The Reread

So there I am, at my desk, working on something or other. The sun is nearly up, so I can tell that it’s about time to get ready for bed. I glance over at my bookshelf for something to read. I have a few academic papers on my laptop I should read. I have a review copy of a book from a publisher I feel obligated to read. And then there is, of course, the stack, which I barely feel compelled to comment on. That guilt-ridden mixed bag of a bargain bin / gifted / literary books that we can just never seem to get through. It’d been kind of a rough weekend, so none of these categories were really going to fit the bill. So I opted for something I rarely opt for: the reread.

Pictured: me reading Preacher the first time.

Pictured: me reading Preacher the first time.

That’s right. I grabbed a book I had already read at least once, and decided it was time to read it again. Given the context, this action may seem the height of absurdity. With so much new to consume, how could I possibly go back to something for a second time? This is an attitude I actually sympathize with a great deal. I am haunted by my stack. If I die before getting through books others have given me, then I will have died a failure. I recognize that I may be occupying an extreme end of the reader spectrum, but it’s just who I am and I’ve learned to cope with it. Sort of.

Beyond the weird, philosophical baggage, the reread really is a great idea. Comics cost a good bit of money, and the time spent reading one, especially one enjoyable enough to be worth the reread, is usually disproportionate to the amount spent for the experience. So I always thought of a reading book a twice as essentially getting it for half off, which obviously isn’t literally true, but it does help assuage some of my financial guilt.

There’s also a difference between rereading a single book versus and entire series. There are times where you may legitimately want to start at page 1 of Preacher and not put it down until the final page of volume 10. And then there are times where you just want that snippet, maybe you’ve forgotten the details of a particular arc, or you remember really enjoying one volume somewhere in the middle and you need to remind yourself why.

As a recent example in my own life, I couldn’t really remember how everything went down with the Governor in The Walking Dead. I remembered the bigger events, but not the fine details, and since it was clear that the Governor was about to play a major role in the show, as season 3 had just gotten started, I decided to do a little reread of the Governor arc. It was kind of like watching a movie from your childhood, where things still happen that surprise you but with each surprise there’s also an “Oh yeah, I remember this” moment. At the same time, it wasn’t the most enjoyable reread, because I was just trying to cram the story back into my brain, not savor it the way I probably ought to. It was tempting to keep going and read more past that point, because The Walking Dead is nothing if not extremely compelling as serialized fiction goes, but I resisted. I’d seen what I needed to see, and the guilt to get back to the stack pulled me away from it.

Fear_The_HuntersThe other interesting thing was I did this reread digitally. I think it was because I started around Thanksgiving break, so I wasn’t with my physical volumes. I think guided panel is necessary to read comic on a screen, but I by no means think it is a very good solution in the long run, but that’s another column. However, just the other night, having been fairly let down by the finale of season 3, I decided I needed to give myself a quick reminder for why I like the concept so much, so I grabbed a volume semi-at-random and wound up with #11 “Fear the Hunters.” I picked it because I remember it being pretty horrific, but again the details were fuzzy, and I also remembered it resolving the primary problem within that one volume, so I wouldn’t get sucked in the reread loop. It worked great, the perfect dose of the characters in non-annoying form, and the story does pretty much wrap up within the one volume. Although some of the things the group does, and justifies doing, as so horrific as to make Negan come across as magnanimous, but the group are our protagonists so I guess we pretty much have to take their side even when they do terrible awful things.

I’ve been thinking about doing a column covered my thoughts on the reread for a while now. My girlfriend had been sick and had asked me to grab her a stack of comics. She ended up barely touching them and just sleeping, but there were a few things in there that I thought might be worth another go so I snagged Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow relaunch. I made it through 1 issue, and even that was a slog. There are a lot of words in a Kevin Smith book. The Phil Hester art was as pretty as I remember, but I just couldn’t hang and had to put the book back. Sometimes you have to know when to retreat from the reread.

Are you a rereader? Do you have a system beyond random selections and guilt? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

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Ryan Haupt wishes his immune system crapped out on him more often so he could reread more books, but sadly he is quite healthy. Hear him not be the other person hacking their lungs up on the podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. Baron_Aim Baron_Aim says:

    I do reread things quite a bit. At least once a year I will reread all of Morrison’s New X-Men, and usually Fell.

    Right now I’m in the middle of rereading Nextwave.

    Rereading is what makes keeping my comics around worth it.

