Return to Stack Week, Part I: More Like “Slack Week”

It’s time once again for the iFanboy team to take an unflinching look at the books that have somehow piled up around them. Welcome to Stack Week II: like Stack Week I meets Shark Week. So, Snark Week.

If you’re a longtime iFanboy visitor, you may remember that last June those of us who were new contributors at the time were welcomed to the site with a public shaming. In the spirit of the medium we love so much, iFanboy’s writers had ourselves a summer crossover event: Stack Week. For the whole week, we each took turns admitting to being the kind of people who keep buying new books without ever reading the old books first, and we came clean about which books they were. You can tell a lot about a person from what he allows to collect dust on the coffee table. It was good for the team, like one of those trust falls.

It wasn’t just therapeutic, either. Having to publicly acknowledge the teetering mountain of trade paperbacks on my shelf gave me the push I needed to finally attack the Stack. I’m pleased to report that, after Stack Week I, I dove in and read everything on my pile within a month. With one glaring, insurmountable exception that we can talk about later.

After that, I was a good boy for a while. I read everything the day I brought it home for months. Then, as it must, Christmas came. Essentially every gift I got was a book, and then some mysterious benefactors gave me an gift card big enough to choke a walrus. I went on a book bender; I ran through Amazon like it was the Double Dare obstacle course and brutally laid waste to my Wish List like a viking with a migraine. My stack was fully replenished overnight, and I haven’t touched it since the day I unboxed it. Time for another motivational shaming out of my slackitude.

Last time, I listed each book, explained why I bought it, and then explained why I never read it. This time, I think my motivation for almost every purchase boils down to “iFanboy told me to,” so I’ll cut straight to the excuses.

DC: The New Frontier, Volume 2

Everyone swears this book is printed on cured fairy wings and will change my life forever. Volume One was in my last Stack, and I liked it well enough. The fact that I was not a “DC person” was in no way a hindrance, but that does not change the fact that I finished the first volume seven months ago and didn’t even buy this one until weeks ago. I’m almost afraid to crack it open and discover I don’t remember what’s happening, although deep down I know better. One day, someone will make me care about a Green Lantern.

The Surrogates

The Surrogates got onto my radar screen thanks to an iFanboy Mini last August in which Ron talked to the author, Robert Venditti. The book takes place in a future where people rarely use their real bodies to go outside, instead plugging into elaborate robot “surrogate” bodies through which they live their lives. I’m not sure that description does the book justice, but then I haven’t read the book, now, have I? Despite my verbal clumsiness, it’s a great sci-fi premise to hang a story on, and Hollywood’s putting pawprints all over it even as we speak. Unfortunately, I haven’t touched it for the same reason it took me so long to read Fear Agent last summer: it gets pushed out of the way by books that are more likely to get spoiled. Continuity-heavy, universe-sharing event comics draw my focus because some dingleberry could ruin them for me any minute, whereas nobody’s going to spoil The Surrogates until Entertainment Weekly puts the ending of the movie on their cover. And speaking of Fear Agent…!

Fear Agent Volume 3: The Last Goodbye
Fear Agent Volume 4: Hatchet Job
Tales of the Fear Agent

Clearly, sometime soon, I am going to be in the Fear Agent business.

I like the first two volumes of this book. I almost like them too much. More accurately, I like the main character too much to watch sadist Rick Remender torment him to death, which seems to be the goal. Poor Heath; if I never open the book, you will never be dragged naked through the desert by a horse. You’re like Schrödinger’s cat with whiskey.

A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: The Lindbergh Child

This was the Book of the Month last September. I love nonfiction, and I like true crime.

I dunno. I don’t like the look of it. It gives off a vibe.

There’s something about the fact that it’s a hardcover with a dust jacket and yet so small and slender; in my hand, it feels like something I would have walked out of a Bookmobile with in fourth grade. The typeface and design of the dust jacket combine in such a way that if they had accidentally given it the title Please Do Not Read Me, I wouldn’t have noticed. I also don’t typically look forward to dead babies.

And with that, I officially judged a book by its cover and offered up the most aggressively stupid excuse for not reading ever typed. I don’t know what to tell you. I bought it. I believe it’s good. It’s not going anywhere.

Scene of the Crime: A Little Piece of Goodnight

Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Sean Phillips, and the word “Crime” in the title. What kind of man leaves this unread? The kind who has no idea what the book is even about, that’s who.

Ex Machina, Vol. 7: Ex Cathedra

Hey! A new volume of Ex Machina came out! And I bought it, apparently! At some point!

I like Ex Machina more than any book about superhero civics, but I always forget about it the moment it leaves my sight. I haven’t read this book because I have no memory of getting it. I don’t think this series is the most compelling thing Brian K. Vaughan has written, but it’s the only series he’s doing so I’ll take what I can get.

