Welcome back to Jack of All Trades. I trust the festive season brought Bleeding Cool's tradewaiters its traditional mix of good food and violent stomach cramp.
Personally, I had quite a task to pull off, as I had invited my family over on Christmas day and promised to cook them a full Christmas dinner with all the trimmings.
Then, for arbitrary reasons known only to me, I decided I wasn't going to cook sprouts.
"But it's Christmas!", they said. "Without sprouts it won't be a proper Christmas dinner!", they said. "They might not be the turkey, or the potatoes, or the little sausages with bacon wrapped round them–they might not be the central part of a Christmas dinner, but it won't be a full Christmas dinner without them!", they said.
Nonetheless, I refused to cook sprouts for them. If they really wanted sprouts–if sprouts were really that important to them, and it wouldn't feel like a full Christmas dinner without them–then they could go out and find their own sprouts, I said. They could cook them themselves, I said, and add them to the side of their plates.
Now, before I wasted any more of your time on this tangent, I'll confess that none of this actually happened. But it demonstrates the approach that DC Comics seems to have adopted in putting together their recently announced Infinite Crisis omibus–and to a lesser extent, their recently-announced Absolute edition of the Green Lantern Sinestro Corps War story, too.
Let's take Infinite Crisis first. In case it escaped your attention, DC recently revealed that they would be releasing a gigantic omnibus collecting not only the Infinite Crisis miniseries itself, but also the "Countdown" lead-in issue and the four subsequent "Countdown to Infinite Crisis" miniseries, as well as all four of their respective tie-in specials. You can find all the details at the link.
However, where things get a little more interesting is that the book also includes Wonder Woman #219, which is only the fourth part of a story called "Sacrifice"–which also involved Superman, as well as a certain plot point which became incredibly important to the plot of Infinite Crisis and to the DCU in general.
By not collecting the "Sacrifice" story in full, DC have arguably left the omnibus incomplete, despite purporting to cover the event in its entirety–which has left a certain sector of fandom pretty irritated indeed, given that they feel that any full Infinite Crisis collection should include "Sacrifice", rather than forcing them to track down (or hold onto) the original issues alongside the big fancy hardcover.
Yes, "Sacrifice" is the sprouts on a Christmas dinner: even though a lot of people might not like sprouts in their own right, and might not ordinarily even want to eat sprouts, they're going to be pretty pissed off if you try and pass off a full Christmas dinner without them.
And it's not just "Sacrifice" that has been cited as an omission from the Infinite Crisis Omnibus. You might just as well argue that the"Crisis of Conscience" storyline from JLA–which culminates in a cliffhanger that leads directly into Infinite Crisis #1–should be included if the omnibus is to be truly comprehensive.
But it's here that we start getting into tricky territory. Because "Crisis of Conscience" was not only a storyline that led into Infinite Crisis, but also an arc that led out of DC's previous crossover miniseries, Identity Crisis. So should that miniseries be included, too, if the book is to be truly comprehensive? And if so, what about all of the tie-ins for that series, too?
Clearly, when you're trying to put together a comprehensive collection of a storyline that takes place in a shared superhero continuity, there has to be a cut-off point somewhere–otherwise you might just as well say that the story isn't truly 'complete' unless it includes all of the origin stories of all the heroes involved, as well as every adventure they've had up to that point.
And to their credit, I think DC have made a pretty solid choice in including the relevant issue of Wonder Woman without bogging down the omnibus with the entire "Sacrifice" storyline. In fact, I think their model is one that's to be applauded: although it'll be interesting to see whether it's a success, and whether we start seeing similar collections from Marvel (although to collect some of their crossovers and their tie-ins in a comprehensive omnibus would probably necessitate a set of volumes on a par with the Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Nevertheless, if you're asking readers to shell out $150 for a book like the Infinite Crisis Omnibus, there are bound to be some complaints if the package is perceived as not being up to snuff. And the same goes for the forthcoming Absolute Sinestro Corps volume, which has apparently chosen to collect some–but not all–of the standalone character-focused one-shot tie-in issues alongside the main series, despite purporting to be the ultimate version of the storyline.
