Review a pile of trade paperbacks? Sure, why not!

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I don’t read current comic books anymore. It’s not that I stopped enjoying them, it’s that they got too expensive (but let’s be honest, the constant parade of “events” and new #1 issues is extremely annoying). $2.99 was expensive enough for one comic, the current going rate of $3.99 is ridiculous. For the few minutes it takes me to read a comic book, I don’t think it’s worth $4. I can get an entire two hours of entertainment by spending $3.99 over at RiffTrax on one of their MP3 movie commentaries.

That said, I still own a lot of my single issues of comics. I’ve tried to cut back on the trade paperbacks/graphic novels though.Some I’ve thrown away, some I plan on donating. They’re heavy and they take up space. Still, I have a small collection of trade paperbacks that I don’t plan on getting rid of anytime soon because they hold a special place in my heart.

I randomly pulled six from my bookshelf and now I’ll talk about them…

- The Man of Steel
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: The Man of Steel #1-6

No, it’s not the comic book adaptation of the movie. This TPB collects writer/artist John Byrne’s 1986 mini-series that served as a re-introduction of Superman and his origin following 1985′s DC Universe-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths. I’ve always felt Byrne has been overrated as a creator. His run as the artist on Uncanny X-Men back in the early 1980s is great but I think by the mid-80s his artwork was becoming a bit more rough. Certainly by the mid-90s when he was drawing Wonder Woman I think his work devolved to the point where it seemed like he was sketching his way through the panels.

While this series set the blueprint for the “modern” Superman throughout the 1980s & 1990s, it’s been rendered irrelevant for quite some time. I think DC released two more mini-series sometime in the 2000s that again tweaked the Superman mytos for a modern audience. Then, of course, we have the New 52 era of DC Comics where there’s yet another adjusted portrayal of Superman.

Even when this book was entirely in-continuity, I felt it was a bit disappointing. Can’t really put my finger on it.

- The Death of Superman
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: Superman: The Man of Steel #17-19, Superman #73-75, Adventures of Superman #496 & 497, Action Comics #683 & 684, Justice League of America #69

“The Death of Superman” was a major event for me as a kid. While I had bought many comics before this story-line ran in 1992, I was more or less a casual comic book reader, picking up various superhero and oddball stuff like Roger Rabbit, WWF and Super Mario comics whenever I could. But, with this event, I would say that’s when I got serious about comics. For better or for worse, I wasn’t just a reader anymore. I was a collector. I still have the single issue (in the black poly bag!) of Superman #75 where Superman bites the dust.

And I’ve read this particular trade so many times of the year. It was only $4.95! Can you believe that? A trade paperback this size today would probably go for $12.95 at least these days.

This isn’t a cerebral story. Doomsday shows up and mindlessly destroys stuff, he and Superman punch each other to death. But, it did tell the story of self-sacrifice. One of my favorite issues in this collection is when Doomsday battles and completely obliterates the JLA. Even though they got their heads handed to them, it helped cement me as a fan of the Justice League.

- World Without a Superman
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: Adventures of Superman #498-500, Action Comics #685 & 686, Superman: The Legacy of Superman #1 – stories 1 & 4, Superman: The Man of Steel #20 & 21, Superman #76 & 77

After being shown the death of Superman, DC Comics then showed us how the world attempted to cope without him. This was another trade that I’ve read and re-read so many times. Who knew that the Superman books could be so interesting without Superman?

The books collected here deal with the fallout of Superman’s death and how friends, families, Metropolis and the world at large deal with losing him. It’s a good effort that tries to add some emotional weight after the non-stop slug-fest seen in The Death of Superman.

- Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men, Volume 1 - Barnes & Noble Edition
2003, Marvel Comics
Issues collected: X-Men #94-100, Giant-Size X-Men #1

The Marvel Masterworks series is pretty cool in that if collects runs of a book in full-color glossy pages. The downside is you only get a few issues, whereas if you bought a Marvel Essential TPB, you’d get a phone book work of comics but on B&W newspaper-quality paper.

I picked this book along with two Spider-Man Masterworks at a B.Dalton Bookstore many years ago at a discounted price. I’ve seen thrown away the Spidey books but held onto this one because it features the beginning of the “all-new, all-different” X-Men team that featured Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. It also marks the beginning of Chris Claremont’s amazing run as writer (he’d go on to write the book for 16 years).

No matter what format you chose to read these issues, they are essential for any fan of superhero comics. This is when the X-Men were really put on the map and moved out of the shadows other Marvel brands like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the Avengers.

- The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
2003, DC Comics
Issues collected: The New Teen Titans #39 & 40, Tales of the Teen Titans #41-44, Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3

2005/2006 I was becoming a huge fan of the Wolfman/Perez on the New Teen Titans. This might been my first purchase from that era so the impact of the story was probably lost of me. Afterwards, I went and bought a lot of the back issues that led up to this even though. I do know that this story was a shock for readers because there had been no indication that recent Teen Titan addition Terra was secretly working with Deathstroke to destroy the Titans.

Good story and I’d probably enjoy it more if I went to my back issues and read the series in order.

- Identity Crisis
2005, DC Comics
Issues collected: Identity Crisis #1-7

After being out of comics for a number of years, this was the mini-series that brought me back into them. It was quite jarring to see a scene where Doctor Light (always a goofball B-level villain) rapes Elongated Man’s wife. It spun off the DC Universe into a dark direction for a few years and also served as the impetus for other big events such as Infinite Crisis, 52 and One Year Later.

It’s a good story with some great art by Rag Morales, but overall, while it brought some much-need excitement and unpredictability to the DC Universe, it also gave it a darker tone (something that has always been Marvel’s thing) that I didn’t really care for.

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