Take Another Look

This weekend, I spent a lot of time curled up on the couch with brand new books I’d read already.

I don’t know if it’s something we’ve been conditioned to do as comic book readers or whether everyone is just like this now, but a lot of us tend to buy the same thing two or three times over. I’ve learned my lesson with almost every other medium—I’m not buying Blu-rays to replace DVDs that replaced VHS tapes, and as God is my witness I will never own another version of the Star Wars trilogy that I didn’t get by hurling a cinder block through a window—but for some reason, if I loved a series as I read it one stapled chapter at a time, I find myself counting the days until I can buy an oversized hardcover collection of it. It’s like buying the Complete Season DVD of a show I already paid to watch on cable, I say as I sign the credit card statement, knowing full well that all the “episodes” are still in a box at my house. As some current storyline or another is enthralling me, on some level I actually find myself thinking, “Holy cow! I cannot wait to buy this again.”

It’s almost like a badge of honor for the series in question, or a promotion. “Congratulations, kid; you made it to the bookshelf.” Sometimes, it’s a chance to look at the artwork “as it was meant to be seen.” More than any of that stuff, though, buying the hardcover is my excuse to reread the book.

Back when my closet only had two comic boxes in it, circa 1987, I had reread everything in those boxes at least twice. That was back when it was all fresh and new to me, of course, back when I’d literally read the same story over and over instead of just feeling like I had. Back then, there were fewer things competing for my attention, and the web hadn’t yet reduced me to an ADHD OCD SOB, compulsively clicking links in everything I looked at until I was twenty pages down the rabbit hole and I’d forgotten what I sat down to read in the first place. There were also the simple economics of it: when comics are $0.75 each, and your allowance is $4.00, you wring the entertainment out of those books until ink drips onto the carpet. If I could go back and tell that kid, “Guess what: I went to the comic shop last week and spent fifty bucks without even thinking about it,” I honestly don’t know whether he’d high-five me or punch me in the junk. He was typically a hell of a lot happier with his purchases than I was with mine last week. He had to be.

I can still remember some of the ones I read the most. One of the first prolonged multi-issue arcs that ever stuck with me was a story in the 280s of Amazing Spider-Man called “Gang War.” All the street-level heroes faced off and/or banded together to save New York from the forces of the underworld. (They should try something like that again sometime.) The mystery of the Hobgoblin’s identity was reaching its crescendo, Spidey was dating Black Cat and hanging out with his friend Mary Jane who he would certainly not have any reason to abruptly propose to a few issues later, and for some reason I was just riveted. Thinking about it makes me want to go upstairs and pull the issues out right now.

I was the same way with G.I. Joe, especially that run from about #35-50. As a kid, I honestly believed I was keeping those books in resale-quality condition; last year while thumbing through one of them, I sneezed and it blew apart like the dust you find on a mummy. Before it disintegrated, though, it was just as much fun reading it in 2009 as it had been when I was in grade school, although for different reasons. Not everything fares so well; tread lightly if you decide to revisit those old Transformers issues. Adult scrutiny is a heartbreaker.

I hardly ever get to reread anymore. Mostly, I plan to reread. I’m going to get to New Mutants one day. I’m going to take another look at "Gang War." That’s why all those boxes are still up there in the closet, after all. I’m sure that if I ever do find the time, it’ll be just like being a kid again, mostly because for every issue I memorized at 12 there are dozens I don’t even remember buying. (To paraphrase an awful old joke, the nicest thing about being me is I can hide my own Easter eggs.) Most of the stuff in those boxes would be like a brand new experience.

