Monday, February 9, 2009

Are Absolute Editions Really "Absolute"?

You find some awesome DC miniseries that you just love to read. You faithfully buy the issues when they come out each month. Then, six months after that last issue comes out, they create a trade paperback of the story. Even though you have the individual issues, this is a tempting purchase. But then a few years later that favored story gets the "Absolute Edition" treatment, and you've got to shell out a hundred dollars for it. But what makes a comic story "Absolute"? Are they really worth the high price tag?

Let's be honest, the only people who are going to buy Absolute Editions are folks who are fans of that particular story. They are too pricey (and bulky) to be of interest to anyone but the serious collector, so take all of this with a grain of salt. You may never consider shelling out a hundred bucks for any comic story, so if that's the case this won't help much. That being said...

Here they are, and here's what makes them think they're "Absolute":

Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths - Since every Absolute Edition is working with some pivotal storyline, you can't say one is more important than the other, but this one would be close. It's what DC used to clear up their "multiple Earths" mess by bringing them all into one. It had a number of hero deaths, including Barry Allen (The Flash) and Supergirl. So what's included in this and is it worth the price?

Like all Absolutes, this one is oversized from the regular comic. You'll get to see those favorite images in much richer colors and bigger than life. The complete story is here. A second volume is also included. The second volume contains scripts, behind-the-scenes info, and a huge index of the Crisis and the Crisis Crossovers.

To me, this one is second only to the Absolute Kingdom Come by way of artwork. Since this is oversized and the coloring is redone, you see this artwork in a way unlike anything you've ever imagined. Absolute? Absolutely!

Absolute Kingdom Come - The storyline alone makes this one worth reading, but when you consider the artwork by Alex Ross and the fact that said artwork will be in a huge oversized edition, you have a winner. There's only one volume in this, but it also includes a look at Alex's sketchbook for his character, and a listing of the characters seen on the individual covers and expanded pictures done in the past.

This is a story I love to read from time to time and never get bored with. The idea of a world in which superheroes get tired of fighting and run away seemed a little strange at the time this first came out, but now it seems like the natural progression of things. How frustrating would it really be if you fought for good time and again and ended up seeing that struggle bear no fruit?

One thing of note about this story is the pivotal part that makes it all happen. A group of young heroes is fighting an older supervillain (Parasite) only to have one of their own (Captain Atom) go nuclear and wipe out thousands of civilians and most of the state. Sound familiar? Yep, Marvel kind of ripped them off to start their "Civil War" storyline having the New Warriors do a scaled-down version of the same.

Is this edition worth the extra money? I think so, especially if you enjoy the story.

Absolute Batman: The Long Halloween - I'm going to be honest here: I didn't read this story when it came out. I had heard a lot of great things about it and how revolutionary it supposedly was, but when you hear that about so many stories you begin to let it jade you. I bought this on sale and when I started reading it I was hooked.

Tim Sale's artwork is a matter of personal taste. You'll either love it or hate it, but if you can live with it long enough you'll find yourself in an amazing story. Someone is killing people on a holiday each month. The story starts on Halloween of one year and each chapter takes place in the following month with another holiday coming up and a death in it. The secret of who the killer is makes this gripping reading.

Want to know how good this story is? Did you like the Dark Knight movie? You'll find one of the scenes from the film almost verbatim here. This is where it came from. Harvey Dent's change to Two-Face is retold here in a way that makes it that much more tragic and interesting. The extras here include pages not included in the series's original run, an interview with Sale and Jeph Loeb (the writer--and part of the team that brought you "Heroes" back when it was interesting) and a look at the action figure line.

I can't say this one is necessarily worth the extra money when you can get the complete story in a TPB edition, but this is a story you definitely need to read!

Absolute Watchmen - One of the most eagerly-anticipated movies of 2009 started out as an obscure miniseries from Alan Moore that folks had to warm up to. Of course, now we see it for the dark storyline that it is. This is the world where heroes are no longer needed or wanted, but a tragedy occurs that brings them together again.

It's no secret that Moore based these heroes on the Charlton comics characters. Unfortunately, DC had just purchased the characters and forbade Moore from using them after he'd already written the story, so he tweaked them a little and created his own thinly-veiled versions of each. Blue Beetle became NiteOwl, Peacemaker became The Comedian, Captain Atom became Doctor Manhattan, and of course, The Question became Rorschach. I'm sure DC has never stopped kicking themselves for that stupid move on their part, as it would have taken those otherwise obscure characters and made them immortal.

Since Moore is famous for his love/hate relationship with comic book publishers, there isn't much from him in this Absolute edition. It does include 48 extra pages of material that weren't in the original run of the maxiseries, but that has found it's way into the recent TPB reprinting DC is doing to promote the movie. That means this Absolute Edition is just not worth the money anymore.

Absolute New Frontier - This is another one of those stories that you'll either love the artwork for, or hate it forever. The storyline is good though. Consider this the revamped origin of the Silver Age. All your old favorites are here fighting a cosmic villain they might not be able to defeat.

If you saw the DVD release of this story in 2008, you'll have a pretty good idea of what this story is about. As a matter of fact, a few scenes were lifted almost exactly from the book (Flash's confrontation with Captain Cold is almost perfect). The artwork is gorgeous, the coloring rich, and the story is interesting. That said, I still couldn't say this is worth the extra money beyond the TPB edition.

Absolute Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Returns is consistently listed as one of the best comic stories of all time, and it's pretty easy to see why. Frank Miller managed to take a character that was slowly losing his "cool appeal" and turn him into this grim warrior who earned the title "Dark Knight". This one story is credited with saving the character's popularity.

Unfortunately, Miller stumbled badly in the sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again. The artwork was sub-par, the storyline almost incomprehensible, and it seemed almost a mockery of the character created in the first.

In this Absolute edition, you have the opportunity to read both back-to-back and decide for yourself if the original lives up to the hype and the sequel lives up to the criticism. There's also an introduction and commentary by Miller, and some extra sketch work. Is it absolute? Well, this is another case of "If you love the story, you'll love this". If you're not a fan of the sequel, you probably aren't going to find much to sway you into paying the big money for this.

There are many other "Absolute Editions" out there that I haven't had time to read and review yet, but these are ones that I've read and can comment on. Are there others you would suggest?


tomztoyz said...

Good Job - Nice reviews on all the books listed here. I have to admit that I have never read THE LONG HALLOWEEN but always hear great things about it. I'm gonna have to get this one soon. I agree about the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. The 1st one is totally amazing & the 2nd one was super lame, ha ha!

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Brian said...

Thanks, Tommy. The Long Halloween is definitely worth the reading time if you have a chance. The sequel "Dark Victory" is every bit as good as it as well, but there's no Absolute on it yet.

Love your blog, by the way! It's definitely the first place I go for Bat-stuff.

nthman16 said...

In my mind most of the Absolute Editions worth owning or reading are out of print. Both of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books and The Authority.

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