The 2005 trade year stands out to me foremost for the new positive predictability in DC’s trade output. It used to be very difficult to determine what would be trades and what wouldn’t. Nowadays, we can more or less count on Teen Titans and JSA, at least. And we saw trades like Superman: Unconventional Warfare and The Wrath of Gog that collected six issues of a run, followed later in the year by the other six issues. All in all, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction.
The big winner this year, hands down, was JSA, with three trade collections. Granted, one trade was a crossover with Hawkman, but to have JSA’s name out there three times, plus a special Identity Crisis tag on JSA: Lost, is really saying something. The steady strength of this title means that DC can’t help but position it as the flagship team of the DC Universe, and I think some of the big gun talent we’re seeing on JLA right now is in direct answer to that. If JSA is beating JLA, no wonder JLA is being relaunched.
I started to call Outsiders this year’s big loser trade-wise, with only one end-of-the-year trade, but when you consider the massive size of the Outsiders trade, and the fact that it runs right up to a Teen Titans crossover, Outsiders didn’t do too poorly (not to mention the early 2006 trade). Even Hawkman got two trades, even if one was the aforementioned JSA crossover. Titles that received the trade-shaft this year, I think, are Gotham Central, Birds of Prey, and Green Arrow, all of which I’m pleased to see are receiving early 2006 trades. DC touts Birds of Prey as a steamroller, and yet it’s trade programming is falling behind; Green Arrow, too, received hardcovers in the beginning, but was largely absent for 2005 -- fortunately, the next Green Arrow trade is unusually large. And Gotham Central: Half a Life is the big “for shame” trade this year, padded with issues that are already collected elsewhere; it’s heartening to see a Gotham Central trade solicitation for 2006 already, even though the title’s been cancelled. Hopefully we’ll have a better showing from all of these titles next year.
We saw a couple new trends in trades this year. One positive was crossover trades, like JSA: Black Reign and Robin/Batgirl: Fresh Blood; it’s a fun two-for-one deal. On the negative side, however, we saw the rise of the aforementioned trade padding, where both Teen Titans and Gotham Central contained extra issues that seemed to “pad out” the trade. If you read my review, you know I’m not a fan. Not only does Justice League Elite Volume 1 contain an already-collected “padding” issue, it’s also the first of two volumes, something we see with Batman: Hush, Superman: For Tomorrow, and DC: New Frontier, as well. I can’t say I’m a fan of that, either; so far, the massive Seven Soldiers of Victory, with two volumes for 2006, seems the only title that really deserves it.
Another trend was Absolute Editions, including Batman: Hush, Crisis on Infinite Earths, Watchmen, and more. I actually believe that this year’s rise in Absolutes was something of a coincidence; my guess is that we may not see much more than Absolute Superman: For Tomorrow and Absolute Sandman next year. Of course, it will be interesting to see how DC collects the 75 issue Sandman series, in how many Absolute volumes, and whether they’ll be released all at once or staggered.
Some surprises: a second, large Wonder Woman trade, when it almost looked like there’d be only one for the year; a second Majestic trade, suggesting that the first one did well; a new Batgirl trade, with a significant jump from when the last trade left off; and just under the wire, the Countdown to Infinite Crisis miniseries trades, a wonderful end of the year present from DC, and a suggestion that faster trade turnaround is on the rise.
Finally, consider some trades to watch out for next year. My first “one to watch” is Hawkman. DC collected all the Geoff Johns issues, but will they collect the Palmiotti/Gray team, or skip straight to the One Year Later Hawkgirl? Similarly, will we see any of the Aquaman "Sub Diego" storyline collected before jumping to One Year Later? And if there was ever a time to collect Geoff Johns’ first Flash story, "Wonderland," it’s now as Johns leaves the Flash.
A few statistics:
Three trades: JSA
Two trades: Superman titles, JLA, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Majestic, Flash, Plastic Man, Superman/Batman, Batman, Nightwing
One trade: Birds of Prey, Green Arrow, Hawkman, Gotham Central, Outsiders, Manhunter
One of my favorite trades this year was Catwoman: Relentless. I just can’t get over the second title page for “No Easy Way Down.” It was a nice touch, and a nicely designed trade overall. I thought Superman/Batman: Absolute Power was just fun; I enjoyed it more than I thought, finding out how it tied to the series overall. And of course, faithful readers know that I was a big fan of Justice League Elite Volume 1, and I’m very much hoping there will be a Volume 2.
So there you go. What were your favorites? Suprises? Let me know!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all, and I’ll see you next year. Cheers!