February 21st, 2014 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
Is the single issue comic book format dead? (This isn’t necessarily a rhetorical question; feel free to fill the comments section) Arguably not, the Big Two seem to do well every month, particularly when it comes to the variant covers, and Vaughn and Staples’ SAGA (one of the only books I buy monthly) had multiple sell-out print runs of the first issue. But is it an outdated format? Eric Stephenson, Image founder and publisher, suggested it *was* in a recent interview here).
The monthly book VS the trade-waiters. The weekly episode VS the box set. Clearly these come down to personal choice and circumstances (if you don’t have Sky or live somewhere with a comic shop in the immediate vicinity), but arguably the latter of both formats is becoming the popular draw – you can sit and binge on what you want to read/watch, while still retaining that sense of geek-like glee at the relevant episodic cliff-hanger. The pitfalls you face, though, are attempting to avoid people/the internet, who are determined to tell you how Bryan Cranston dies at the end, even though you haven’t even started yet. Fuckers.
The recent Walking Dead trade got me thinking about the above. Kirkman and co seem to have cracked the format. While still releasing a monthly book that’s still pulling in the numbers via print and digital sales, they release the no-frills trades. These collect the story in sizeable chunks, appealing not only to the die-hard comics fans, but also the mainstream ‘seen the show, reading the book’ fans, who can buy the latest trades in Waterstones. Add the warts-and-all oversized compendiums…man, if Kirkman and Adlard aren’t doing a Scrooge McDuck and diving into piles of money at the end of each day, I’ll be disappointed.
Anyway, point is, it works. But interestingly, is Kirkman structuring the story based on the trade format? The reason I ask, is that in the first issue of volume 19, nothing really happens. I think if I was reading the single issue format, I’d be a little, only a little, bit disappointed. But as a whole, the volume works; it’s slow to start and crescendos to a huge finale that is clearly setting up something massive.
The story plods along – Rick takes Michonne to see Ezekiel, Michonne doesn’t trust Ezekiel, Jesus gets into a spot of bother. And then Negan shows up. And things get really interesting, really quickly. I don’t know what it is about this character, but I just love to hate him. I know I’ve said this before, but Kirkman and Adlard have created such a perfect embodiment of pure, unadulterated evil, that you can’t help but want something horrendous to happen to him after every page turn. Needless to say, it doesn’t (it’s *March* to War, the clue’s in the title) and yet again, he gets away with taking the group’s stuff and eviscerating one of their number. (I’d be really interested to ask Kirkman how much he enjoys writing Negan as a character; I can’t imagine it’s anything less than sheer glee every time he starts typing).The ending, as mentioned, allows for some partial revenge on behalf of Rick’s pals, but this is building up for a major change – those that read the single issues will probably already be there.
Kirkman, again, crafts the perfect soap opera – great characters, emotional responses and a story that continues to grip, all represented perfectly by Adlard’s always excellent artwork. It’s always difficult to expand on this when reviewing these books, because they are just so consistently good.
I’m very interested to see where Kirkman and co take the story after this volume. Something needs to and is quite clearly going to happen – Kirkman has always had the stones to push the envelope as far as who survives and who doesn’t, but I’d almost love to see a situation where, like he’s doing with his other long running series Invincible, he takes things off into a completely new direction and does something nobody was expecting. Whatever he does in this war he’s planning, somebody’s going to croak and I kind of hope it’s not Negan. Otherwise I’ll have to go back to hating on Carl…