I Am John's Stomach Pains.

On The Precipice of Mediocrity, Teetering

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Holz's 10 Favorite Trade Paperbacks  

For those of you who don't really know what a trade paperback is, it's a large book form collection of multiple comics collected together in one package. This is usually a collection of a single story, but can sometimes be a collection of specific issues to bring in new readers. Vertigo recently released a cheap, five-dollar trade showcasing some of their best titles' first issues.

Now, I own over 100 trade paperbacks. That's alot of stories, so you can imagine how hard it was for me to widdle down the ten best in my collection, and the ones I recommend everyone pick up. First some clarifications, though. While there are huge arcs I love, such as The Infinity Gauntlet or Batman: Hush, I think they just play better in single issue readings. These books are the best to sit down and read straight through. Second, I'm only focusing on arc-trades, so while I think Brian Michael Bendis' Total Sell-Out trade is pure genius, it's a collection of shorts, and is best for coffeee table reading material (which is where mine can usually be found when it's not in Lushy's possession). Third and final, to any diehard fans: no, Sandman is not on this list, and don't try and convince me otherwise. I've read 'em all, and the chances of me every readin' them again are nearly zero. You can go on and on about how "it's the only book that my girlfriend will read!" and how "high-class" it is. I don't care, to me, it's boring and pretentious. Sorry guys.

Anyway, onto the list, with the occasional additional recommendation.

10) Preacher, Vol 2: Until The End of the World - This was a hard choice, because I loved all 8 volumes of this book. Now, while Vol 1 is a must read before this, it's the second volume which chronicles Jesse Custer's origin that truly got me hooked. Dillon and Ennis are a crack team, and their story of a preacher with the power of The Voice hunting down God on earth, alongside his hot ex-hitwoman girlfriend and Irish vampire best friend, is a must read. A pricey investment, you're looking at spending more than a $100, but it's well worth it, if only for The Saint of Killers, probably the most unstoppable villain of all-time.

9) Transmetropolitan, Vol 3: Year of the Bastard - Again, it was hard to select a single trade. I almost went with the first, simply because it's the perfect example of what the entire run is like. Pure, vitriolic, unadulterated rantings and ravings on the state of media, politics, and general apathy of humanity. Darrick Robertson's art has so many hidden gems in a single frame, that even after multiple readings, you'll still be surprised. Now, the reason I chose this one is probably because it's the most heavily politically driven, chronicling the run for the presidency between The Bastard and The Smiler, which sets up nearly every other plot down the line. Spider Jerusalem is what every political blogger yearns to be.

8) The Sentry - With the current popularity of New Avengers, this trade is even more a must-read for superhero comic fans. A stand-alone story detailing the return of a long-forgotten, all-powerful hero to the Marvel Universe, this is a great showcase of how interconnected said universe is, as well as how fragile. Under the pen of Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee, a simple story of a superhero who becomes addicted to his powers grows into the ultimate conspiracy, an interweaving of a possible universe where everything good can balance on the tip of a precarious needle. Easily one of the strongest Marvel stories form the past decade. Also, if you enjoy the team, I recommend picking up their Inhumans trade as well, it's a great look at humanity form The Other point of view.

7) Invincible, Vol 3: Perfect Strangers - I admit, I got into this book late... I was beginning to get disillusioned with superhero books a while ago, and when I thought of great books, Image never sprung to mind. Boy, have I been proved wrong. Along with The Walking Dead (also a great trade), Robert Kirkman is publishing some of the best stories on the shelves today, and they work just superbly in trade form. This volume gives us the "everything you know is wrong" plot twist that cemented it's best-superhero-book-you're-not-reading status. You need to start at the beginning, obviously, but the genius of this book is that while every issue/chapter is a perfect stand-alone story, taken together, an entirely different experience emerges. Read it one day at a time, then re-read it all over again in a single sitting... you won't be disappointed.

6) 100 Bullets, Vol. 4: A Foregone Tomorrow - The Fourth Rail recently said that if you haven't read this book yet, don't even bother picking up any issues midstream. While other books thrive on stand-alone issues, every issue off 100 Bullets is interconnected, every motive, every backstab, every background character. This is easily disetined to go down as one of the greatest series of all time. Now, I've selected A Foregone Tomorrow because it's the first real exposure to the series' main antagonist's, The Trust, a group of families who basically run America. This book has what many call street-talk, true-to-life inflections, varying body types, and plausible motives and actions. Now, Azzarello may not be very skilled when it comes to heroes (his Batman and Superman runs leave something to be desired), but when it comes to flat-out comic noir, the man is a master.

