Trade Perspectives: How DC Comics Collects Crossovers in the New 52

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Diamond Previews November 2012: Justice League/Aquaman: Throne of AtlantisDC Comics is collecting crossovers in the New 52 probably just the way they should be, but in a way that's increasingly going to make readers crazy.

DC's crossover collection schema in the New 52 has tended to go one of three ways. For crossovers between two books (Stormwatch/Red Lanterns, Resurrection Man/Suicide Squad, etc.), DC collects the crossover issues from both series in both titles' collections, which is good if you just read one series and negates having to "trade-jump" between books.

For crossovers with a "main" title accompanied by tie-ins, DC tends to collect them like this:

Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family - Batman #13-17
Joker: Death of the Family - tie-in issues

Each of the tie in issues (Batgirl, Nightwing, etc.) are then also collected in their own individual series collections.

What's good about this is if I'm only interested in the very core story, I only need pick up the Batman book. If I'm generally interested in "Death of the Family," I could pick up the Batman and the Joker tie-in book. And if I already collect all the Bat-titles, I could pick up Batman and the other individual series, still be able to read the tie-ins, and not have had to buy anything extra to follow the crossover. Seems like a win.

Finally, when a crossover has no "main" book, however, but rather the parts are split between a couple of titles equally, the collections tend to look like this:

Green Lantern: Rise of the Third Army - Green Lantern #13-16, Green Lantern Corps #13-16, New Guardians #13-16, Red Lanterns #13-16, Green Lantern Corps Annual #1, pages from Green Lantern Annual #1
• Green Lantern: Wrath of the First Lantern - Green Lantern #17-18, Green Lantern Corps #17-20, Red Lanterns #17-20 and Green Lantern: New Guardians #17-20

Green Lantern Vol. 3: Rise of the Third Army - Green Lantern #13-20, #0
Green Lantern Corps Vol. 3: Rise of the Third Army - Green Lantern Corps #15-20, Green Lantern Corps Annual #1
Red Lanterns Vol. 3: Rise of the Third Army - Red Lanterns #13-20, #0
• Green Lantern: New Guardians Vol. 3: Rise of the Third Army - New Guardians #13-20, #0

Here, the first book collects just the "Rise of the Third Army" storyline and the second collects just the "Wrath of the First Lantern" story; and again, the individual series are collected alone in their own books.

What's good here is that, if I'm just a casual Green Lantern fan, I can pick up the two crossover volumes and get a full story in just two books. However, if I read the individual Green Lantern series, my choice is four collections, all of which only collect part of the crossovers -- so, I imagine, I'll have to flip back and forth between four collections to get a comprehensive story.

And also, the individual collections start coming out in October 2013 and finish in January 2014, so a Green Lantern fan would essentially have to sit on these books for four months until they could read the story in full.

Again, this is pretty fair -- whether you read all the series, one of the series, or just the crossover, DC has a solution for you that means you don't have to buy more than you should. Only, the reading experience might be awkward, and it might take awhile before you can read the books.

Real difficulties begin to arise in situations like with the "Young Justice" group "Culling" crossover:

Culling: Rise of the Ravagers - Legion Lost #8-9, Superboy #8-9, Teen Titans #8-9, Teen Titans Annual #1

Superboy Vol. 2: Extraction - #0, #8-12, Teen Titans #10
Teen Titans Vol. 2: The Culling - #0, #9-12, DC Comics Presents #12
Legion Lost Vol. 2: The Culling - #0, #8-16

Once again, there's a main book and then there's individual books, which is good. However, the Teen Titans annual, even given that it might be pertinent only to "Culling," is collected only in the main Titans book -- this might pose a problem for some completists. See also the "Throne of Atlantis" crossover:

Justice League Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis - Justice League #13-17, Aquaman #14-16
Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis - Aquaman #14-16, #0, Justice League #15-17

The Justice League trade contains the same issues as the Aquaman trade (as solicited by DC) and the Aquaman trade contains a handful of the Justice League issues, so the Justice League trade would seem the one to read. The only difference is the Aquaman trade includes that book's zero issue -- so here again, for completists, in order to get the full Aquaman experience a reader would have to pick up an entire trade only to get one issue's difference.

How did we get from the good to the trouble?

