May 15, 2012

The Compost Pile

First Issue Syndrome

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The first time I read X-O Manowar #1, I didn’t like it as much as I do now.


The good old days of first issues

It was a quick read, and there wasn’t quite as much story as I was hoping for. I read it again though, and I noticed a lot of stuff the second time, that I didn’t notice on my first read. I noticed how the the battle with the Romans helped to set up the stakes, and establish the brash part of Aric’s character. The portion with his father deepened the connection with his father. The scenes with the Vine established who they are and what they are about much more than the original Spider Aliens ever were.

I’ve read a few comics recently like this, where my opinion of the issue didn’t solidify until a second reading.

The first issue of Mind The Gap required a re-read. I sort of knew what was going on, and sort of followed along with the issue, but wasn’t really hooked until the reveal in the last couple panels, and the editorial at the end of the book, that put into place that the book was a mystery, and clues were scattered around. On my second read, I knew what I was looking for, knew who the characters were, and enjoyed it a whole lot more.

Danger Club #1 rewarded a second read through as well, since the book starts out appearing to be a superhero sidekick adventure, and quickly morphs into something much more dire. On a second read through, the beginning of the story was set against a different context, and I appreciated more about it.

I also just read Flex Mentallo, Grant Morrison’s bizarre journey through comics, and his psychadelic analogy for the future of comics. The first read through is tough, the book has multiple levels of narrative, and they weave and fold into each other. Just last night I picked it up again for a second read through, and I am getting a lot more out of it this time through.

I was rewarded for reading all of these books a second time with a richer, more thorough understanding of what the story was about. Also, when I finished all of these books, I had a feeling that I should read them again.

On the other hand

I’ve been comparing this to some other first issues that I really enjoyed, right from the get go. Saga #1. Irredeemable #1. Moriarty #1. Daredevil #1. The Killer. I read the first issue of these books once, and I was hooked. Also, interestingly, most of these aren’t as good on the second read through (except possibly Moriarty). A re-read of these issues is retread, I’ve seen it before, and I got it all. I don’t need to read them again.

This begs the question (and it has been begged of me), should the first issue of a comic require a re-read? If the first issue is better after a second read, has it succeeded in doing what a first issue is supposed to, ie. buy the second issue?

A year ago, I probably would have said, “yes, absolutely, the first issue fails if you can’t get everything you would want out of it in the first read.” That first issue is a sales pitch for the series, and if it doesn’t make the sale right away, I’ll move on to something that does.

Lately, however, fewer and fewer first issues hook me right off the bat, and it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Ultimate SPider-Man #1. Winter Soldier #1. Uncanny X-Force #1. A vs. X #1. About 45 of the new DC 52 titles. None of these captured my attention and made me feel that, yes, I needed to buy the next issue.

It’s getting harder and harder for me to be able to move on to something that will grab my attention right away, because statistically speaking, other comics don’t.

Change in the air

I’ve become a bit more patient with my comics, and maybe a bit less judgmental too. When I read something that doesn’t immediately strike me (but doesn’t immediately turn me off), or that I feel like I would get more from with a re-read, I’ve been giving books a chance. I don’t mind the re-read, and I’ve been relaxing a bit with my reading, adn taking a little more time with my books.

In the last few years, I developed a bit of a huff when reading comics, I would race through my reading, glancing at the images, and pouring through the dialogue as quickly as possible. I don’t think it is entirely my fault, the decompressed storytelling that has become so popular in the last decade has taught me that comics are somethign that can be raced through without missing much, or anything at all.

It’s nice to have some comics in my hand that reward taking a little more time with, and reading once, and maybe reading again. I’ve been enjoying comics more since I started to slow down and give comics a chance.

And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Enjoying comics. That’s why we read them, talk about them, and love them.

What do you think? How do you judge first issues? Does it need to capture your attention right away? Do you give books a chance to grow on you?

Leave a comment, and let me know!

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