April was a big month for comics fans who prefer their stories told in a classy package. DC Comics released three "deluxe" editions across three imprints--Wildstorm, Vertigo, and DC. But, for fans who already own these stories in different formats, are the new editions worth a double-dip?
Up first is Batman and Robin Vol. 1: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Philip Tan. After the events of Final Crisis, the Batman comics received an overhaul under the banner of Batman Reborn (see also Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens, and the why-do-we- have-to-wait-until-July? release of Batwoman). But Batman and Robin is the flagship title, where a new hero dons the cape and cowl and is joined by Damian, the son of Bruce Wayne, as Robin.
Morrison and Quitely team up after their Eisner-winning run on All-Star Superman, but the reunion is short-lived, as Quitely only stays for the initial three chapters (Philip Tan handles the remaining pages). For fans who could not wait for the collection and instead picked up the first six chapters in single issues, this is still a worthwhile purchase, as it's slightly oversized when compared to the individual comics--as well as the other recent Reborn hardcover collections. Quitely's distinctive art only improves with the increased scope (bring on the Absolute All-Star Superman), and the supplemental material by Morrison et al is a hoot.
There are 16 pages of commentary from writer Grant Morrison, along with cover layouts and character redesigns by Quitely and Tan, plus extensive notes on each. On the new Batmobile: "We didn't want our global warming/recession-era Batmobile to resemble the chrome-piped, gas-guzzling, Techno-Deco road leviathans of the past." And on a particular cover, Morrison states: "This was commissioned as part of DC's 'weird cover month' (as far as I am aware, there were no other weird covers that month, leading us to suspect some elaborate practical joke)."
Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra's celebrated Y: The Last Man run reaches its third deluxe collection, housing issues 24-36--notably the "Ring of Truth" and "Girl on Girl" storylines. This is also an oversized hardcover, giving fans' bookshelves a slightly more respectable manner with which to display their favorite end-of-humanity-as-we-know-it comics. Beyond that, however, I'm not sure how sold I am on the double-dip. Volume 3 includes the full script to issue #36, but that's all for extras.
Guerra's art is expressive and appealing, yet I didn't see much of an upgrade in the new format; I did a side-by-side comparison with the paperbacks and had trouble identifying where the extra inches went. Plus, the white matte dustjacket picks up a lot of scuff, especially around the spine. The story, though, is rightfully hailed as one of the more important stories from the past decade in comics. New readers should immediately pass on the paperbacks and head directly to these deluxe editions (Vaughan's plot and subplots are all-consuming, and appetites will be better sated thanks to the increased page counts), but longtime fans may be happy with the well-worn, ten-volume set they most certainly already own.
Lastly, I'm not sure that I am fit to objectively weigh the merits of the Tom Strong: Deluxe Edition Vol. 2 by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, and Jerry Ordway, as I've already documented my long-winded admiration for the series in a previous post. Collecting twelve issues in a hefty hardcover (which is larger than the original hardcovers), this is one handsome tome. It features the introduction of my favorite Strong character, Svetlana X, my favorite plotline ("How Tom Stone Got Started"), plus a new cover by Sprouse, and a sketchbook (which, admittedly, rehashes art from previous collections). Sprouse and inker Karl Story's clean and broad artwork richly benefits from this grander scale. The deceptively simple facial structures convey so much emotion that, to see them enlarged, further illustrates how much of the series' charm is dependent on Sprouse's contributions. This is not meant to take away from the good work by Jerry Ordway, who lends his nostalgia-tinged style to the aforementioned "Stone" arc. Dave Stewart, Alex Sinclair, and Matt Hollingsworth contribute the bright color palette, and it now reads at full volume. I own a few Tom Strong trades, and these deluxe collections are
definitely worth it for fans. I envy those who will be reading the
stories for the first time in this format.
This collection is just in time for an announcement that made my month: Sprouse and Peter Hogan, who pens a few chapters in this volume, will return to the Tom Strong continuum in Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom in June, and Sprouse will also join Grant Morrison on a chapter in The Return of Bruce Wayne event later this year.
After April, there is no shortage of high-class collections. Morrison's JLA: Volume 3 and Vaughan's Ex Machina: Volume 3 both receive the deluxe treatment in May. Now might not be bad time to start investing in sturdier bookshelves.
P.S. Don't forget that this Saturday, May 1st, is Free Comic Book Day. The annual celebration is a great way to take a chance on new titles as well as rediscover old favorites. My well-worn Batman shirt (yellow oval, natch) is washed and ready for the festivities.