Sometimes You Get To Walk Away

I often get email from people asking me where to start reading the Flash, or Superman, or the Justice Society, or the Justice League. They are often tinged with the expectation that need to start from the very beginning. I can assure you that there is no need to start reading from Flash Comics #1 if you want to get into the Flash. The secret to getting into these old characters is you have to realize that you are making your own story with the character. You have a whole menu of stories in front of you. You can pick and choose what you want to read and what you want to stick with. The stuff you don’t like you can just push aside.

Occasionally, after you have perused your offerings, you get to the end of the story you create. Not the end for the characters or the creators. The end of the story between those characters and you.  It isn’t a terrible fate. In it’s own way it might the best way for the relationship to end. You walk away from the characters with a sense of satisfaction.

This has only really happened to me with one set of characters. I have walked away from the X-Men after Grant Morrison’s run. It wasn’t out of anger. Morrison had written an X-Men story that completely satisfied me. It contained all the elements of the Xverse while pushing the characters to a new level. It was the prefect fit for a set of characters who were based in the idea of evolution run amok.

Xavier's School actually felt like a school. The adolescent angst of the X-Men was being experienced through children once again. There were mutants that were physically horrifying. These weren’t young, sexy mutants running around. They were people who definitely could not get by in the real world. They were so grotesque that they were even separate from the more regular looking mutants.

Even the controversial elements of his run worked perfectly for me. I personally loved how Beast’s secondary mutation was handled. It was a way to put a well known character through the ringer of mutation once again. It can be easy to take the older X-men’s handle on their situation for granted. Having the Beast’s life turned upside down was a great contrast of how an adult handles alienation to how an kid handles alienation.

Finally, Morrison’s take on Magneto was the element that lifted this series to the next level. Magneto gets his way. He leads a revolution of mutants and gets a chance to bring his dream to life. Problems arise when the revolution stops listening to him. Magneto loses control of the situation. He ends up being exposed as a sad old man who didn’t have what it takes to be a leader. The Magneto versus Xavier dynamic took on a whole new meaning. We started to see that perhaps neither one of them was right. They both laid claim to speaking on behalf of the next generation, but without a proper mandate.

All of this mixed together created the perfect X-Men story for me. As I got to the end of the Morrison run a strange feeling came over me. I didn’t really want to read what happened next. Chuck Austen was taking over and I was leaving. I had read my X-Men story.  I am sure that all the talented creators that followed Morrison have created great stories. They just never seemed to grab me. Aside from portions of the Whedon run I haven’t read more then two consecutive X-issues since Morrison left.

That never really happens..right? To go from loving a book to just simply walking away from the characters.  The whole system is set up to get the readers to buy the next issue. I am supposed to keep buying the book even if I don’t like it. It certainly wouldn’t be good for the industry if everyone just stopped reading the books once they read a good run. Perhaps the secret is that the X-Men are not even close to being my favorite characters. They are low on my priority list but they had one of my favorite comic runs of all time.

It was like a really nice relationship that ended amicably and that I think about in a fond way. As soon as change was on the horizon;  I packed up my stuff and moved out. There was no angst for me with the Chuck Austen run. I was already living in a different neighborhood.

I wonder if I will ever get to that point with The Flash. Will there be a day when I read a run of Flash books that so perfectly captures my imagination that it actually drives me away? My relationship with that character is totally different from how I look at the X-Men. I genuinely enjoy all the trappings of the Flash. Even at the worst of times I can usually find something in a Flash story to enjoy. (Notable exception being the Bilson/DeMeo run on the book. That book still haunts me.)

Morrison’s X-Men is like a beautifully constructed building that I enjoy looking at. It is static in my mind. Whenever I want to read the X-Men I just break out my New X-Men omnibus and that desire is satiated. It will always be there, exactly the way I like it. The Flash is like a baseball game to me. I love baseball. I like the nuances of it and the history of it. No two games are ever the same. Sometimes it is exhilarating and sometimes it can be boring. Yet at the end of the day I still want to watch baseball. I want to see how today’s game is different from yesterday. I can’t imagine watching a baseball game and at the end thinking, “Well that was the best game I have ever seen. No need to watch tomorrow.”

Maybe we see our favorites as being a bit more alive. The highs are higher and lows are lower but we still want to get on the ride. We chase an ideal that maybe won’t ever be caught. I don’t really know which fate is better. To keep reading and hoping for the best or to find the good and walk away from the hunt.


Tom Katers spends a lot of time staring out the window thinking about fictional characters. How did he ever get married?



  1. Fantastic article. I love New X-men, it felt like the next natural step that all the characters needed to take to evolve (which is what the whole mutant thing is about, evolution). I can see the Morrison run as a great ending point, there have been some great X-men comics post Morrison, but if Marvel came out and said "That’s all folks, thanks for you time." I would have been satisfied, shocked as hell, but satisfied. 