I think the Green Lantern books have it right, in that everything that appears in the main collections also appears in the individual collections. Culling is closer -- in both the Culling and Green Lantern examples, I don't much like to have to "trade-jump," but I don't see a better solution; the Teen Titans Annual is a sticky widget, but probably unavoidable.

For someone with no interest in the crossovers at all, I doubt an individual collection of Legion Lost or Red Lanterns will read well, ducking in and out of the crossovers, but that's probably what someone who was only following an individual series on its own would want anyway, whether the reading experience makes good sense or not.

With Justice League and Aquaman, I sense on DC's part a reluctance to 1) collect the very same issues in two different books, or 2) to make a true crossover trade, like Justice League/Aquaman Vol. 3. The latter would be awkward, but it would work -- the eight issues collected in the individual Justice League trade would expand by one to include Aquaman #0, and the Aquaman trade could go away entirely.

Or it could be Justice League Vol. 3 and the Aquaman Vol. 3 label could be saved for issues #17 and on of Aquaman, or the book could just be called Throne of Atlantis (like Culling), still collect those nine issues, and both Aquaman and Justice League would continue with their third volumes later.

Take this pre-New 52 example:

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns - Green Lantern #63-66, Green Lantern Corps #58-60, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #8-10
War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath - Green Lantern Corps #61-63, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #11-13, War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath #1-2

In essence, Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors didn't get their own invidual trades there, but rather they were combined in a crossover collection. That book finished Green Lantern, but then the last issues of Corps and Warriors were included in another "combination" collection that also included Aftermath.

I understand why DC doesn't want to go this route any more, giving each individual series their own sequential, numbered collections, but neither do I think any of us want an Aquaman trade for only one issue we can't find outside a Justice League trade.

What crossover books have you bought in the New 52? What do you think the problems and solutions for crossover collecting are?
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  1. This gets confusing

    I read GL, GLC and GLEW, but not Red Lanterns (who does?), so which trades should I get. I hope someone like yourself can help a little in guiding us readers what to buy like "Don't get Night of Owls if you're also collecting most of the other Bat-trades"

    1. I'll try to guide as much as I can. Hope *I* didn't confuse you!

      If you only read Green Lantern, Corps, and New Guardians, but not Red Lanterns, you might be in a bit of a pickle. I don't know how much the "Third Army" and "First Lantern" stories interrelate (someone else can tell us that), but if, say, GL #13 is Part 1, GLC #13 is Part 2, NG #13 is Part 3, RL #13 is Part 4, GL #14 is Part 5, and so on, then if you just get the GL, GLC, and NG collections and try to "trade jump" between them, you'll be missing every fourth part of the story.

      If the different titles are mostly separate in the crossover, you're OK; if they're not, that would be a problem.

      In that case, you're probably going to want to either also pick up the full "Third Army" and "First Lantern" collections, or just find those relevant Red Lantern issues individually or as digital.

      You bring up another aspect of this I didn't consider -- if, say, you read just Titans and Superboy but not Legion Lost, or GL, GLC, and NG, but not Red Lanterns, it will also be hard to get a full story without "double dipping."

    2. Never fear, a floppy reader is here.I hope I can explain the GL books; "rise of the third army" does not follow in the footsteps of say "war of the green lanterns", where sequential parts where found in different books (such as part 1 in GL part 2 in GLC etc.) and I personally only read the Green Lantern issues of the story (as I couldn't afford the whole thing).
      However in Green Lantern #16 we get a "follow the story into Green Lantern Corps #16", then the story follows into that book and the true conclusion to the ROTA story is in the annual of Corps that follows issue 16, which also sets up "Wrath of the First Lantern" so as far to my knowledge these where the only important issues of the event.
      WOTFL on the other hand DOES follow a structure similar to "War" and has part 1 in GL, 2 in Corps and so on, however I still didn't read the Red Lantern parts. Each book, while being numbered as different parts of the same story, each seem to tell their own tale relevant to that book. So far I've read parts 1,2,3 and 5 and was able to follow fine without reading Red Lanterns.
      I picked up parts 6 and 7 today and they seem to both follow the story from their own books. (However if I find they do tie into one another I will update my comments)
      Hope this could help, with Green Lantern stuck in permanent crossover mode it's difficult to find which issues you should be reading.