There are a few relatively modern stories that I’ve revisited since they got their hardcover promotions. Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, as good as it was, is even better when three months don’t pass between chapters without warning. I like to read an “event book” after the shouting has died down, just to see how it holds up. This weekend, I devoured the latest editions of New Avengers (which I like as much as I did the first time, but a huge volume of just the Secret Invasion tie-ins is pretty rough going and schizophrenic as a standalone) and Gotham Central, which always breaks my heart a little every time I read it because it’s so good and so very extinct. Gotham Central reminds me of when I was getting back into comics, and everything had changed in my absence; the “mainstream” was taking interesting chances. That time has largely passed now. On the wide spectrum of what I like to get out of my comic booking, Gotham Central is about as far as you can go on one side, and Brightest Day is pretty close to the edge on the other side. I can still remember realizing that issue towards the end of the series was an Infinite Crisis tie-in and thinking, “Uh-oh.” It was like being a dinosaur, looking up at the meteor.

I get the same feeling when I’m revisiting my most reread book of the modern era, the Alias Omnibus. Without this book, I simply would not be here bloviating at all of you. To this day, I have no idea how I heard about it; I’m pretty sure I was Googling that ridiculous TV show and ended up on Newsarama, and the rest was blithely forgotten history. I’m usually in awe of people who do an annual or semi-annual rereading of a favorite book, but somehow I have managed to pull this one (with both hands; you could kill a marmot with this thing) off the shelf pretty regularly since my wife got it for me for our “paper” anniversary. I still enjoy it on its own merits when I read it now, but I also marvel at everything that has happened since it came out, to the author, characters, and universe alike. The guy who wrote this alt, profane, what-the-hell, let’s-see-what-he-does-with-it book now has the keys to the kingdom. Now when I read it, I get to one panel in the first chapter when Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are… getting to know each other a little better and think, “These two characters lead the Avengers now.” It’s like Brian Bendis pulled off the heist of the century.

It’s too easy to get into the habit of chasing the next Wednesday. This summer, I am going to rededicate myself to taking another look at the stories I enjoyed enough to keep me in this twisted hobby, and I encourage you to do the same. I mean, hell: the boxes are all sitting there. Might as well get something out of them.


Jim Mroczkowski bought the Star Wars trilogy on VHS, and then he bought the THX edition on VHS, and then he bought the limited edition letterboxed version of that… and only then did the Special Editions come out. In hindsight, most of this was in the span of, like, five years. Forward him the name of your financial advisor in the same place all the spambots do.


  1. I recently did this myself, rereading X-Men crossovers like Fatal Attractions, the Phalanx Covenant, Star Wars Dark Empire I & II, the Stray Bullets HC’s that I had scavenged from a discount bin at a con, and all my Sin City books.

    I also recently picked up a bunch of the old DC/Marvel Amalgam one shots in a fifty cent bin and my god, those were a blast!

  2. That issue of Spider-Man is exactly the one I need to finish my Gang War set. I do recall reading it when I was younger and thinking it was pretty kick-ass.

    One of my favorite re-reads is Preacher. Every year or so, I’ll pull out the trades and just spend a few days with it. Really don’t have much time for rereading anything anymore, unfortunately. Not for lack of wanting to, just the fact there aren’t enough hours in the day and I’m easily distracted by other media.

  3. Re-reading is cool.

  4. Good for you.  I like the concept of squeezing more entertainment value from your out of pocket  investment.  However, I barely have enough free time to read my new stuff, much less revisit the old.  (Which now has me questioning my current practice of saving/boxing the old floppies.)

  5. Grant Morrison’s Batman stuff is awesome in rereads.

  6. I try to re read Watchmen every couple years, cause i guess once is never enough. but re reading that seems like a given. i re read Millers Ultimate X-Men run last year and thought how great it would be for a Televison Series. right now though i tend to re read my PoW if they really stuck to me, which tends to be Fractions Invicible Iron Man.

  7. Every New Years Day for the past twelve years I’ve nursed my hangover with lots of water and The Dark Knight Returns. 

    I’ve always made a concious effort to revisit favorite comics. It revitalizes my interest in a hobby that can make one rather cynical if ya don’t stop and smell the pages once in a while.