  2. flakbait flakbait says:

    Of course. Mostly I reread trades, but I occasionally will pull out a stack of single issues and go through great old arcs (Busiek’s Avengers, Bendis’s Daredevil, Waid’s Captain America, Slott’s She-Hulk, Phonogram, etc.). I probably reread classic stuff like Dark Knight Returns, Man Without Fear, Watchmen, Astro City every year. I reread Y The Last Man a few months ago. Sometimes if I get a new trade of a series I’ve fallen behind on, I’ll have to go back and read the earlier books so I remember what’s going on.

    Thinking about it makes me want to pull out BPRD starting with Plague of Frogs.

    Otherwise, what’s the point of keeping them?

    • I re-read BPRD, Hellboy and Witchfinder from the start recently enough. There’s so much interconnecting stories and themes that it really made for a satisfying experience. For example, Edward Grey’s appearance in the very early Hellboy stories as the masked man really makes so much more sense now after the Hellboy in Hell stuff, as does the Hyborean sword that pops up everywhere and is going to be a big part of the current arc if the recent Abyss of Time follows through.

    • JSAkid JSAkid says:

      I’ve re read a cpl of the classics as well and like the idea of doing it every year to garnish new perspectives from the material vs time. You guys got me wanting to read all the BPRD/Hellboy stuff now and it’s plenty worth it. That material is amongst the best and has great replay value. Yeah, they may sit proudly on the shelf but are there to read. Toughest part is being caught up with stuff to wanna re-read something over one I haven’t cracked open yet.

  3. pmallory says:

    Yes I reread, but I only do so in trades. And if I’m going to buy a trade, it has to be som.ething I know I want to keep rereading.

    But despite these constant plugs for digital comics in these articles, I don’t think I will ever go digital.

  4. Xtianhardy Xtianhardy (@Xtianhardy) says:

    My reading habits lean more towards buying hardcovers and trades rather than single issues, and personally, the only time I regret buying a comic is if I feel like it is something I won’t read a second time. Otherwise, why not just pick up all my comics from the public library at no cost?

    Every time I get to the point where I start to feel guilty that I don’t have the time to reread books I’ve paid good money for, I start to reconsider the amount of money I’m spending on new material. This is also the same reason why I’ll occasionally purchase comics I’ve already read, but haven’t owned. If I know that a story arc is good because I’ve enjoyed it once before (maybe because I took it out from the library, or a friend loaned it to me) I have less reservations about buying it as a part of my permanent collection.

  5. Mickey Mickey (@GeeksOfChrist) says:

    I’ve read Hawkworld the whole way through three or four times. And Death of Superman – jeez, I must have read that whole saga about 10 times before I was even driving. Of course, when you can’t drive, Metropolis is one of the few places you can still visit.

  6. zlbenson zlbenson says:

    I re-read all the time. Sometimes I’ll re-read stuff just to refresh myself on run’s that are still ongoing. After the big finale of the War of Four Cities/Council of Reed plotline from Hickman’s run, but before his run was completely finished – I reread everything that had come out. It really made me appreciate the return of Black Bolt art with Greg Tochinni art – that at the time I didn’t care much for.

    I try and only keep books – comics or otherwise – that I know I will want to re-read. Sometimes after I re-read something I originally loved, I’ll find it hasn’t aged or it no longer impresses me – so then it gets shipped off and out of my collection.

    I’ve re-read the Walking Dead from page 1, 3 or 4 times. that series has become like comfort food. It’s like how whenever the Shawshank Redemption is on TV I always stop and watch the rest of it.

  7. carlosFF carlosFF says:

    I really like to re-read arcs in trades, in single issues not so much. “Sadly”, most of my collection is in single issues and I’m not too fond of buying stuff in trades, hardcovers, etc. if I already own it…if someone offered to trade all of my single issues for their corresponding TPB or HC I would gladly do it!

    Anyway, the ones I’ve re-read the most are the first three volumes of Invincible, Runaways (1-18), the first arc of Locke and Key and Geoff Johns’ Flash “Rogue War”.

    • flakbait flakbait says:

      Have you thought about getting your single issues bound? It’s an idea I flirt with occasionally, but I just never seem to get around to it.

    • carlosFF carlosFF says:

      @flakbait Yes, but the thing is I’m from Mexico and the shipping to and from the US to get them bound (I haven’t seen something that has the same quality as the US binders here in Mexico) is too expensive and I might be better off just buying the Trades or HC’s but I dont’t want to own two of everything, my only exception so far has been the Fear Agent omnibus which I have in single issues as well.