  2. Powers is a good example of this for me.

  3. I feel like I agree with this in principle, but I can’t think of any specific examples in comics.  Though I sometimes realize it retroactively (Vaughn on ‘Runaways’ and maybe Bendis on ‘Daredevil’, though I liked a lot of the Brubaker stuff). 

  4. @ohcaroline – I agree.  I can imagine this happening, but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it.  Perhaps the closest I’ve come was the end of the war in Fables.  I could’ve happily stopped there (but I didn’t).

  5. @ohcaroline I get a lot of that.  "Damn I should have walked away when Johns finished JSA" is the most recent one.

    @george You made the right choice.

  6. I have dropped books after immaculate runs. I will usually pick them up later if a new creator I like comes on board, but I am with you on this one Tom. Why taint your memories? And New X-Men was amazing.

  7. I’m reading the New X-Men run now for the first time, and it’s fantastic!

  8. Oh.  Hey.  Power Girl.  I haven’t read the second half of the Palmiotti/Gray/Conner run yet, but I don’t anticipate wanting to read more after I finish it.  Though that’s less about having a completed story than it is about the fact that my interest in the story is tied to the creative team more than the characters.  If you look at it that way, then it isn’t really even ‘walking away’ because the book I was reading is finished. 

  9. I would never so blatantly… limit myself from good things.

  10. Can someone point me to the Mossrison X-Men run (in TPB form) that Mr. Katers speaks of above?

  11. The first one is called ‘E is for Extinction’

  12. The closest that I have come to this is Meltzer’s run on Justice League.  I loved every damn issue of that run.  Loved that it focused more on the characters and their relationships.  Loved how it dealt with the history of the league.  Loved that the action was on the back burner.  Loved the art.  I was really bummed when he left.  He set up a ton of interesting storylines what with bringing back Starro, Per Degaton, and Ultra Humanite.  I was very excited to see what he would do with those classic JLA villains.  I hung around for a few issues of the McDuffie run but dropped it pretty quickly.  At this point I think the one of the only things that would bring me back to JLA would be the return of Meltzer.

  13. @Risible Just go to amazon (from the ifanboy link of course) and type in "New X-men" Morrison. There are 3 "Ultimate" trades. Just three, it’s the whole story. Enjoy!

  14. I would just say that, because people are wonderful and have very diverse opinions, I would not recommend buying the entire Morrison X-Men run sight unseen unless you get a VERY good deal.

  15. Good article, Tom. I especially like what you said about how we see our favorites as being a bit more alive, and sticking with them through the highs and the lows. I think about this often. We all have our "close friends" and our "acquaintances" within the world of comics.

    Personally, I’ll never drop Batman. You just don’t go through a death in the family, a back injury, an earthquake, jail time, amnesia, insanity, and time travel with someone and then just turn your back on them. We’ve been through too much together. Someone like Power Girl however? Sure we’re close, but we’re not that close.

  16. I feel that way about the current crop of Avengers books. I’ve bought the first couple issues, but I’m over it now. I’m sure they’re good, but I’m finished for now. All-Star Superman may have ruined me for monthly Superman comics. It’s so good and complete, I don’t feel the need to read anything else having to do with the character, for now.

    @Tom as far as you feeling this way about the Flash, sometimes you just love the character. I’m a Wolverine fan. I doubt I’ll ever read my last Wolverine story. I’m sure I’ll read a few more that are just plain bad. Doesn’t matter that’s the character I follow. 

  17. I do this all the time, actually.  Runaways, as has been mentioned, was one.  Green Lantern after Blackest Night was another.  As far as I’m concerned, Hal Jordan won.  The end.  Fables after the war.  Gilmore Girls after Amy Sherman Palladino left.  What do you mean, "that’s not a comic book?"  I love being able to walk away from a book, after reading the ultimate story.  It feels good to set it down, free up room in my budget to pick up something else and get closure.  Closure is good.

  18. what about tidy limited series?  Empire was great

  19. I didn’t read Fables for about 2 years after the war ended, for the reasons Tom describes in the article. I was satisfied. I’ve since started again, because, hey, why not, and am glad that I did, but if that book had ended right there it would’ve been perfectly fine.

    I meant to drop Green Lantern after Blackest Night, again, same reason, but I forgot to tell the LCS guy to take it off my pull-list, and I felt bad about not buying it after that. But once this arc is done, I’m off it.

  20. The closest I’ve come to this is JSA and oddly enough Scrubs season 8. The end of scrubs
    Season 8 was THE end of the show. It told you that all the things you wanted to have happen (JD and Eliot getting married, Dr. Cox finally accepting JD as a member of his family) happened but also ended it so perfectly. A season 9 wasn’t necessary. And I refuse to admit its existence.

  21. Judd Winick’s run on Green Arrow is my favourite work on the character. I was completely satisfied by the way he left the book and I dropped it soon after he left. 

  22. I feel this way about GL after Blackest Night. I’ve loved the series from Rebirth to Blackest Night but after Blackest Night, I was satisfied and complete. Although Ive read the issues since and enjoy them, its just not the same and I wish Johns had left the book after Blackest Night. Its not that I think he will fail or the book will be bad but that I can’t see where he goes from here and I don’t see how I can enjoy the series anymore than I have. 