Ultimately, in cases like this, it's up to the reader to decide what they feel is "essential", and whether they feel that they're getting value for money from these omnibus collections.
Although to play devil's advocate one final time, it's worth pointing out that you can already get the separate TPBs collecting everything that's in the Infinite Crisis Omnibus for far less than DC are asking for the big hardcover edition…
OK, for anyone still with me, let's get onto this week's new releases.
The Steve Ditko Omnibus, volume 2 HC: Another nice archive collection for everyone's favourite Objectivist recluse. This volume collects Ditko work from Showcase, The Hawk and the Dove, Detective Comics, Adventure Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes, Outsiders, Legends of the DC Universe, and Tales of the New Gods. That's quite a Smörgåsbord for fans of old-school DC, and I'm sure that those who have a love for Ditko's work in particular won't be able to pass up another of the company's smart hardcover collections of their older output.
Invincible, volume 15 TPB: Get Smart: The latest instalment of Robert Kirkman's superhero series from Image serves to remind us all of its longevity, if nothing else. Hardly the place to start reading the book, I'll wager, but a welcome treat on the shipping list that should keep longtime fans happy.
Spider-Man: Spider-Island TPB: Anecdotal evidence is always a tricky thing to gauge, but from what I understand from conversations I've had with friends who are still reading Amazing Spider-Man, "Spider-Island" was one of the better Spidey stories of recent years. Marvel again prove that their trade programme is streets ahead of the Distinguished Competition by getting this collection onto stands pretty soon after the story was published in floppies, giving hardcore fans what they want more quickly and allowing casual readers to jump on board in a far more timely fashion than DC's collections.
X-Men by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee Omnibus, volume 2 HC: It seems like just a few months ago that the first volume of this omnibus collection came out, but Marvel have been pretty swift in making sure that fans of Claremont and Lee have got something to spend their Christmas money on by rushing out the second. This volume covers the second half of Claremont and Lee's well-loved run, including the start of the X-Men run that (for better or worse) became synonymous with the excesses of the 1990s.
Young Marvelman classic, volume 2 HC: I haven't checked out any of these "Marvelman classic" volumes yet–because frankly, I'm waiting for the really good stuff just like everybody else. It's been some time now since Marvel proudly announced that they'd bought the rights to Marvelman, and there's still no sign of new collections of the Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman runs–and books like this one only draw attention to that fact. Make it happen, Marvel.
Drawing American Pop Culture: Jack Davis, A Retrospective
A slight change of pace this week, as one of the books that came my way over Christmas was this retrospective collection of the work of Jack Davis, an old-fashioned illustrator in the classic mould whose work appeared in MAD Magazine as well as on countless movie posters and magazine covers.
This huge-format hardcover from Fantagraphics collects a wide range of his work spanning his long career, with many full-page reproductions of much of his most well-known images. For fans of the artist, it's a great treasury of his output.
However, for more casual readers, or those who are not so intimately familiar with Davis' career, it might prove to be a frustrating read. Despite featuring a written introduction and some closing tributes to Davis and his work, there's little in the way of prose commentary here, with the book offering only a small amount of insight into the man and the impact that his illustrations might have made.
Also–and even more unforgivably–most of the work is presented here without footnotes or captions that might explain their significance or even their place in the chronology of his work–and there isn't even a contents page or index to help organise the collection. It's also fair to say that the quality of reproduction varies considerably between images, meaning that it's impossible to say whether your own personal favourite illustration (if you have one) will be presented in a manner befitting a big, expensive collection like this one.
I don't want to sound too down on this book, because it's always nice to see these historical collections done well–but it's also undeniably irritating when it's obvious that a little more care and attention could have resulted in a vastly superior volume.
BleedingCool's Most Received–Christmas Special:
For one week only, I'm going to end the column not by listing nominations of much-demanded but as-yet-uncollected runs, but by asking what BleedingCool's tradewaiters found in their stockings over the festive period. Be sure to list your hauls below, and let me know what you liked and what you didn't, and I'll try and look out for some of them for inclusion in a future column.
And keep those suggestions coming for untraded runs that you'd like to see collected!
To Be Continued…