5) Powers, Vol 7: Forever - Yes, I'm a Bendis-whore. I like my comics violent, funny, and with enough word balloons to cover half of every page. I like art panels that stretch the readers grip on flow. I like huge full page spreads that showcase a body ripped asunder, as well as the next-morning-results of a superhero threesome. Now, it's hard to pick my favorite trade, as I've read each one at least 5 times each. And selecting Forever, which is the final trade of Image's run of the book before the Marvel reboot, is possibly problematic because it focuses on the history of the Powers, and not the police-procedural theme of the rest of the trades. Still, this one has the issue that centers completely around monkeys fucking, so that's enough incentive to buy it.

4) X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga - This is considered the defininative X-Men book for a reason. Long before the line got bogged down with hundreds of characters, and multiple resurrections, the X-Men was a team, a family, that fought and loved eachother, and never had it been showcased better than right here. With the introduction of Kitty Pryde, to Wolverine taking on the Hellfire Club single-handedly, to the genocide of 5 billion people at the hands of one of the original five, and finally to the ultimate act of sacrifice, this is Claremont and Byrne at their best.

3) Spider-Man, Fearful Symmetry: Kraven's Last Hunt - It always amazes me that this arc isn't discussed more, because along with the my top two, I think it helped reinvigorate a dying industry. This trade (which I have in hardcover, which somehow makes it that much better) details Kraven the Hunter "killing" Spider-Man, and setting at to prove him superior in every way. Probably the darkest Spider-Man story ever published, any story that can make Kraven look like one of Spider-Man's worst rouges, as well as bring sympathy to a crap character like Vermin deserves rich praise. But it's the gorgeous art from Mark Zeck, along with the dark coloring that produces an intense sense of sorrow, and eventual triumph, for the reader. Never will you think of "two weeks" again and not get a chill. From the same time period, I'd also recommend The Death of Jean DeWolf, a highly under-rated arc.

2) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns / Year One / The Long Halloween - While I originally only included DK here, after just reading the new Year One trade, which in turn has piqued my interested into reading Long Halloween again, this trio of books is a must have on the shelves of everyone. Running the gamut from Bruce Wayne's first outings, to Batman's eventual defeat(?) at the hands of Superman, Frank Miller provides the perfect bookends to the life of the dark knight (we'll ignore DK Strikes Back), and is benefited by the next generation carrying the torch with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's excellent Long Halloween mystery. It's books like these (Dark Victory, too!) that highlight just why Batman is the all-time greatest superhero in comic books, hands down.

1) Watchmen - What else is there to say? When the final nail is pounded into the comic book medium (sometime around 2075, when paper will become as precious as gold), it's Watchmen that will be the mentioned first at the eulogy. In the 80's, the death bells could be heard quite clearly, and for the superhero genre to survive, it first needed to be torn apart. Enter Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, who in 12 jam-packed issues produced not only the greatest comic book story of all time, but easily one of the best stories in general. Watchmen is the Beatles, the Shakespeare, the Citizen Kane of the graphic novel medium. It showed the best of what it could be, what it could do, and in the process, challenging an entire generation to acknowledge comics had grown up... this is a must read for anyone who's ever read a comic book... as well as for anyone who's shunned it as "kid's stuff".

posted by Holz | 2:30 PM | Rant & Rave, Bitches! (9)


I gotta check out the Sin City paperbacks, I've always wanted to. The movie was awesome, I'm surprised you haven't had any comments about it


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4/27/2005 7:20 PM  

Thanks for this run down. I haven't read much in the way of comics for years and years and years. And it's good to see a list of what the real "must reads" are, that are available as trades.

My original Death of JeanDeWolf issues, I recently got signed by Peter David. And my original Kravens Last Hunt sit in a box in an attic in one of my homes.

But Watchmen and Preacher (and yeah, Sandman) haven't left my side.

I will check out the other recommedations anon.

By Blogger Manchild, at 4/28/2005 4:08 AM  

This all just goes to show that although we both like ice cream, you're definitely a strawberry man while I'm a chocolate man. Not that you're into the fruity ones or that I've got jungle fever, but we definitely have different tastes. Maybe it's the fact that I'm what's known as a Marvel Zombie. I don't know. And as a principle, I steer clear of anything involving the Phoenix. I read Hush as a TPB and I have to say that ti was one of the best stories I've ever read so although it got an honorable mention from you, it'd be on my list. Age of Apocalypse would definitely be on my list as well even though it hasn't been published in TPB yet(coming soon and in 2 volumes like Hush). AoA was just amazing no matter how you slice it. I do agree with you about Batman: Return of the Dark knight. That was an awesome read even though the art was horrid. Batman: The Killing Joke would have gotten an honorable mention from me ever though it isn't top ten, and one of the Winnick Exiles arcs would most likely be in my top ten. Mutant Massacre would probably be high on my list as well. I also like Spiderman:Torment by McFarlane, but I don't know where it'd place. Wolverine TPB by Miller & Claremont was great too. Although I haven't read it yet, Daredevil:Man Without Fear TPB is on my list to get around to. Have you read it yet?