      I’ve been toying around with the idea of getting the Deluxe Editions of the Fables Hardcovers even though I already have the trades, they look so good!

      Another one that I used to re read A LOT was Ultimate Spider-Man, good times!

  8. jgraff jgraff says:

    Because I limit myself to a certain amount of storage space in the basement, things need to get culled about once a year. It forces me to create keep/don’t keep piles – and the only way to make those calls is to reread.

    Keep – Camelot Falls
    Don’t Keep – New Krypton
    Keep – All my Legion stuff through Giffen’s 90′s run
    Don’t Keep – All my Legion stuff after that

  9. i don’t get the time to re-read as much as i’d like, but i often pick up trades and HC’s from the shelf and flip through them to look at art or check out a few pages. I hardly ever crack open the long boxes, which makes me wonder why i even bother keeping them.

    It is interesting how the “re-read” is used as a large justification by comic fandom to keep and collect *things* when the reality is that its almost impossible to keep up with weekly content and a re-read schedule of your library. At least it is for me.

    I do edit my bookshelves down and sell/trade off the books i don’t want to look at anymore to get new stuff, so its a giant cycle i suppose.

    • Grandturk says:

      I do a “stack cleaning” after I read 2-3 months worth of comics. Keepers go in a different stack and the rest go in a “donation” bag – probably about 75% of the things I’ve read. Once the donation bag gets big enough – it goes out.

  10. Grandturk says:

    Re-read – Yes, of course. It’s like watching a movie again, or reading a novel again.

    I’ve probably read The Dark Knight Returns 50+ times – maybe twice a year for 25 years or so. Its habitual. Watchmen 10 or so times. Those are the extremes. Hellboy a close third – having reread the first 5-6 volumes 5 or more times (I’ve not re-read these in recent years just because I’ve fallen so far behind in Hellboy and BPRD trades).

    Other stuff that’s gotten multiple reads:
    - Grendel: War Child (not much love for this series, but its dynamite classic to me – not a winter goes by where I don’t verbally reference “Chilly ol’ Chi”
    - I did reread Kevin Smiths Daredevil and Green Arrows several times. They do get more tedious each time.
    - Deadpool original ongoing (vol 3 I think) and Cable and Deadpool many times – its like bubblegum
    - Whiteout – several reads – once a year probably – first volume is very very good. Vol 2 is only good.
    - Queen and Country – several times
    - Guardians of the Galaxy (abnet and lanning) and the Annihilation & Annihilation Conquest – several times

    I’m sure there were others I had – Thieves World graphic novel, Star Wars comics – but those are lost to time… like tears in the rain…

  11. I am a big re reader. I read the entire run of Preacher once a year. There are some stories I have read maye a dozen times. Not just comics, either. I Reread books. I rewatch movies and TV shows. Just because I know what is going to happen doesn’t make me enjoy it any less. Sometimes I pick up things I didn’t see on earlier viewings. I have seen Seven Samurai probably six times, and every time I watch it, I pick up things I didn’t notice the first time.

    • Grandturk says:

      I used to watch movies on repeat. Some movies I’ve seen hundreds of times. Star Wars and Empire, obviously. Blade Runner. 2001. The Usual Suspects, The Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – over and over and over. Futurama. Now I’m much more 1 and done with movies. TV is better, for one (better than it was, anyway) and time is shorter.

      Except for certain books, I’ve only recently started rereading novels. I’m working my way through the High School reading list I never completed in High School – Huck Finn, Treasure Island, etc, etc, etc. I don’t know if that counts as re-reading if I only read enough of them the first time in order to complete a paper or summer reading report…

    • Yeah, when a movie grabs me, I will keep watching it . I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang three times in one day.

  12. I made a serious effort over the Christmas holidays to clear the backlog of 30-plus tpbs, hcs and Omnibi that had turned my stack into a pile of shame and guilt. Just got tired of always feeling like it was a job to get through. Without it I find I’m enjoying comics much more again.

    It’s allowed me to get back into re-reading runs as I wait between books I’ve ordered to arrive in the post. I’ve gotten through all the Mignolaverse stuff and have gotten a much better appreciation of how much planning went into these from the start. Followed it up with a re-reading of the Hickman Fantastic Four/FF run, which I can now see spent the last 9 months or so setting up all the events that are taking place in his Avengers titles. Also did a full re-read of DMZ and The Walking Dead, both of which were a lot of fun.

