Underrated: Marvel Epic Collections
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Marvel Epic Collections.
I noticed that my reading habits changed a little during the pandemic; rather than individual issues, I was drawn toward complete stories that were typically collected in some form of trade paperback or graphic novel. I say typically because my comic shop began selling sets of various kinds (full runs, miniseries, etc.) and I have picked up a few of those over the last year or two. But more often than not I’ve been reading tpbs. Over the past couple of months I’ve been reading Marvel’s Epic Collections – a series of books with between 3-500 pages that will focus on a particular series told in chronological order. There’s a chance that you may get more than the main series included if there’s a crossover story, but never more than the issues that pertain to the story.
My interest in these was piqued because I found the first volume of Wolverine’s Epic Collection that contained the early issues of Wolverine and around ten parts of a story from Marvel Comics Presents featuring the clawed mutant as the story led directly into the solo series. I didn’t have those issues of MCP, and reading the single issues of the main series in trade was far more convenient than digging out the individual issues. Yes, I paid for convenience, no I am not ashamed. But it did get me looking at other characters, teams and series that were featured in the Epic Collections. Spider-Man, Moonknight and Daredevil all now sit on my shelf (some in the “to read” category), and while they’re solid books, the opportunity they afford a person to be able to read comics from fifty, sixty years ago is fantastic.
I’d never be able to read a bulk amount of early Amazing Spider-Man comics in full colour, in print, unless I had a ton of disposable income or was lucky in finding a great deal, or had picked up an omnibus or two. Yes, there are doubtless trades featuring the odd collected story, Marvel Masterworks, for example, and there have been reprint mags in the UK (but those issues are long out of print), but the volume of the comics in the Epic Collection combined with the retail price makes them the best value for money out there.
Interestingly, because the Epic Collections focus more on collecting stories that either haven’t been published in trade form before they’re not published sequentially. So while the first eight volumes of The Amazing Spider-Man have been released, volumes nine through 14 have yet to have even been given a release date. While this can prove irritating for those looking to read a series in full from start to finish, for me it’s a relief because I’m able to get a complete story with each Epic Collection (minus the odd loose end because the books are collecting full runs for the most part).
There are Epic volumes with more than just the named series, though; Wolverine Volume 13 has nine issues plus an annual of Wolverine, but also the six issue Origin miniseries. I’m sure that this isn’t unique, and that other volumes will feature odds and ends apart from the main series, but for the most part in my (limited) experience the volumes focus on the named series plus crossovers more often than not.
I had thought of buying a Marvel Unlimited subscription to read these early Spider-Man comics, and while that would likely have been cheaper initially, eventually I’d have cancelled it and been unable to read the comics. Plus I tend to prefer print over digital for reading comics, books and graphic novels. Now, excuse me while I crack open the next volume in my pile.
In the meantime, Underrated will return to highlight more comic book related stuff that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is.