  8. I love to reread books. I’d say Ultimate Spider-Man 13 is the one I’ve reread the most (to me, it’s full of awesome).  Currently rereading the Generation X leadup (collected in a volume called the Originof Generation X)

  9. I believe the culprit is our fast paced, what next society. We are media junkies always looking for our next score.

  10. This article came at a perfect time for me. I was getting addicted to Wednesdays and had to tell myself to reread.

  11. @queenrikki, that issue of USM is probably my all time favorite single issue of any given comic. I had Bendis sign my copy at Wizard World Philly a couple years ago, and told him as much. That Gen X leadup was Phalanx Covenant and is a great re-read.

  12. A good comics is just like a good song: you can re-enjoy it as many times as you will.

  13. I try to re-read alot of my trades that I have because I bought them for the quality of their content.  I usually then jettison the issues on ebay, so I don’t feel so silly.  In my mind, the trades/HC will last longer than the issues.

  14. I try to reread things as often as possible. I’m slowly buying the Losers, but before I read the new issues, I try to reread what I’ve got some far. I’ve got the first 18 issues.

    I used to reread a lot more, but I’ve just moved into my own place, and life gets in the way a lot more now. Plus when I used to reread I have two boxes, now I have 8 :S

    I like to go though regularly and get rid of things I know I will not read again, and I’m starting to think my favourites (Ultimates i & ii, Astonishing X-men, Y: The Last Man, Batman and Robin) should get bumped up to collected editions. Like Jim said, it’s kinda like a promotion for them, these are the books I’d proudly show people when discribing good comics.

    I think I might reread Grim Hunt to get read for the last issue this week.


  15. Interesting that this came out the day I come home from the comic store with 3 hard covers of JLI.

  16. @zombox I don’t think it’s so much our ‘fast paced what’s next society’ as media overload combined with  the fascistic convention by which I have to have a job to pay my mortgage.  If I could get those 40-something hours a week back I would TOTALLY be able to read more.

    But seriously. . .great article, this is an excellent reminder.  I’m always surprised at how much I don’t remember from things I’ve read (and supposedly loved), not to mention the whole angle of noticing new things because of knowledge and experience I’ve acquired since then.  And a ‘Gotham Central’ or ‘Alias’ reread is always a good idea.  

  17. Transmetropolitan is next on my rereading list.

    Lucifer after that.

  18. Nice article Jim, & I agree with every word. I’m also in the thick of filling in the holes a prolonged absence from comics created *happyhappyjoyjoy*

  19. I’m going to reread Planetary after my absolute editions arrive in the mail.  I’m curious how that reads without delays.

  20. Whedon’s Astonishing X-men is a frequent reread along with those awesome visionaires Frank Miller’s Daredevil Vol.’s

    currently working on a Secret Wars TPB as it brings back sweet memories of running to my LCS to pick up the lastest ish.

  21. It hurt my head to reread Secret Wars. 

  22. I thought about mentioning the amount of time I spent rereading Secret Wars II, but I wanted to preserve some credibility for later.

  23. Secret Wars II, is like… well something really bad.

  24. @bluelew23 The Beyonder was kickass in part I but once he got jherri curls and a white jacket in SWII it was just a big WTF?

  25. I kind of feel the same way, the other day I was at Barnes Noble and saw that new Batwoman hardcover and as I was flipping through it I had this urge to buy it so I could read it again but then I thought to myself "why do I need to buy this hardcover to read it if I already have the issues?" and that really got me thinking about what you mentioned.

    I think if there was some sort of program where you could trade in your original comics in exchange for them in collected format, i probably would do that since it would make it easier for me to read. But then that leads to the question of why dont I just switch to trade, but Im simply not patient enough to wait for trades. Also, sometimes there just isnt enough time to re-read everything.

  26. Thank you, thank you for reminding me of the Gang War story.  I only had part 1 and the conclusion, but I loved it.  And I managed to wring every last drop of enjoyment out of them as a kid, reading and rereading them until they were falling apart.  Now my single issues never get reread as I don’t have the time and I wonder why I keep them after the first reading.  The only stuff I read again is the stuff I deem good enough to double dip with collected editions. I have to admit I miss how much value I got out of a single comic.