Six Days of Stack Week – Part 2: Death to the Stack!!!

Welcome to day two of STACK WEEK, that time each year when the ragtag reprobates of iFanboy come clean and admit just how many books have snuck onto the "To Read" pile in the last few months. Part Shark Week, part public flogging, STACK WEEK allows you the reader to actively help iFanboy, since your encouragement (and fear of your scorn) are the only things that can motivate some of us to get this reading done. Ron made his confession yesterday; let's keep this wagon train a'rolling!….

This is just ridiculous.

Every time I get the call telling me that Stack Week is upon us, I look over at that pile and it starts to feel like the physical manifestation of a character flaw.

Sisyphus? Yey-ah, that thounds good On one level, I can give myself a pass. Retracing my steps, I can see how a Stack ends up in the house. You buy a book intending to read it (of course I'll read it; why else would I get it?) just as soon as that thing at work dies down next week. Then Wednesday rolls around, and the new Scalped volume is out, and you're going to be at the store anyway, and you know you want to read it at some point. Then on Thursday, Borders e-mails you one of their increasingly hysterical coupons– "We are literally starving, you guys! 60% off of anything you can carry! Free coffee! Just please come in here!"– so you go over and pick their bones a little bit more. You'd be foolish not to, right? Then a holiday or an anniversary rolls up on you, and here come the Amazon gift cards. All the while, you're thinking, "Oop! Weekly comics are out. Oop! Tivo's filling up. Oop! My Netflix queue is creeping up on two hundred movies. Oop! I am responsible for the care and feeding of a new human being, and we're almost out of applesauce." It's like being one of those midcentury variety show plate-spinning acts. Next thing you know… there it is again. The Stack. You worked so hard to kill the last one, but you're right back where you started again.

So much for the enabler's justification; now, onto the tough love. Having been through Stack Week twice before, I've come to realize the real reason it feels so much like failure, and it's a damning truth not everyone would admit:

The coffee table is groaning under the weight of a mountain of books, and there is not one book in that mountain that you couldn't finish in a day. Each one has been there six months, and you could probably start and finish any one of them without having to get up and go to the bathroom.

"Not the books on my Stack! Oh, no, sir. These are not mere six-chapter paperbacks. I have the Deluxe Absolute Treating Comics Like They Belonged In The Library Of Alexandria Edition of Man-Thing. This is a tome containing 800 gloriously reproduced pages of fine art that I wish to drink in with my eyes, savor, and appreciate."

Okay, fine, professor. A day and a half, then.

And I'm not yelling at you, here! Do not misunderstand. I am yelling at myself. I'm sure your reasons for letting those books pile up are much more legitimate than mine. You were probably feeding your family, working your second shift somewhere, or studying for a huge test this week while I was watching The Ladies' Man on Starz.

Yes. That's correct. The Ladies' Man. Yes, even with the Olympics on. I'm not on trial here.

Last time, I thought, "I do not want this public shaming to happen again. Next time Stack Week rolls around, I'm not gonna have one." When the call came, and I was once again faced with the pile of shame, a mad idea seized me: By God, I will not have a Stack. By the time Monday morning dawns, I will have read every one of these godforsaken books. And so it began.

Mighty Avengers Vol. 1 hardcover
Stalled because: I'd read it before, in issues

: I've lamented this book's crib strangulation before. I was really excited to read the Mighty Avengers Brian Bendis described when the book was announced, but it barely even had a chance because artist Frank Cho was perpetually late. People will often say, "It doesn't matter how late the chapters are; in five years, it'll read great as a hardcover, and all will be forgiven." Well, if Secret Invasion crossovers are scheduled before the book has a chance to tell more than two stories, yes, it matters just a little bit how late the chapters are. But it read great as a hardcover, one of the two at most that will ever get to exist. My new definition of "bittersweet."

