BLAARGH! – The Lack of Those Little Editorial Boxes they Used to Put in the Front of Books so You Knew What Order to Read Them
Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing, or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say ”BLAARGH!”
If you were reading comics in the summer of 2006, there’s a good chance you were reading a little story put out by Marvel Comics entitled Civil War. And if that’s the case, then on June 14th, you very likely bought Civil War #2, the momentous issue in which Spider-Man unmasked before the world. And if that’s the case, there’s a good possibility you also bought – that same day – Thunderbolts #103, a Civil War tie-in. These tie-ins were pretty hard to miss since half the cover was blocked out with the Civil War banner. But I digress; had you been reading comics that summer, and had you purchased the status-quo-altering Civil War #2, and had you purchased Thunderbolts #103… well then, I hope you had the good fortune of reading Civil War #2 first. Because, you see, in Thunderbolts #103, the team witnesses Spider-Man unmasking on television. Unfortunately for me, that’s the first time I saw it happen, too. Any tension – any drama – I was supposed to feel throughout Civil War #2 as Peter wrestled with the decision of whether or not to unmask… well, it was shot.
About two months ago, Dark Avengers #1 and Mighty Avengers #20 shipped the same day. Dark Avengers, starring the mysterious Iron Patriot. Is he Norman Osborn, or isn’t he? Well if you happened to read Mighty Avengers #20 first, you were let in on that little secret a tad unceremoniously, as well.
Some might suggest merely spacing these issues out, maintaining a more cohesive shipping schedule. Why put out two books the same week when one leads into the other? But then there’s the death of Maxwell Lord, which I’ve referenced in a previous BLAARGH! This wasn’t even the fault of two books shipping on the same day. Instead, it was just the result of a story being spread out over multiple books with no clear flow from one to the other. Sure, the Wonder Woman issue where he was killed was a Countdown to Infinite Crisis tie-in, but how was I to know it was essential reading?!
How indeed? Until recently, the publishers used to have the decency to warn us when books needed to follow a certain chronological order. You’d open the book and find yourself greeted by a little editorial box that said “Before reading this book, be sure you’ve read…” It wasn’t difficult. It wasn’t costly. It wasn’t obtrusive. It was just a nice little heads up to the reader that would essentially say “This is part three. You’ll want to read part two first.” And when stories are being told across non-sequential issues – whether in crossovers or tie-ins – it can be pretty darned important to give the reader these cues, as there’s rarely anything short of the spoiler itself to serve as any indication as to appropriate reading order.
So there you have it. This BLAARGH! is an easy fix. Editors, get off your asses and give us a courteous heads up. Most books have recap pages now anyhow; it’s the perfect opportunity to whisper sweet nothings in our ears. And just think… it might even help boost circulation when people know what other books they should be reading… yeah, I caught your attention with that, didn’t I? Thought so.