by Wayne Markley
Over the last few years, Marvel has taken to collecting certain stories or collection of issues as an Omnibus, a massive over-sized hardcover book. Most of these books are over 800 pages and are filled with extras. And as they come and go out of print, the price on these tombs goes up and up on Amazon and related sites. No, I am not writing a column this time on what to invest in, but I am looking at if these massive books are worth $100+ they are priced at (although some have smaller pages counts and do cost less). And as it tends to happen in comics, since Marvel is doing these, Image, Dynamite, and of course DC are also doing these, and these will also be touched on briefly in the course of this rant.
I am going to break the Omnibus collections into three categories, material that has not been reprinted anywhere else; material that has been collected and now is being reprinted again in this deluxe format, and this raises the question if the material is worth reprinting again; and a third category of material that is modern sodoes it deserve to get this upscale treatment (and by this I mean material that original published in the last ten years).
With any and all of these collections before I even start discussing them, let me say they all are beautiful and the production and the presentation is top notch and looks great on any book shelf. But these books are expensive and I am discussing the content, not the aesthetic values. So, away we go.
For this first category I would say yes, the material is worth your money. I say this because I have personally spent money on these Omnibuses because the material had not been collected anywhere else (at least at the time the book was published). In this category there are some great books, such as Jack Kirby’s Eternals (later collected in two paperbacks), Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur, not a great book by any means, but it does hold up as one of Kirby’s quirkier characters, and you are unlikely to see it anywhere else. And it is by Jack Kirby. Then there is the Amazing Fantasy collection, which I was surprised was done as an Omnibus and not a Masterwork. But when are you ever going to get all 15 issues of Amazing Fantasy (the title changes a number of times over the 15 issues)? It is filled with the traditional monster and suspense stories Marvel was already doing in Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, etc., and there is some great artwork by Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers and the rest of the 1960s Marvel stable. One of the harder books to recommend based on quality, but it is a must have due to the quirkiness of it, is the Women of Marvel Omnibus. Here you have everything from Black Widow to Millie the Model to Night Nurse (all four issues!) to the Cat to Firestar to Captain Marvel and more. The stories are all over the map in terms of quality, but it features stories you will never see anywhere else.
Then there are collections of story arcs, such as Acts of Vengeance, Atlantis Attacks, and X-Men: Fall of the Mutants. All three of these are epic stories from the 80s which read much better in one sitting, and they all do have sort of a nostalgia feel. While I like these, these are also the ones I would buy last since the material is not the greatest and some of it has been collected in the past. There is one Omnibus I was super-excited for and it lived up to my expectations, the Captain Britain Omnibus. This beauty collected most of the Captain Britain stories from the UK including the excellent run by Alan Moore and the early weeklies by Chris Claremont. Unfortunately, the only way to get all the Captain Britain stories is to buy the trade collections from Panini.
Next is the category of material that has been collected before but now in this deluxe format that is worth re-buying because the material is that good. The first one is a three volume set of the Tomb of Dracula. I have always argued that Tomb of Dracula was a highly underrated series by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan. The early issue are a little wonky, but once they hit their stride around issue ten, this became one of the best books Marvel published. Within these three hardcover volumes you have the complete run of the color comic, all the Tomb of Dracula magazines, the Dracula Lives magazines, and other odds and ends, such as a Solomon Kane story from Savage Sword of Conan that featured Dracula. As an aside, a huge thank you should go out to Dark Horse for letting Marvel reprint this story unlike Dynamite who would not let Dark Horse reprint the Red Sonja stories in their Conan collections. These three Tomb of Dracula Omnibuses are month’s worth of reading, and they look beautiful. The negative is that almost all of this material has been reprinted before in Essentials or color trade paperbacks. But to me, these hardcover’s are worth the investment.
And of course how can I not highly recommend the Howard the Duck Omnibus. It is Steve Gerber at his finest and has stunning art by Frank Brunner and Gene Colan. This is far superior to the Essential in terms of quality and material included. My only complaint was it did not have the Howard the Duck Newspaper Strip. I think this is a collection that NEEDS to be done (Hint, hint Marvel).
Marvel has also collected some of their core characters into these Omnibus collections. These are generally 20-25 issues of the books in sequence. They have been all heavy hitters so far; such as Thor, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, Silver Surfer, Marvel Comics (the Golden Age ones), and others. I have a harder time recommending these unless you are a big fan of the character. The reason for this is the material has already been collected in Masterworks (where I bought it after selling all my original Marvels), or in Essentials, which are a cheap way to read classic material. Personally I do not buy Essentials because they are in black and white and I like the material to be in color if it was intended that way. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, such as Tales of the Zombie, which I cannot see being a Masterwork at any point and was in black and white originally.
The third category is collections of modern material. If these are worth getting depends purely on whether or not you like the material enough to want an oversized hardcover collection of it. Here there are such things as The Death of Captain America (a great story), The Immortal Iron Fist (again a great story), Straczynski’s Thor (a trifecta in storytelling as this is excellent), Garth Ennis’ Punisher, Ghost Rider by Jason Aarons, and Daredevil collections by both Brian Bendis and Ed Brubaker. If I did not already have the Daredevil stories, I would recommend them as the storytelling is breathtaking. There is also Astonishing X-Men by Josh Wheaton and John Cassaday and Alias, once again by Brian Bendis, and this is a book I so enjoyed I bought the Omnibus. But is the only one of the recent storylines that I have bought.
As I mentioned in the opening, other publishers have also taken to doing oversized collections of their material. With all of these I would recommend you buy them only if you are a huge fan of the material. There are beautiful collections of Planetary, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Kingdom Come all from DC. DC calls their books Absolute Editions, and they are nice and they all come with lots of extras. Recently they started to also do their own version of Omnibuses, with the first being Green Lantern, collecting the Showcase issues and the early Green Lantern issues from the 60s. While these are some of my favorite comics, it has already been collected in Showcase and Green Lantern Chronicles and for the price I did not need it again. Image also has some nice over sized collections of Invincible, which I agree is one of the best superhero books out there, but once again it has already been collected in hardcover and paperback. Then there is Girls by the Luna Brothers, all in one nice hardcover. And of course there is the Walking Dead in spiffy hardcover collections. But as with Invincible, all the material was already in HC and paperback. And finally, there is The Boys by Garth Ennis from Dynamite. To be honest, this book is not my cup of tea so I would not spend a large sum of money for a nice collection of it.
So in summary, I would recommend the Marvel collections of material that is not collected elsewhere, plus the Tomb of Dracula collections. Almost any of the other Omnibuses I would say buy them if it is material you really love as these books are beautiful to look at and are designed to be read over and over. I like the concept of having comics I really love in anice study format that are almost like coffee table books. It is nice to see comic history treated with such respect.
Finally, as I like to do, I would like to recommend something this time for you to read, but it is not a comic book, it is the column by my fellow blogger KC Carlson. Now while it is true that KC has been my friend a very long time and we worked together at DC, I honestly find his column here at the Westfield Blog is one of the best things to read week after week. It is beautifully written and it is always informative. I could only wish I could write as well and as beautifully as KC does. I highly recommend you take the time to check out his column if you never have. As always, everything in this column is my opinion and does not reflect the opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. Please feel free to send comments, review copies, extra Omnibus to MFBWAY@AOL.COM.