After picking up a couple miscellaneous issues in quarter bins and hearing nothing but good things about Rick Remender’s work, I got a couple of “review copies” of the End League and Fear Agent (from the library) and was eager to check them out. The good news is the stories are excellent and the accolades are well-deserved.
The End League is essentially The Justice League At The End Of The World, which is as good a concept as any. Even if I am tired of reading about analogues of DC characters (and why does the Wonder Woman character always have a romantic history with the Superman character?) this one is especially well done. After failing to stop the Earth from becoming a wasteland, Astonishman and the remaining members of The End League continue their superheroing, driven primarily by the guilt of their failure. Of course, supervillains still thrive like roaches and only the worst have made it through the event. Remender tells a robust, if dark, apocalyptic tale, and I feel like he’s got a lot more behind the scenes left to reveal. Mat Broome’s art is a good pairing. His storytelling is solid but his characters still regularly look stiff, posed, and inconsistent in places. The coloring by Wendy Broome and James Rochelle help immensely, and he’ll be a name to look for eventually, he just needs a little more practice to hone his craft.
Fear Agent tells the adventures of Heath Huston, the last of the space rednecks cowboys, the Fear Agents. Think Bruce Campbell as the captain of Serenity and you’re there. It’s space-western action-adventure, and it’s great. Funny, action-packed, bizarre…Everything you’d want if I told you it was a comic about a space redneck cowboy. So far we don’t know what a Fear Agent is or does, other than kick ass and drink beer, but as long as the girls and monsters keep coming it will be worth the ride. Tony Moore’s art is of a sketchier nature but it meshes perfectly with our sketchy characters and it is consistent, emotive, and dynamic.
The problem I ran into with both books is that after the fourth issue the collection ends abruptly on a cliffhanger. Only having read the first trades, I don’t know how long the first arc of either book is, but it’s obviously longer than 4 issues.
This made me wonder why the creators and publishers would choose to end it there. Aren’t most collections 6 issues? And aren’t most story arcs written for the trade now? If that doesn’t hold true any longer, then aren’t we just taking the old single-issue serialization mentality and transferring it over to trade paperbacks? TPB’s were supposed to somewhat resolve the serial nature of comics and give us complete chunks of stories. If they’re not doing that any more, what’s the difference between them and single issue “floppies”?
In addition, we’re now at a point where getting the trade ($13 here for The End League and $15 for Fear Agent) is more expensive than buying the new issues off the rack ($3 for both). I was all for Mark Alessi presenting Crossgen’s titles in different formats for different reading preferences, but the difference there is that the price points were also comparable to each other. You’d pay most for single issues on the week of release, a bit less for a collection, and a even less for a digest.
And lest we think this is limited to Dark Horse, I also picked up a copy of the Dark Wolverine hardcover, which for $25 only reprints 4 issues!
It’s ridiculous, the level at which we pay more and more for less and less. Yes, waiting for the trade has been a good idea, but is it any longer when the trades cost more than single issues? Publishers are getting very creative in the ways at which they get our money, and it has gotten to the point where we must become informed consumers to ensure that we’re not over-paying.