The year is almost up and with school out I have a chance to catch up on some of my reading of free comic book trades from my local library. Trades are great. If you want to read every issue of a series like Action Comics or Wonder Woman, you can pick up each trade one at a time and read to your heart’s content. Many of the volumes may be available at your local library and you can even read a whole lot of comics for free in a short period of time.
I have two big difficulties with these collections however that can make reading them a bit of a hassle. They are 1) the way that they are titled/numbered and 2) the specific way that crossover stories are collected.
Let’s take the first one. Trades are generally titled with the name of the series that the stories came from like Action Comics or Avengers and then a volume number and possibly a story title. An example is the volume shown here, Superman Volume 5: Under Fire. Seems that if you want to read the volumes before this and after it that it shouldn’t be a big deal. The problem is that if you look the volume up at my library, the book is listed as simply Under Fire. Without combing through the details, it is very difficult to see how the volumes are ordered. And even if the volume number is listed you can still be confused.
Marvel has done a ton of renumbering their comics. Every three years or so (sometimes more frequently) they will start the numbering of their issues over at 1 (This has been done so many times with Avengers that I’ve lost count). When these comics then get collected, they start the collected editions over at Volume 1 as well. That means that if you search for Avengers Volume 1 you will get multiple volumes and your only real recourse is then to start looking that the publishing dates. And that doesn’t even include whether you are talking about Avengers, Secret Avengers, New Avengers, Dark Avengers, Young Avengers, or even All New-All-Different Avengers. Seriously.
The second situation deals with the fact that comic book companies like to runs story lines across multiple titles. If they run a story across Batman, Batgirl, Batwoman, and Robin then the readers of each title will tend to buy each of the others. But how do you then collect those stories? Do you include the issues in the volume of each title individually or pull them out to make a separate volume or do you do both? If you are checking the books out from the library it isn’t as big of a deal but if you are buying them then you may have to buy a bunch of issues you don’t want to get the full story or you may have to buy volumes with the same issue in each when you only want it once. As an example let’s look at the storyline He’l on Earth from DC Comics.
He’l on Earth dealt with a new character from Krypton, He’l, that wanted to bring Krypton back at the expense of the Earth. The storyline ran through issues of Superman, Superboy and Supergirl. DC Comics has collected all of the issues of this storyline in one volume but if your library doesn’t have it you would need to read the individual issues from each of the collected volumes of each individual title. The story in total goes through each of the following issues. I’ve also included the collected volume for each story.
- Superman #13 (Superman Volume 3: Fury at World’s End)
- Superboy #14 (Superboy Volume 3: Lost)
- Supergirl #14 (Supergirl Volume 3: Sanctuary)
- Superman #14 (Superman Volume 3: Fury at World’s End)
- Superboy #15 (Superboy Volume 3: Lost)
- Supergirl #15 (Supergirl Volume 3: Sanctuary)
- Superman #15 (Superman Volume 3: Fury at World’s End)
- Superboy #16 (Superboy Volume 3: Lost)
- Supergirl #16 (Supergirl Volume 3: Sanctuary)
- Superboy Annual #1 (Superboy Volume 3: Lost)
- Superman #16 (Superman Volume 3: Fury at World’s End)
- Superboy #17 (Superboy Volume 3: Lost)
- Supergirl #17 (Supergirl Volume 3: Sanctuary)
- Superman #17 (Superman Volume 3: Fury at World’s End)
This means that to read the entire story you have to flip between the various volumes after each issue. Not only that but the volume don’t tell you where to look so that when you finish with Superman issue #13, there isn’t anything to tell you that the next story that you should read is Superboy issue #14. In fact, if you were just reading Superman Volume 3, you would have no clue what other volumes you need to read to get the full story or even what issues to read. Your story just jumps around with no explanation.
One way to deal with this is with the help of online wikis like the one from DC comics. Here is the entry for the He’l on Earth storyline. That one looks pretty simple however when you compare it to the map for Superman: Doomed. The Doomed story takes place across 21 issues and 6 different titles. Two of the issues are only collected in the Doomed volume which is not available (yet) at my library so I can only get some of the story at this time without shelling out some dough. It is the price I pay for not paying a price. No regrets.
Good reading to all of you in 2016!