they show that although Ennis’s writing was rougher in his early days, he still had bags of ideas and all the fondness for sex and violence prevalent in his recent writing.
Who needs monthly comics, buy these trades instead!
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