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I honestly don’t want to come off as just targeting DC Comics for this, other publishers like Avatar Press and Marvel with their respective box sets and ‘treasury editions’ dip into the same well, but it’s easier to use a bigger fish. There in itself lies the key, as the question of why DC is the big fish in this market takes center stage. The answer is simple: in terms of the bigger companies, DC has more of the higher selling trade collections and graphic novels under its umbrella, allowing them the luxury of assured sales for each new re-release. A guaranteed well of honey that they can gorge upon time and again. It’s a common joke among comic fans that the clause in Alan Moore’s contract for Watchmen is given that the rights would revert to him once the series went out of print, that the contract was basically one stipulated to last an eternity. A joke that is a whole lot of truth, as DC Comics has never, ever, let this particular cash cow out of their cross hairs. While it has already gone through the usual permutations that DC collections like to use as their life cycle--trade, deluxe edition, and then absolute--it is one of the three series that is spearheading an all new format. One even more frivolous than foil packaging.
The idea is to create a box set for graphic novels where each individual issue of the story is contained within its own hardcover copy. I don’t even know where to go on with how ridiculous that all is, from any standpoint. The point of collections to begin with is so that all of the issues are neatly bound in one tome already, without the hassle of having to go to another single issue. It’s a convenience and this new format that these are going through is the opposite simply for the sake of itself. The humorous thing is that it’s not even as though the issues are a reproduction of how they looked to begin with, far from it. They are bound in a gaudy and kitschy mosaic-esque mural pattern. This new format doesn’t even translate the superficial satisfaction of owning the issues individually for this to seem appealing. Now instead of a single book, you have a short section with an ugly sliver of an overall mediocre design on the spine. The other two series that are being prepped for this treatment are Watchmen’s contemporary, The Dark Knight Returns, and the contemporary DKIII: The Master Race, which was actually the first announced for this new style of binding. I guess that they wanted to gauge interest before pulling out the big guns.
The kicker, for what it’s worth, is that there doesn’t seem to be any benefits from owning these other than bragging rights. A show-off piece, as it were. It doesn’t have additional material you wouldn’t have outside of an absolute, nor the compact and remastered nature of a deluxe, it’s just a stack. The only one of this first wave that is benefiting is The Master Race, which is only because it has truncated mini-comics in its first run to begin with, and that is not something I would call balanced.