    3. Appreciate these insights, Josh. So it sounds like for Green Lantern, each individual series collection will read well enough on its own, such that if someone buys a couple individual series but not all of them, they'll still have a "pretty good" reading experience (we could say this was kind of true for the Blackest Night stories in Green Lantern and Corps, which were collected in their own volumes).

      Anyone know if the same is true for Culling? If you read just the Teen Titans issues of Culling without Superboy or Legion Lost, how does the story fare?

    4. With the Teen Titans volume, you'll at least get a prologue and the conclusion to The Culling, but prepare for a jarring transition between issues #8 and #9. The Superboy and Legion Lost volumes will be even worse, with a prologue followed by a middle chapter of the crossover, and then skipping straight to the aftermath.

      To be honest, The Culling is the kind of cluttered, chaotic crossover that reads terribly even if you read everything in publication order, but skipping chapters can only make it worse.

  2. The issues collected in the Aquaman book for the Throne of Atlantis crossover seem to have been updated since this posting. While the issues in the Justice League book remain the same, the Aquaman book now seems to only collect Aquaman #14-18, omitting any Justice League issues entirely as well as the Aquaman #0 issue, while extending the book to include two additional Aquaman issues. This is troubling for a number of reasons. First, readers who choose to only pick up the Aquaman book will be left with a confusing, disjointed reading experience as the Justice League chapters are indispensable sections of the narrative, not merely crossovers to a primarily Aquaman story. Second, as a fan of both Justice League and Aquaman, and the Throne of Atlantis crossover as a whole, I am left unsure how I want to collect them. Obviously, the Justice League book will contain all or almost all of the Throne of Atlantis story, but choosing to only pick up at that book and skipping the Aquaman book will mean a fairly substantial gap in the Aquaman story Johns is telling as issues #17-18 act as both the aftermath of Throne of Atlantis as well as laying the foundation for Johns' next Aquaman arc and establishing the new status quo in the Aquaman world post-Throne of Atlantis. It seems to me that these consequences make the way DC has chosen to collect this crossover most unfortunate.

    1. What you're pointing out is that DC's official press release says the Aquaman book will collect #14-16, #0, and JL #15-17, and other online listings of Aquaman say it collects #14-18 only.

      You're absolutely right that this is no better. Either the JL trade collects the same as the Aquaman trade except issue #0, or the JL trade collects the same as the Aquaman trade except issues #17-18.

      Either way, the reader is left buying an entire Aquaman trade for just one or two issues not collected elsewhere.

    2. The info also says that it's 176 pages, so maybe the issues are wrong.

    3. Given the contradictory information, I'm starting to think that a single "Justice League/Aquaman: Throne of Atlantis" collection really was the plan at some point.

    4. Pretty sure the Aquaman #0 issue gets collected in the Vol.2 (The Others) out in a few weeks.

  3. This is another reason why I like using comiXology (and I swear, they're not paying me to promote them). In the case of JL and Aquaman, you could just grab issue 0 online and be set without having to shove extra issues into the back of the trade or placing bagged issues in with trades.

    I wonder if knowing that comiXology is out there will change how collections are done. Maybe it's like my Third Party Transformer Conspiracy Theory, which states that third party toys specifically lack some paint apps so that Reprolabels can make sticker sheets for them.

    1. Agreed, Doug. At least the reader doesn't have far to "walk" to find whatever issues may eek out of the Aquaman trade. Understandably I neither want to "trade jump" any more than I want to have to turn over to the computer to finish reading a book I've started in print, but at least there's an easy solution here other than buying a whole second trade for one or two issues.

  4. I get that they're trying to please both completists and readers who are only interested in following a single series, but they completely dropped the ball with Throne of Atlantis (the third Aquaman should have just skipped the whole crossover, since people who only follow that series would still buy Justice League vol. 3), The Culling (again, I think the individual Teen Titans, Superboy and Legion Lost trades should have skipped it) and Rise of the Third Army (the single-volume collection is still missing the #0 issues of Green Lantern, New Guardians and Red Lanterns, which will only be collected in each series' third volume).