By Blogger Stan, at 4/28/2005 5:16 AM  

Oh and I forgot to say thanks for the reviews. It was very interesting and I might just try and track down some of those just to see what all the hub-bub is about.

By Blogger Stan, at 4/28/2005 5:17 AM  

I gotta check out the Sin City paperbacks, I've always wanted to. The movie was awesome, I'm surprised you haven't had any comments about it

I have the first one... god read, but nto exactly my cup o' tea. The movie,however, was f'n amazing! I actually thought I did get a quick review up, but apparently I was dreaming. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on my work-board, only because IMHO, there wasn't *enough* violence.

And as a principle, I steer clear of anything involving the Phoenix.

Dude, you are missing out, as an X-Men fan, to not read the DP Saga is just sacrilige. And if you shun Phoonix books, I take it you're not picking up Phoenix: Endsong... you are missing out, the book is far better than it has any right to be.

Age of Apocalypse would definitely be on my list

I LOVED AoA, and can't wait for the collected trades to be released, if only because I'll finally be able to read the Blink miniseries that was the precursor to Exiles. But, this was a Trade list, not a favorite stories list. Hell, I'm even a huge fan of Onslaught and Operation: Zero Tolerance.

Batman: The Killing Joke would have gotten an honorable mention from me ever though it isn't top ten

Again, that's a book that would make my top ten favorite stories, but since it was a trestige one-shot, it didn't make the list.

Although I haven't read it yet, Daredevil:Man Without Fear TPB

Great arc, and a pretty good trade. Personally, though, I prefer Kevin Smith's Guardian Devil trade.

BTW, knowing your taste in comic, if I could point you to one on that list, it would be Invincible. Don't be turned off by the minimalistic art, the book is the best superhero book on the shelves... no continuity-knowledge required.

By Blogger Holz, at 4/28/2005 11:09 AM  

Ugh. Ignore all spelling errors.

By Blogger Holz, at 4/28/2005 11:11 AM  

I have and have read the Dark Phoenix Saga and although ti was good, by the time i read it, I was already soured to the concept of Phoenix. It's just too played out. No, I'm not getting the Phoenix: Endson. I won't go withing ten feet of it.

I consider one shots that are equivalent to at least 3 issues in size to be TPB's. That's where I got Killing Joke from.

I included AoA since it is being released on TPB in coming months. Otherwise, I'd have overlooked it as well since it was technically a story arc, not a TPB. As far as the Blink Mini goes, I got it when it hit the shelves. It's nothing big. I wasn't overly impressed. Don't get your expectations too high. She's much better in Exiles.

By Blogger Stan, at 4/29/2005 4:15 AM  

"Third and final, to any diehard fans: no, Sandman is not on this list... I don't care, to me, it's boring and pretentious."

If you had not included Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Year One I would have totally dismissed your your taste in comics as completely incompatible with mine for this comment. For me Sandman was a watershed moment in comics on par with Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. I'm not comparing the quality of these works, just pointing out that Sandman, like Watchmen and Batman: TDKR, changed the way comics were percieved. This reminds me of the Kubrik debate on the BuffyBB back in the day. You don't like Kubrick's work, a matter of subjective taste, but you'd have difficulty denying said work had a huge influence on cinema.

"Dude, you are missing out, as an X-Men fan, to not read the DP Saga is just sacrilige."

Houston, we have Agreement! The DP saga is truly a high point. Did you ever read the X-Men/ Teen Titans crossover issue? DP teamed up with Darksied.

Some of my fave TPB:

Sin City
Books of Magic (Gaiman's original mini-series)
The Crow

By Anonymous Newworldpuck, at 5/02/2005 4:03 AM  

Hey, pucky, good to see ya', been a while!

Anyway, I realize the positive aspects Sandman brought to the genre. If I remember correctly, it's the only comic to win a... damn, is it a Saturn? I know when it won, they changed the rules right after so comics could never win again.

My problem is that is just doesn't interest me to read it. It's too much work. I think one has to be a fan of poetry to enjoy Sandman, and I've just never been able to handle poetry.

By Blogger Holz, at 5/02/2005 11:24 AM  

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Wesley and Angel, Angel: After The Fall #15

Who Am I?
Name: Holz
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Ozymandias, DrOzymandias, Darth Angelus, Darque Feonix, Trip McNeely
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"Let a man get away with fuckin' you once, you stay bent over so's he can fuck you again whenever he damn well pleases. An' if one man can do it? Another will too. An' another, an' another still. So's being fucked, that's yer life. 'Til who you were, you ain't. 'Cause all you are is an asshole."
100 Bullets #42