The Walking Dead: Book 4

Remember when the fourth hardcover volume of Robert Kirkman’s gripping, addictive, nail- (and finger- and hand- and brain-) biting horror saga was coming out? Remember how I wrote a 1500-word mash note about how much I love this series, and how I could not wait to read the next chapter? Remember how the book didn’t end up shipping that week, and I was crestfallen because I just wanted to read the book so much, like it was zombie Christmas? Remember how that was back in October?


I don’t know how I can keep showing my face around here sometimes.

In my defense, while I love reading The Walking Dead in giant, hardcovery chunks, this book is bigger than my first car. There is no lugging this behemoth around town in my backpack to pull out and riffle through over lunch. This tome could use my backpack as a bookmark and wouldn’t fit through the door at the Subway. This means the only time I can read it and devote any attention to it is when I get home, in the dead of night, after everyone is asleep, and I am left alone in the dark, creaky house to finally OH MY GOD WHAT WAS THAT NOISE. This is a recipe for 180-proof nightmare juice, so unless I find myself thinking, “I miss bolting upright in bed, shrieking and shrieking and shrieking,” it’s probably going to be a while.

40 Years of the Avengers
, and Captain America, and the X-Men, and Fantastic Four, and…

If you saw last summer’s Indiana Jones and the Directors Who Should Know Better, then you’ll remember the Rocky and Bullwinkle KGB dominatrix who is obsessed with the limits of the human mind. In the end, she demands, “I vont to know… everytink,” and alien visitors from another movie respond, “Fair enough. Here you go.” They fill her brain with all the knowledge of the universe, but the only knowledge that ends up mattering to her at that moment is what a bad idea all this was, because her head explodes like a drop-kicked piñata. In the very, very end, she learns the valuable lesson that sometimes getting exactly what you want is the worst thing that can happen to you.

Well, I guess it wasn’t a valuable lesson for her. Her head blew up before she could really get any value out of it. A valuable lesson would have been how to use all the knowledge in the universe to keep your skull intact. But I guess this is a digression.

Over the last year, I have grown increasingly pouty and belligerent about digital comics. In 2009, it is now officially nuts that the major publishers don’t sell their books digitally, and if I reread my previous work on this site and discovered that I mentioned that every third week in capital letters it wouldn’t slacken my jaw with shock. It’s on my mind frequently, and in the last several months I have gone from “gee, that would be nice” to “this is ri-goddamn-diculous.” So I was delighted to see that Marvel, before they started their (woefully incomplete, new release-free) Digital Comics Unlimited service, had released entire 40-year runs of their biggest books in PDF format, allowing me to acquire 27 long boxes of comics on a couple of DVDs and know everytink.

It was almost exactly what I wanted. It was all the books in the world. And they are now exploding my head. (Meaning, I suppose, that I am the KGB dominatrix of digital comics.) Buying these things sounds like such a great idea until you’re sitting there with them in front of you, and you realize you now have 240 years of comics and need to start somewhere. Just thinking about it makes me feel like I’m drowning. I don’t even keep them on the stack; they’re on a shelf in the other room, because if I saw them sitting here on a regular basis I would grow despondent.

These are the only remnants from my last Stack, just like they will be next time. My plan of attack is to not even think about reading them all; I’m just going to pick at the legendary runs like I’m at a buffet. I’ll do Byrne’s FF, see what all the fuss was about with Geoff Johns’ Avengers, finally read the Kree-Skrull War, double back and read the first Galactus story… but then, I have been saying these words for, what, two years now? Three?

I’m probably never reading these. If only they were on paper, taking up space on my coffee table….


Jim Mroczkowski bets there’s at least one member of the staff whose stack is unchanged since the last time we did this. He may be further distracted from his reading via Twitter and


  1. Bless you for that Double Dare refernce. It’s where the mid 80’s meets the early 90’s- a magical bridge that connects  20 somethings with30 somethings. Not that I don’t appreciate you 70’s SNL refrences, they just don’t hold the same reactionary gravitas  for me

    My Stack is more of "Books I should Read Before Grad School" and it terrifies me. Just when I think about reading themm oo comics.

  2. I’m insanely writer-jealous of the Schrodinger’s Cat line.  Good stuff, man.  

  3. ‘One day, someone will make me care about a Green Lantern.’

    Um…..Geoff John’s run on Green Lantern? What are you, under a rock? Oh wait no it’s just your stack collapsing on you 🙂

  4. I will vouch for Surrogates.  It is a delicious mix of the Matrix, noir, and art.  It is really science fiction meets mystery story.  But that does not do it justice.  It is an electic mixture of themes to create something different.  Anyway I loved the book.

  5. I don’t have a great big stack, though this does remind me to get back to ‘Queen & Country’ Definitive Edition #2, so I can hurry up and get #3. 

    I have the XMen DVD-Rom, and I’ve decided to regard it as reference material rather than something unread to get to one day.  For one thing, the navigation isn’t that user friendly (not a criticism of digital comics in general, which I’m all for, but the particular way these DVD’s are set up — double-page format, etc).  I do occasionally hear a reference to ‘when the XMen were in Australia, that was awesome!’ and think ‘Heh, I should probably read that.’  But it’s definitely easier to feel the need to move forward with all the new stuff than go back in the library.