  5. I know it's a fairly safe assumption, but do we know for certain that there will be a "Wrath of the First Lantern" collection? Because if there isn't, that makes the individual GL/GLC/GL:NG/RL collections much more attractive - even if, like me, you'll have to buy a volume of Red Lanterns that you wouldn't otherwise have bothered with.

    1. Yes, DC announced the Wrath of the First Lantern collection in a press release a couple days after we announced most of the other titles here.

    2. I must have missed that when I first read it! I see now, though, that it's listed as Wrath of the First Lantern Vol.1. Other than the last two issues of Geoff Johns's Green Lantern run (#19-20, I believe), what else is left to be collected in Vol.2?

    3. I think Wrath of the First Lantern vol. 1 will only collect issues #17-18 of each series, because there's no way they can fit 16 issues in just 192 pages, not to mention there wouldn't be enough material left for volume 2. Still, it's curious that they're splitting this crossover in 2 collections while Rise of the Third Army, which is even longer, is getting a single volume.

      And there are two other examples of DC's odd new approach to collecting crossovers: Rise of the Vampires (the second I, Vampire volume collects all 4 chapters, but Justice League Dark vol. 2 will skip I, Vampire #7-8) and Hawkman: Wanted (the six chapters will be spread among Savage Hawkman vol. 2, Green Arrow vol. 3 and Deathstroke vol. 2, none of which will include the full crossover).

  6. With the GL titles I only currently read the Hal book but am probably sufficiently interested in the crossovers (I have preordered the New Guardians Vol 1 trade and am a pre-DCnU GLC reader) to consider both crossover collections. This would leave me short of GL#0, #19, and #20, so I can't express satisfaction with this outcome, and am probably annoyed enough to abandon the crossover altogether and stick with the Hal book alone despite the good Comixology idea above. In the end I will likely have a disjointed reading experience, and DC have potentially lost a crossover sale.

    With JL and Aquaman, I currently read both, and am annoyed at the duplication across the 2 two collections.

    And with Teen Titans, I have no interest in the Culling event, and so will just get the Titans book (with the same disjointed reading experience no doubt).

    Not great outcomes for this little black duck, I'm afraid.

    1. I guess this is a good deal for DC because if someone's really a casual reader, then they'll just pick up the crossover volumes, but if someone's an on-the-fence, reads-most-but-not-all-the-books reader, then maybe DC hopes that equation will tip in favor of, say, adding a Red Lantern volume when you might not originally, since you'll have the individual collections of the other three parts of the crossover.

      In the case of JL/Aquaman, maybe the same thing. I hate to suggest to anyone that they boycott the Aquaman book, but there's an argument to be made that letting a trade with just one or two new issues wither on the vine would send a good message.

  7. Whoa! Just reading that gave me a headache!

    That is one confusing mess.

    So, if I buy all the Green Lantern titles, I'll be reading some of the same material over and over? LOL. What a crock!

    The ONLY WAY to do collected editions is that they contain complete stories, with the ALL issues in the order they need to be read.

    This is almost never done. And it's a huge disservice to new readers. And it's a headache to fans.

  8. If one uses comiXology and goes for the digital copies of the three #0's (GL, New Guardians, and RL) and just purchase both tie-in books then that would be the be the solution towards spending the least amount of money to get everything instead of getting four books which is how I am handling this situation.

    My reasoning for using digital comics is to help with current series that aren't on my collected editions list (since there is only a limited amount I can get and I do both DC and Marvel) and Red Lanterns is the only GL series I am doing this with primarily.

    In this new day and age, using comiXology and reading Digital Comics may be the only good way to help deal with the workload to avoid spending too much money on another graphic novel that you may not want.

  9. This is going to be a problem again with Trinity War.

    Justice League Vol 4 has #18-20, 22-23

    This only includes 2 issues of Trinity War which won't make a lick of sense without the other books (JL Dark, JLA, Pandora).

    If you just buy the Trinity War HC, you then miss out on issues #18-20 which build up to Trinity War.

    I miss the old way of collecting where if there was a big crossover they would stick all the issues in the book and the for the other books that pertain to one title, they would just build those books around the crossover.

    For example with JL vol 4 then could include #18-20, and then #24-whatever. And leave out #22-23 to be in the Trinity War HC only.