The trade paperback is a relatively recent development in the comic book industry and the expectation of a collection for every series is very recent, but it is also one of the most major factors influencing the overall health of the industry right now. As comics stores struggle against the same forces that have battered local book sellers as well as their own identity and inclusivity, the trade paperback has become both a unifier, allowing the LCS to welcome a larger market, and a divider, as an easy way to disparage perceived ‘outside’ elements.
Likewise, the rise of the trade has changed how comics are written, with many a series existing in two separate but often valuable states depending on whether they are read serially or in trade. Whatever the politics or trends, nearly every comic fan makes use of the format at one time or another and plenty chose it as their preferred way to read their comics, so-called “tradewaiters”.
But trades, for all their incredible convenience, have problems. Sometimes I just want to catch up with a series, and trades and collections allow me to do that. But, when I near the end of the run, I suddenly have to buy up the last arc and a bit in single issues to transition to monthly buying due to the gap between releases. Other times, I say that I’ll tradewait a series, only to have a six month wait before a hardcover edition is released for more than the single issues cost, with another six months to wait for a cheaper trade, by which time I’ve probably been (fairly) spoiled for what happens. I’ll admit that I’ve had series that I still haven’t read because of one of these problems and plenty more that I’ve simply forgotten about in the interim. It’s honestly a large part of why I started the Tradewaiting column for Comicon.
So imagine my surprise when Ms. Marvel vol. 8: Mecca came out this week. Collecting Ms. Marvel (volume 4) #19-24 for $17.99, Mecca is already a pretty good deal, cutting $6 off the single issue asking price. It also takes its name from one of the biggest and most important arcs in G. Willow Wilson‘s critically acclaimed run. But more than even that, what’s amazing about Ms. Marvel vol. 8 is the second story it collects, “Northeast Corridor”. Because that arc ended last month!
Yes, in an incredible move that goes beyond my wildest expectations, Marvel has put out an affordable collection of a noted bookstore bestseller within forty days of the last issue’s release! It’s technically possible that this is a one off or even that this is becoming commonplace without my noticing, but either way, this is a huge deal. Did you fall behind on Ms. Marvel? Well you can be fully caught up today without an awkward gap in your trade collection or, when Ms. Marvel #25 releases next week, you can become a monthly reader without missing a beat.
I will admit that the individual copy of the trade that I got to see had what seemed to be a slightly lower quality cover than I’m used to from Marvel, but if that’s a side effect of the incredible turnaround on this collection, I can’t say that I care. This is a level of accessibility that is frankly huge. Not only does it allow tradewaiters to be part of the conversation about current arcs in a way that’s just fantastic, but it also helps to break down the artificial divide between monthly readers and tradewaiters, between the LCS crowd and bookstore buyers. Imagine lending a friend a trade of a series and them being able to become a monthy reader immediately. That doesn’t only encourage trade sales but it also helps people seek out comic shops and become monthly fans.
Mecca is a fantastic arc of Ms. Marvel and I wholeheartedly encourage any fans of the character to pick it up now. I also have to hand it to Marvel and to say that I sincerely hope that we’ll see these kind of rapid releases more in the future.
Ms. Marvel vol.8: Mecca is available now at your local comic shop and is scheduled for a bookstore release on December 26 (just in time for both Hanukkah and Christmas *hint hint*)