Comics Worth Collecting
By Bert Ehrmann
March 19, 2010
I've been collecting comic books in one form or another for as far back as I can remember. The early ones I recall having were a few issues of Spider-Man and Batman along with a oddities like Mad Magazine and the Star Trek comic from Gold Key all tucked away in a box in our toy closet. And though the height of my comic collecting craze (the three c's) was probably from 1992 to around 1999, to this day I still buy comics. The one major difference between then and now is that while I used to visit the comic shop each week looking for new issues of my favorite titles, now I tend to buy collected editions of comic titles
What's great about buying the collected editions is that for the most part, you're buying a complete story rather than single chapters of the narrative that need to be bought each month to keep up with the story. Here are some collected comics I've liked and or am looking forward to the next few months.
I've been buying Classic G.I. Joe ever since last winter when I realized that IDW Publishing was releasing the Marvel edition of the comic in collected form. Each issue contains content from ten issues of the comic and as of this date they've released seven volumes of material. And though some of the early issues of G.I. Joe are a little dicey in terms of story and art, some of the later ones are actually quite interesting.
Writer Garth Ennis has been telling some amazing stories set during WW2 with his Battlefields title. Stories from the series have been as varied as nurses caught behind the lines in the Pacific side of the war to the crew of a lost British tank trying to find their unit during the days after D-Day. But the one Battlefields story that stands out among the rest is the one titled "The Night Witches" about Soviet female pilots tasked with harassing the German army from the air in their push through the Russian homeland. In this story, the only thing more dangerous than a battle-hardened German soldier is an equally battle-hardened female Soviet pilot.
Ennis also wrote another series titled War Story a few years back that also focused on WW2. Though collected editions of Battlefields are relatively easy to find, War Story can be a bit more difficult to find but is well worth the effort.
Just as compelling as Battlefields is the seminal 1980s series The 'Nam, the first ten issues of which have recently been released in collected form. Set during the Vietnam War, The 'Nam tells the biography of Ed Marks, a soldier who's new to the country and must learn the ropes of military life as quickly as possible in order to stay alive. Never straying from hard-hitting realism, be corrupt officers or it the death of major characters in the book, The 'Nam is as good today as it was when it was initially released 24 years ago.
If you liked 'The Nam, checkout The Other Side that also focused on the Vietnam War only though the eyes of both an American soldier and Vietnamese one.
Marvel joined up with author Stephen King in adapting his Dark Tower series of books in comic form a few years ago, but I really didn't get interested in this collaboration until Marvel began adapting King's epic The Stand to comics back in 2008. Where the comic version of The Stand is superior to the made for TV version is that while the TV version was hobbled with all sorts of limitations including things like budget and scope, the comic version has a budget and scope only limited to the comic artist imagination and talents. So far two volumes of the collected The Stand have been released; "Captain Trips" and "American Nightmares" with more on the way.
I've been interested in another Garth Ennis title, this one a post-apocalyptic thriller titled Crossed ever since the first issue was released a few years back. Crossed follows a few survivors of a worldwide plague that has demolished civilization. The main mark of the plague is a weird cross shaped scab across face of those who are afflicted. Whoever has the cross has been turned homicidailly insane, to the point where they wish nothing more that to kill the unaffiliated in terrible ways. The main difference between Crossed and the modern zombie story is that those afflicted with the cross are not shambling zombie dumb, they still possess most of their intellect. It's just that whatever the thing is in our brains that tells us to do good has been turned off in the infected allowing them to do horrible things. A collected edition of Crossed is due out this April.
I've been interested in the the first true modern graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel for many years but haven't ever seemed to get around to actually reading it. After its release back in the early 1980s, The Death of Captain Marvel spawned a short craze where it was assumed that mature stories were being told in larger-sized graphic novels while the cheaper comics were relegated to kiddie stories. Fortunately this craze was short lived and though today not too many true graphic novels are produced, collected editions of comics have become known as the more scholarly "graphic novel," a modern re-release of The Death of Captain Marvel is set to hit store shelves May 5.
I've been considering diving into the entire epic Japanese comic story Akira for a while now, but the one thing that's kept me away from it is that Akira spans several volumes of material consisting of something like 2,000+ pages of comic. But it looks like now might be the right time to try working my way through Akira as publisher Kodansha Comics started re-releasing fat 350+ page collected editions of the comic last fall.