  6. Wow, that Bookmobile reference was so right on, I was instantly taken back to stepping aboard, carrying out books…a very Proustian moment…

  7. Jimski, can you explain to me why I bought "American Flagg" at Ron’s podcast behest and still have not read it yet? Do I try too hard to please people that I get passive aggressive over it?

  8. I too have most of the Marvel DVD Roms and love them.  But I’ve hardly put a dent in them!  That makes for a huge (but thank god only digital) Stack.

  9. I’ve thought about getting the X-Men and Avengers discs, but I think you’re right Jimski- it would probably blow up my brain.

    Also, read New Frontier like, RIGHT NOW!  If you have to re-read Volume I, DO IT!  It’s amazing, and in the end – you will believe that you can care for a Green Lantern.  Or, you could watch the excellent animated version with awesome voice cast…including JFK himself!  Listening to him give the "New Frontier" speech over the end montage made me teary-eyed.

  10. If it’s any help, Surrogates is only half as long as it looks. The other half of the book is taken up with fantastic script and sketch snippets. It’s a quick read, too quick really because it’s very good.

    I also bought it ’cause an iFanboy told me to. We’re good at following orders aren’t we?

  11. Someone get me a beer!

  12. Thanks. Now I know what that "Dexter’s Laboratory" episode was parodying/referencing.

    Maus I+II, Cable Classic TP, House of M HC, Artemis Fowl – the graphic novel, Reinventing Comics, The Complete Crumb 10 + 16, V For Vendetta TP, and I got Comic Book Comics #2 and Action Philosophers TP #1 + #2 + #3 coming soon.

    And dozens of books.

  13. Since Stack Week last June, I’ve conquered my stack so that all that remains is the Punisher Omnibus and Hellboy Library Edition 2.  I would like to say that its because of my due dilligence in reading, but the truth surrounds the global financial collapse and a looming summer wedding.  I basically haven’t had the scratch to build a new stack, which is just fine by me for the moment (and keeps the bride to be off my back about blowing all my money on "non wedding" things).  

    Now, instead, my comic book desires are punched into a running list that stretches for three pages.  My next stack will probably be digital, and if printed, would consume me like a paper monster. Although, one would hope that with the coming tax season, old Neb will get some fun money to invest in the digital list.

  14. Another thought:  Don’t worry about Walking Dead instilling you with fear.  Worry more about how it rips your beating heart out, straps it onto a nuclear missle, and drops it on a school of babies.

  15. Those DVD roms would be even more enticing if they could be used on Ipods much like the uclick stuff available on itunes

  16. @Neb: Wow, are you giving Remender more ideas for his Crawlspace title? 🙂

  17. 1 walking dead hardcover in your stack? pssshhh. i got 4 of them. though i’ve read the content of the first 2 in issues, it’s just been a long time and i want to read through everything at once.

  18. This is already working: I plowed through Walking Dead 4 yesterday. Of course, the ending was so unbelievable I’m now completely switching gears and thinking about switching to issues.

    By the way, I had a realization yesterday: you cannot say, "I can’t read Fear Agent because the author is too cruel to the protagonist," and then read The Walking Dead. Heath is next.

  19. wiw thats awesome. i have to get all the walking dead ones. and then finish reading the Annhilation ones.

  20. Nothing EVER collects dust on my coffee table. I read and re-read every single book I buy. If I thnk the book sucks, I sell it off.

  21. you still have new frontier in your stack? DC fan or not thats surely a crime?

  22. @Goaduk: that is my understanding. The drumbeat has been steady enough to get me to buy the damn thing, and I figure that buys me some time.

  23. Steady drumbeats are bad. There are either vikings or orcs in the area.

  24. Received 7 of the 9 books I’ve ordered over the past couple weeks this week.  I’ve already gone thru Scalped.  I now have Walking Dead Vol 2, Sleeper Vol 2, Batman: Cataclysm, The Roberts, Tiny Titans Vol 1, and Mini Marvels Secret Invasion Digest to get to.  Here’s to being off work this weekend.  Still waiting on Complete Lowlife (couldn’t believe I found it for $10) and Invincible HC Vol 2.

     @Conor – What’s the beer of choice?

  25. I got the DVD-ROMs of Amazing Spiderman and Ghost Rider.  What I do is read one or two issues of Amazing Spiderman every night after I check my email and stuff.  I’m almost done the 1960s now.  I didn’t even take the Ghost Rider one out of the cardboard packaging yet.

  26. @roadcrew1: Just about any import will do.

  27. @Conor – You should get the Beers of the World thing.  Very interesting ales have been coming in lately.

  28. You just need Leffe Brune. NOT from a bottle. The 50 one – not the 25. From the branded big ass glass. Preferably from a certain airport in Belgium.