Immediately pre-ordered
: New Avengers Vol. 4 hardcover

Sleeper Season One
Stalled because: We got off on the wrong foot. The very first time I heard Ed Brubaker's name, my comic shop's manager was insisting I read Sleeper. Unfortunately, the issue he was insisting I buy was #1 of Sleeper Season Two. It was early in my reintroduction to comics; I was not quite ready for the moral ambiguity and dark-as-blindness worldview. I wasn't ready for Sean Phillips' art. I felt like I needed to know a lot of things I didn't know from Season One. In hindsight, I felt a bit like the protagonist of the story, like I had been left out in the cold, thinking, "Yikes! I do not belong here."

Once you've had five or six years of Gotham Central and Daredevil and Criminal to acclimate you to Ed Brubaker, it turns out this Sleeper is a damn good book. (I don't know if that has ever come up before.) The story of Holden Carver's infiltration of the underworld and how it goes wrong was 100% nerve-wracking to me in all of the best ways. "Agh! Only his handler knows he's a double agent, but his handler's in a coma!!" I shouted at the cat like a madman even though it was only Tuesday.

Immediately ordered: Sleeper Season Two

Fear Agent Vol. 5: I Against I
Stalled because: I knew it was the last volume for the foreseeable future and was trying to prolong the inevitable. Also, it seems the whole point of the series is to torture the main character, and I like him so much that I have to psych myself up before I put us both through that.

Impressions: Oh my God! Are you kidding me with this? After four volumes of watching Heath Huston attempt to save the human race from alien annihilation, or at the very least scrape himself off the bottom of the universe's shoe, I opened this book excited to see how the saga was finally going to end for the drunken wretch, since as I mentioned it is the last volume for the foreseeable future. I will not spoil the book for you; I will only say that, among all the things I hoped/feared would be on the last page of it, I had not even begun to account for the words, "to be concluded." You forgot to surround those three words with "I thought the story was supposed" and "in this volume." Boooooo.

Immediately ordered: Annihilation, Book 1

Ex Machina Vol. 8: Dirty Tricks
Stalled because: I waited this long. What's another month?

Impressions: Volume Eight already? Wow, I have been back into comics for a long time now. Brian K. Vaughan's series about a superhero who capitalizes on his post-9/11 celebrity to become mayor of New York consistently hits all the right buttons, tackling social issues without beating anyone over the head while also occasionally featuring people literally getting beaten over the head. As much as I've enjoyed seeing this story once or twice a year, I think I have officially reached the point where I need to see in the next volume some mysteries explained and some gaps filled in via flashback. It's entirely fitting that Vaughan went on to write for Lost.

Immediately pre-ordered: Ex Machina Vol. 9

I Hate Gallant Girl
Stalled because: I have no idea what this is, where it came from, who it's by, or how it came to be in my house. Did Ron send it? I bet Ron sent it.

Impressions: It turns out this is a book about a superhero team that picks its female members via a pageant; more specifically, it is about that pageant's runner-up. I really liked the cartoony art style, and for a while there it looked like the concept was going to be unique and interesting, but then it turned out Everything Was Exactly As It Seemed. The hero wasn't an embittered ugly duckling with issues worth exploring; she was just a brunette. She was entirely right to hate Gallant Girl; Gallant Girl was entirely evil for no discernable reason. With so much about gender, identity, and the Beauty Myth just sitting there waiting to be used, this was a real missed opportunity.

Immediately ordered: A pizza, just to salvage the evening.

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2

Stalled because: I'd read it before, in issues.

Impressions: The week ended as it began, with the hardcover of a perpetually late comic I had read one sporadic chapter at a time when it first came out. This was both a great one-sitting read and a great second read; knowing how it's all going to come out adds weight to a lot of formerly cryptic moments, while also making moments that were heartbreaking the first time hilarious the second time. This was a well-timed reminder of why I once loved Joss Whedon so.

Immediately ordered: The shrimp and avocado tacos.

The Eternal Stack of Marvel DVDs From Which There Is No Escape
Stalled because: They're DVDs of the entire, complete runs of half a dozen different Marvel comics (Avengers, Captain America, X-Men, Fantastic Four etc). My great-grandchildren will still be reading them to me at graveside.

Impressions: I have no idea. I will never have any idea. These have been on my Stack since the very first time. I will never finish them. I will never start some of them. I do not know what I was thinking.

