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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Comics Worth Re-Reading -- Tom Spurgeon's posted another one of his joyous Sunday features, On The Subject of Return Reading. He lays out the reasons one does (or doesn't) return to a given comic or graphic novel over time, and then provides four mini-essays on titles he frequently returns to.

This one really strikes a chord with me; when I get a comic or graphic novel, I generally don't keep it unless I have a degree of certainty that I will want to re-read it in the future. Certainly some titles get re-read more than others, but my collection of graphic novels alone (not even counting floppy comics) is closing in on 1,000 titles now. I doubt I'll even live long enough to re-read all of them one more time, honestly.

Off the top of my head, I think the titles I most often pull off the shelf to read again are Watchmen, From Hell, Ghost World and Warren Ellis's Stormwatch/Authority run from beginning to end. All of them provides the same sense of thrill and discovery on being re-read that they did the first time, and every time I re-immerse myself in them, I am amazed at the new layers and forgotten treasures within their pages.

Which is not to say they are "my favourite comics," or even necessarily the ones I would grab on the way out the door as the house burns down. But they do all engage my mind and spark my emotions in ways other titles don't. For example, last night I re-read Avengers Forever by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco, the first time I'd read it since it came out in single issues. I remember loving it as it was coming out, and finding it nigh-incomprehensible last night, to the point I was soon flipping through the pages admiring the artwork more than I was getting lost in the (over-) complexity of the story. I really enjoyed it years ago, so it must in some ways be better than last night's re-read suggests, but to my 43-year-old self it feels more than anything like a giant book full of footnotes that someone accidentally drew pictures to accompany. Pretty pictures, yes, but it just did not provide the immersion and entertainment my memories of the title had me convinced would follow cracking open the cover.

Just about any Love and Rockets collection, on the other hand, sucks me into it every time. I traded off my original issues long ago (Goddamn it), but I have the trades, the hardcovers, and the close-to-manga-size reissues all on one sagging shelf in my room, and probably have some stories four or five times over when all is said and done, but there are no better storytellers in comics than Los Bros Hernandez, and their comics are among the most re-readable ever created.


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