In my latest review, I found myself remembering why I prefer to read certain series in the collected format.  While I remain an avid believer that the monthly individual issue can still be a viable vehicle for comic book art, a case can be made some stories simply work better in larger portions.

So, Faithful Spoilerites, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of “Issues Vs. TPBs”, the question of the day is this:  Are there books that simply read better in the trade?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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12 Comments

  1. Kevin Kortekaas
    April 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm — Reply

    From a durability / lending standpoint you simply cannot beat a trade. I’ve lent out my Walking Dead trades numerous times and they’ve weathered the storm far better then single issues ever would.

    You’ve also got to factor in the fact that you can get the complete story in one bundle, waiting for say, Atomic Robo in single issues would probably have killed me, as it’s that awesome.

    With that being said, single issues to have a place, take my son’s collection of DC Super Friends, or Tiny Titans, sure they’re beat all to rat poop, but he loves ’em, he definitely wouldn’t be getting the “experience” if I just plopped a trade in his lap.

  2. April 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm — Reply

    I think a lot of it depends on the story. A series of one-shot or episodic stories can be read as a single issue comic book, but if its something with a lot of narrative building, you’re going to want to have the trade just so you can refer back to the earlier issues in the story. That said, I still get a lot of enjoyment out of single issues which encapsulate my favorite parts of a particular story or character.

  3. Mark
    April 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm — Reply

    When I started reading Irredeemable, it was with the trades. It was nice to be able to read through the story without having to take a month-long break.

  4. Christina
    April 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm — Reply

    I say yes and no. Most of the Final Crisis stories were incomprehensible no matter what format the story was in. Many Legion stories are better in trades because you don’t get the stories in chunks over months or years. That said, it is always fun waiting for monthly issues. Trades are easier for lending and gifts, which is excellent for fans.

  5. Xian
    April 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm — Reply

    When things are written for the trade or with the trade in mind, they tend to be better… but you can also lose stuff in the trade. Credit / splash pages which might disturb the flow of the book can be edited out (Clark lifting a tractor as child, for example, in the trade for Birthright) along with the, often creative / hilarious, one-page summaries in the front of Marvel books. Depending on the size of the volume, you might lose a lot of art in the seam for splash pages or borders, unless you’re willing to crack that spine. Also, issues written with a mastery of the episodic monthly format may have a bit too much review of the past issue or cliffhanger fodder at the end… making the trade-reading experience a halting stop-start experience.

    All that said, despite the monthly periodical being the commercial unit in which we are being sold the product… the general creative unit we’re trying to acquire is the story arc, which is multi-issue, and generally both a better value and read in trade since it was the creative and consumptive goal in the first place.

  6. April 1, 2012 at 6:39 pm — Reply

    For my money, you almost HAVE to read Sandman in a collection….

    Y The Last Man is another that I really like in TPB, as well as Transmetropolitan (which, I have to admit, was pretty infuriating to try and read a month at a time.)

  7. Scott
    April 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm — Reply

    There are a few comics I’ve read as issues which probably would be better in trade simply because it’s really hard to keep track of the plots with 4 or 5 week gaps in between.

  8. Antonio Sanciolo
    April 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm — Reply

    The more cerebral stuff like The Invisibles works well in a trade, as does anything else that has multiple storylines or settings/timelines. It’s just easier to flip back a few pages when you go “wuh?” than dig back through the floppies.

  9. Oldcomicfan
    April 1, 2012 at 7:46 pm — Reply

    I think it depends entirely on the story. Groo the Wanderer reads best as a monthly series rather than collected in large volumes. Usagi Yojimbo, on the other hand, reads much better as a trade. It also depends on how available it is. I bought Ah My Goddess as a monthly series until they went to trade only published at random intervals, and I could then no longer keep track of what I had already bought and what I hadn’t and quit buying the thing. My most frustrating experience with monthly comics was with Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. It took four or five years for the whole epic to be published – and the schedule was completely elastic, sometimes monthly, sometimes quarterly, sometimes every other month, with one gap of over six months at one point, and a gap of over a year and a half at another. I have no doubt they lost most of the readership for that title during the long hiatus, though I liked the story enough that I put up with it. When it came to Watchman and Cerebus, however, I didn’t care for the series enough to pick it up again after long breaks in the schedule. That said, it’s a lot easier to grab a trade to reread a favorite series than it is to pull a lot of single issues out of a long box. Before Borders went under, I bought a lot of trades because it is 150 miles round trip to the nearest comic book store. Also, I think I have seen an improvement in comic book story telling since “writing for the trade” became common. Before, comic books often swung between single issue throw-aways with no continuity, and multi-book epics, not to mention cross-overs ad nauseum. Now, the writers seem to be producing story arcs that have a beginning, a middle and an end (to the arc). This, in my opinion, has led to tighter stories with fewer instances of “Oh, we haven’t seen Blue Beetle for thirty years now, let’s throw him into the middle of this story for no apparent reason” or “Jack Kirby has sobered up so let’s throw his New Gods into the middle of this Catwoman story for no apparent reason” and so on.

  10. April 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm — Reply

    I’m a critic and the creator of a web series where I review comics. And just from a practical standpoint, it’s infinitely easier to scan a single issue for use in a video review than it is to break the spine of a trade paperback. And God help me if I need to use a hardback. Single issues bend, so it’s relatively easy to get the image.

    On the other hand, trades are so much better for collecting completed stories. For one thing, not everyone keeps a completed set of a story in individual issues, so if I buy them used it’s almost assured I’ll find it incomplete. Trades, by contrast, keep everything together and in the order they’re meant to be read. Which can be a further godsend in the event a storyline is broken up over multiple issues in several different ongoing series, like that Reign of Doomsday thing a while back. At least in trades, if I ever wanted to read the full Reign of Doomsday (though I have no interest in doing so), I don’t have to mess with all the different issues that might be in vastly separate series.

  11. tidge
    April 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm — Reply

    The *only* time I prefer reading comics in the periodic/floppy format is when there is some other content that does not get reprinted in the trade. For example, as solid as it is to read Cerebus in the phonebook collections, there was something awesome about the extra material in the individual Cerebus issues (even after Sim went wacky in the wickey-woo).

    The death of letter columns, combined with the “big two” cramming junk I don’t want to pay for (like 8-page previews) has really hurt my interest in buying floppies from them. The last great letter columns that I remember were from the late 1980s. The most recent book that *tries* to do an awesome lettercol is in Powers, but that work is way too much hype and tries too hard to be little more than snark.

    One of the greatest lettercols of the past was Zot!…it was probably the fan-invited material that made it so memorable.

  12. April 3, 2012 at 2:56 am — Reply

    Here on the far side of the world the only way (really) to get comics is in trades. I get my books via Amazon or a friend who has a comicbook store – in a naboring contry mind you.
    Getting the single issues send here would be complete nonsence.

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