I'm going to pretend like Sunday didn't happen. I'd rather feel good about this whole endeavor. And I do! I did it. It is Monday morning, and I have no Stack whatsoever. Mission accomplished.

Of course, now I'm a full week behind on single issues.

It never ends.


Jim Mroczkowski is not even going to get into the prose Stack. Give him something else to read at Twitter.


  1. Heh.  Great article.  I too have been determinately plowing through my ridiculously large stack!

  2. how were the shrimp and avocado tacos?

  3. They seemed like the healthy option until I started eating them.

  4. I salute you sir.  A bunch of stuff just recently got added to my stack.  I actually read 3 trades yesterday.  Been a while since I’ve done that type of marathon reading.

  5. Feel no shame in watching THE LADIES MAN! Tim Meadows is a comic genius!

    I am impressed with your determination to defeat your stack in the face of Stack Week. I feel like I should e-mail you every six months to announce a new Stack Week just to get you to read everything in your house.

  6. That Astonishing X-Men collection is great. Everything that happened there took place over like two days of storytime.

  7. heh, I grabbed the Complete Fantastic Four/Silver Surfer collection for dirt cheap on clearance. Still haven’t looked at it. I’ll assume it’s awesome.

  8. Great article Jim. The Stack is always a worrying thing in February – there’s the still unread Christmas presents and the January sales books to add to the usual monthly influx of floppies, tpbs and hcs. I’ve taken to hiding the real stack behind the couch in the home theater room, as I feel a four-foot high stack may be grounds for divorce.

  9. The ultimate stack builders are those Marvel Essentials/DC Showcases: cheap and long as hell.

    I’m currently reading Avengers Essential Volume 7.

  10. Jimski, nice work getting through your stack.  Comics are indeed an endless cycle. 

    In his last WordBalloon interview, Remender and Moore said that the final FEAR Agent arc should be dropping sometime this spring or summer depending on how much Tony can get done.  They’re going to finish all the issues before they solicit, so ideally, the story will finish for its hiatus in 2010 in both issues and trades. Without this knowledge, I can see how the ending would be really disappointing.

  11. That is good news! Podcasts are something else that have been stacking up lately.

  12. It’s too bad that as a long time comic reader, I always thought that reading new books equals spending money on them.  There’s an infinite number of titles I always wanted to try but being an old guy with kids and a mortage I never plunked down the scratch to pick any of this stuff up…. until I discovered a few months ago the magic of the public library!!!! I now consistently have a stack of at least 4 to 6 trades to read a week.  My "stack" is really the wish-list queue on my library online catalog that currently has 148 books that I’m dying to read. CHECK YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIES FOLKS!!!!!!!

  13. fear agent first!!

  14. oh those DVDs.  I wish I had the Ghost Rider one, that one at least seems plausible.  I can do you one better, I have a text file where the series are all broken up into a reading order of runs and arcs.  yup.

  15. When looking at the stack elicits a Pavlovian sense of dread, then it may be time to pare down on the purchasing.  Lately I’ve come to view working my thru the stack as more chore than pleasure. Perhaps its time to find a stackaholics support group.

    The stack is dead.  Long live the stack!

  16. @Jimski: Do you agree with that Tim Meadows should have been War Machine in the new Ironman Movie? That is alot of reading in one week. Did you read all of this, as well as, the current week’s comics?

    Items in my stack
    Transmetropolitan Vol 5
    Scalped Vol 4-5
    Preacher HC Vol 2
    Gantz Vol 6-8
    Berserk Vol 28-32
    Jonah Hex Showcase Vol 1
    Several old back issues recently purchased at LCS

  17. @Jestr, I just started reading last week’s comics last night. Every marathon comes with a price.

    I never thought of Tim Meadows as War Machine; now, I can think of nothing else.

  18. Tim Meadows should be in every movie.

  19. So Jim, you were upset that there is actually going to be more Fear Agent? Or did yo think the "To Be Concluded" was a fake out and meant to leave us hanging forever?

  20. Can you imagine War Machine with the Ladies Man lisp?  Not even Downey Jr. could counteract such hilarity!

  21. It would be the greatest movie ever.