As a comic fan, more often than not I prefer to read comics in their original form; single issues. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate reading them in the collected formats. I like a nice trade as much as the next guy, but I usually stay away from hardcovers because they’re more expensive. If I see that Marvel is releasing a hardcover of something that I want to buy, I’ll usually wait until it’s released in soft cover to actually get it because it will be cheaper. Hardcovers are nice, but they’re not worth the extra five dollars and softcovers are more convenient. When I buy a hardcover it’s because there is something a little extra special about it. I took a look at my book shelves and decided that these are the five best that I have (keep in mind I’m judging on the production instead of the quality of the comics (needless to say all of the comics are great)):
5. Marvel Masterworks: The X-Men volume 11
I honestly don’t remember buying this one. I think my parents might have found it at a flea market and brought it back for me. This edition of Marvel Masterworks collects Giant Sized X-Men #1 and X-Men issues 94-100. These issues contain the first adventures of the second team of X-Men, including Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, and Nightcrawler. This is the best way to read these comics without finding the original single issues. The binding is strong, the paper is thick, and the colors look fantastic. The only downside to this collection is the lack of any bonus material.
4. The Killing Joke: Deluxe Edition
I didn’t start reading comics from DC until about three years ago. This controversial book was one of the first that I grabbed. In this edition of The Killing Joke the oversized pages really bring out the art by Brian Bolland, as do the updated colors. The hardcover contains a behind the scenes (panels?) look at the making of the comic, which focuses on the art aspects because, writer, Alan Moore doesn’t want anything to do with DC. It also has a bonus short story.
3. Parker: The Hunter and Parker: The Outfit
I know I lumped two books into one slot, but other than what’s printed on the pages they are almost identical. These look great on your shelf with or without the dust jackets. I actually think that they look better without. I have to say that these books have the best paper stock of the list. There aren’t any bonus features in these graphic novels, but for the presentation alone they belong on this list.
2. Jinx: The Essential Collection
I have to be honest, as of the time that I’m writing this I haven’t actually finished it yet. This collection of Brian Michael Bendis’ critically acclaimed early work is published through Marvel’s Icon imprint. While the paper stock may not be the greatest (it’s what you’d find in a manga book, it still isn’t as bad as the paper used in some of DC’s hardcovers), this book is chocked full of stuff. It collects the entire Jinx series along with a huge amount of extras including an extensive look at the making of the comic and an art gallery. It weighs in at over 400 pages all low price of $25.
1. Criminal: The Deluxe Hardcover
This is about as close to perfection as a book can get. A quick glance at the cover makes this look like it could be a textbook about art. This is better put together than any textbook that I’ve ever had. The oversize presentation gives us a larger look at Sean Phillips fantastic art. The hardcover collects the first three volumes of Criminal and is full of extras. It has a complete cover gallery, a gallery of the art that accompanied the essays in the single issues, three of the essays, the five page trailer that was made to promote the first volume, a bonus story featuring Tracy Lawless, and a look at Sean Phillips’ art process. The paper and the binding are both top notch. This hardcover takes the already fantastic Criminal and somehow makes it even better.
The numbers one and two entries on my list were both published through Icon and I think that is why they are in the top spots. They were both put together by the creators behind the comics instead of the company that publishes them.
Now, go out and buy these five (six) hardcovers!