    Next up is breaking out the Bone Colour One-Volume Edition. Hoping not to fall back into bad stack management as this is really improving my comics experience.

  13. boostergold4 says:

    Crisis on Infinite Earths and The New Teen Titans Judas Contract are must re reads for me at least once a year. I just can’t get enough of Perez and Wolfman.

  14. i’ve gotten a few trades of things that i’ve only read digitally, and its interesting to re-read something in print that you first experienced through an app on an iPad screen. I kinda forget about the gutters and size and scale is different. Its a new experience, much like movie theatre and then blu ray. I kinda like it.

  15. warbird1985 warbird1985 says:

    I re read my stack every week 3 or 4 times now I actually remember them.

  16. henryj2112 henryj2112 says:

    wallythegreenmonster’s situation sounds similar to mine. My trade-buying consists of stuff i’ve loved or missed first time round. Trying to keep up with trades and my weekly stash takes up the majority of my time, but All-Star Superman is one i’ve gone back to again and again and I re-read Morrison’s run on Batman about once a year. Bendis and Brubaker’s Daredevil is another I like to reread when time permits.

    I also re-read books when there has been a break in the series before it returns – American Vampire will get that treatment over the summer.

  17. jpriester73 jpriester73 says:

    If the arc is good (like Court of Owls), I will reread the issues leading up to the final issues release so the story will be fresh as I read the conclusion. I plan to do that with Aaron’s first Thor arc.

    I also like to double down and buy the trade of a story I really liked in issues so I’ll reread the trade when it comes in.

    Anything Hickman rights I usually have to reread so I can follow where he’s going ;-)

  18. hanson724 hanson724 says:

    i re-read stuff all the time.I’ll read a comic from the previous week,month whatever before I read the newest issue to refresh my memory. I will also re- read a story arc after its finished just to absorb it all at once.I enjoy it more all at once but I can’t bring myself to wait for trades, way to impatient and I hate trying to avoid spoilers.

  19. player1 player1 says:

    Reading both stuff I’ve read and stuff I just missed or knew of, especially in Showcase and Essential phonebook-format, has really been fun the last few years. I really got into comics around ’72 or ’73, so Late High Silver Age and Early Worthy Bronze Age is my area of greatest interest (’69 – ’72).

    Now that they’re almost up to my era, I have two things happening.

    First, I’m able to read a lot of stuff from forty years ago that I couldn’t afford then, but saw on the spinner rack or read in the store, and for a lot more cheaply than actually buying all of those back issues. A lot of those comics were just OK. Some were great, but they aren’t all Shakespeare and Chandler.

    Second, now my own collection from that era (and shortly thereafter) is ripening. So in turning it over and selling it off, I’m going back to seeing what I really bought and kept, looking it over, ordering the Showcase/Essential volume from the library, and reading a public copy of it, to protect the remaining value of that ancient and venerable single issue.

    I had quite a liking for Sal Buscema, Herb Trimpe, and Jim Starlin.

    The Bronze Age ads are a real trip back.

  20. OnASunday OnASunday says:

    Re-reading is great for me especially because I’ve only been reading comics for about 4 years now after discovering iFanboy on Rev3. I would buy stuff based a lot off of recommendations so I’d usually wind up getting amazing stories with little knowledge of the history of the characters in say a DC or Marvel book. I was introduced to so many great writers and artists with different techniques and styles. Once I caught on to which writers and/or artists I liked best I would read more of their work and grow accustomed to their styles so it’s nice to go back and re-read the stuff I haven’t read in a few years to see their progress or where they came from.

    Watchmen and Sandman were two of the first books I read. You get way more out of those the more experienced a reader you are. In fact I just did my first start to finish re-read of Sandman and phew! In the words of Peter Straub in the afterword of volume 7 Brief Lives, “If this isn’t literature, nothing is.”

  21. Djinn says:

    Yesterday I reread my one copy of Thor by Walt Simonson from 1986 and a 2001 one issue of Iron Man with Ultron. Why? I saw Walt on Hulk and Age of Ultron in the present and just felt like rereading those books. Events or little reminders make me dig in my collection.
    If I don’t get a lot of new books to keep me going and have time on my hands I certainly reread story lines I really like or just have forgotten what a book(s) was about or even that comic I dislike I reread to see if there was something I missed to redeem that book. Redeeming qualities sometimes prevail.

  22. I’ve reread 100 Bullets about six times, Lucifer three, Sandman six as well. At the moment I am rereading all my Claremont X-related stuff at the moment!
    Otherwise I try to make room for rereading series that I truly love once their runs are done, after Claremont it’s gonna be a mixture of Byrnes Fantastic Four or Planetary?