  23. Great article!

    I agree with Morrison’s New X-Men. It exists in a bubble of its own for me, and I don’t need to read any of the issues leading up to it, or any of the ones afterward. From New X-Men I jumped to Astonishing X-Men, and I dropped that when Whedon and Cassaday left, totally satisfied again.

    You’re right, though, you almost never get a perfect ending. In recent year(s), I dropped Daredevil, Jason’s Aaron’s Weapon X, and Johns’ GL stuff, but I left those mid-arc. And I was fine with that, too, but it wasn’t a clean break. I still left happy, but it was a case of my saying "Okay, I feel comfortable with this being my last issue. I need to stop reading now, because if I keep going then it’s going to get annoying with asking myself ‘Should I stop…now?’ with every new issue."

  24. I kinda wish I had stoped reading Blue Beetle after the 4th trade (The End Game arc), its such an awesome conclusion and the arc that follows it just isnt as good :/

  25. Great article and a great counter opinion to Ron’s feelings on Grant Morrison’s run.

  26. I was done with Punisher after Ennis’ run.  I gave both Aaron & Remender one arc each and also picked up the other short arcs and one-shots for a brief time, but I kept finding that I didn’t even want to keep them; it was like they just weren’t worthy to sit beside Ennis’ Punisher in my boxes.  I don’t know that I will read that character again in the foreseeable future, because the perfect, definitive run is clearly over.

  27. Excellent article.

    I encounter this "walk away" desire with characters/stories in other media; haven’t watched a minute of the american version of The Office; the UK version was perfection.

    I haven’t had this happen w/ comics yet. With the possible exception of hypotheticals – if anyone wanted to try to revisit Gaiman’s "Sandman" in any serious way, or "Watchmen 2" – both of those would probably be things I’d avoid. 

    (and, as a side note, this pushes the Morrison X-Men run up in my queue a few notches)


  28. @bansidhewail You’re right that Ennis’ run is the definitive Punisher, but I think Aaron has a good shot of equaling that. He gets that same tone and characterization down perfectly, to me.

  29. Its funny to read this and by this I mean defining comics in terms of runs – a certain book, with a fixed set of creators – because I recently realized this is how I have approached comic books throughout my life.  For example, it never mattered who wrote or drew Spider-Man.  I simply wasn’t interested in the character.  I even tried on a few occasions with creators I liked with minimal success.  On the flip side I love X-Factor but only if its written by Peter David.  I have his run from the 90s and the one he started in the 2000s but I will doubtless drop the book when he leaves it.  Same when I think of my holy trilogy of X-Men Runs: Claremont/Morrison/Whedon.  Each of their arcs finished so well and were so complete (well maybe Claremont wasnt entirely) that I simply couldn’t imagine a follow-up by someone else right away.  A new creator in the same veign but a different era would have to take up the mantle to make them speak to me again.  After Astonishing I did try with Ellis and I tried with Fraction and for whatever reason I felt like I had gone from reading a doctoral dissertation to an i am an eighth grader book report.  No offense intended to Mr. Fraction or Ellis. I don’t want to overstate the intellectual component of what I’m saying.  What is important is that for me personally the Whedon X-Men were the logical continuations of Morrison’s X-Men who were the logical continuations of Claremont’s first run on them.  Fraction is quite simply – for me – out of my continuity on look, feel, character, story, everything.  Its a fundamentally different X-Book and that’s fine but its just not the X-Book I want to read.  As such, I will have to wait for the next installment on that title who I feel writes "my X-Men." (Carey got close on Legacy but then the Xavier story ended and my interest with it).  In this milieu, naturally there will be X-Men not written for me but for others who enjoy them immensely.  Fantastic Four is another.  Stopped reading after John Byrne until Hickman came along.  And Thor.  Read Walt Simonson then nothing until JMS and now nothing again.  I appreciate that there are many that hate all 4 of those runs.  And I think this is how it is supposed to be.  Changing creators should change the book and for me it takes a certain creator coming to a certain book to keep me coming back.  Hence Peter David on X-Factor = Awesome and Peter David on Hulk = not so much.  It seems like this most frequently happens with Marvel as I tend toward creator-owned works with DC and the Indies although if Gail Simone left Secret Six I’d probably beg her to stay and if that didn’t work weep softly until someone brought my six back or a six pack.

  30. @MisterShaw, I had to stop reading Jason Aaron altogether actually…I really liked his Black Panther run during Secret Invasion, so I started picking up some other stuff…ultimately he wrote a panel I was so disturbed by, I felt like I was stuck with the image forever…I lost the trust.  And that was only in WeaponX, not even a MAX or Vertigo title!

  31. I finished Green Lantern after Blackest Night. The story ended and I was done. It’s not as if any of the characters are on their own were charismatic enough to hold my interest, so that was that.