  23. slickman83 slickman83 says:

    Morrison’s Batman, I can’t seem to stop reading this epic run, every time I read it I pick up so much more than the previous reading, it is a heart breaking work of staggering genius. Morrison leaves behind so many references and visual motifs and hidden easter eggs that it usually takes me a couple of weeks to read through the entire thing.

  24. clocwrk clocwrk says:

    At the moment, I’m actually rereading the entire run of The Boys. To be fair, the “rereading” part is only for the first third of the series since that is the furthest I got before I was distracted by other comics that were being released at the time the title was still in “ongoing” mode. But I think it is completely healthy to reread your books and in most cases essential to really appreciate the medium. I recently went back and reread both volumes 1 and 2 of Millar’s Ultimates and I enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time around. Additionally, letting a story marinate on your shelf or comic book box for several years and then taking it out for another go sometimes allows you to interpret the story from an entirely new perspective.

  25. I read every floppy I buy at least twice. I’ve found that I have a tendency to go through everything really fast the first time because I am excited about it and then I make an effort to read it again and pay better attention. In fact, if I don’t feel like reading something again, that’s when I start thinking about dropping the series.

    I also am always re-reading something in trade. I keep a trade that I’ve read on my bedside table and read it for at least an issue or so before going to sleep, usually after reading whatever book I’m reading for about a half an hour. So I’ve read everything I own at least twice (it’s getting more difficult to stay awake now that we have a baby though). The series I’ve read the most are Y: The Last Man, Preacher, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the silver age Doom Patrol.

    Only once have I read a collected edition and immediately opened it and reread it after finishing. That was when I got the Fear Agent Library late last year.

  26. Lately I have been re-reading the singles issues I buy each week on Friday’s. I got loads of time at work and I take the last day of the week to re-read them all and also do my ‘Pick of the Week’ review. It is actually very relaxing to do it because I have about 8 hours to read everything and fill my thoughts down more clearly. I should have done it months ago because I think I’ve improved slightly in regards to writing reviews. It’s why I don’t do them anymore on Wednesday’s cause I felt I was doing a sloppy job with them with my hectic work schedule.

  27. TurdSandwich TurdSandwich says:

    I’m also one who justifies keeping stuff by re-reading. I’ve read Hellboy and BPRD three times each, and probably will again when I get the Library and hardcover editions. I’m currently going back through Hellblazer, and another one I always seem to go back to is Criminal. In the last year I’ve finished Preacher, Sandman, and Y:the last man, and I plan on going back through those for sure.

    I agree that single issues are harder to go back and dig out, but I think I’ve read The Black Mirror around four times, and I only have singles of that, same with The Unwritten.

  28. LanceTX says:

    Even with my stack as big as it is, I tend to re-read a lot. Recently, I did re-read all of Preacher and it was well worth it. I also recently re-read the Essex County trilogy and the first 8 issues of Fell.

    Fell was the toughest. I went into it knowing that I was going to re-read a cliffhanger of sorts that I will probably never get resolution to. But, it was worth it also, just to see what I loved about the series so much when it was “coming out.”

  29. This is actually a thing? We all reread. They’re M.F. comics.

  30. theWAC1 theWAC1 says:

    I LiIVE or the re-read. Like someone else said earlier, it’s how I get my “money’s worth” and also helps me decide whether to keep a series or not. 2nd time around is so much better, especially with re-reading the floppies after the arc is over. Daytripper, anything by Morrison or Moore, Bronze Age Batman stories, The Maxx (this took me a few reads to finally get my head around), and at times just single issues that I really liked. I think this something that we all do. It’s what makes comics great, you can pick up a story and look at 6 panels, smile, and relive hours worth of enjoyment. These kind of articles are great. Thank you.

  31. CaeuZokul CaeuZokul says:

    Read Preacher twice (due for another turn soon), Watchmen four or five times – every page, COIE 7 or 8 times, Sandman twice (that was enough), and the usual suspects, of course: classic FF, Spidey, Avengers, JLA, JSA, Daredevil, Batman, etc. arcs. What I’m looking forward to this year is reading (not rereading) Sandman: Mystery Theater in its entirety. I’ve got the whole series, and read the first arc, but never finished it. Looking forward to that!

    And now that I have Absolute Promethia vols. I, II, & III, it’s on my list for this year too. Color me happy!