Limited Vs Ongoing Storylines — Comics Edition
Have you ever picked up a series while it’s in full flow and really liked it, but wanted to start from the beginning because you’re just that kind of person? I’m that kind of person. I have a nasty habit of discovering podcasts or comic book series that are in their hundreds of episodes / issues, and I will go back as far as possible and try to acquire everything. Right from the beginning, if I can.
In the world of comic books, I did this with The Walking Dead where I started reading it from issue #1 and worked my way up, through the power of digital, to current. Most recently I’ve done this with Invincible, another series by Robert Kirkman and Image Comics which I’ve only started, right from the beginning.
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The thing is, as someone who has read random issues of Green Arrow, Amazing Spider-Man, Nightwing, various Detective and Flash Comics as well as a whole bunch of X-Men stuff, I find that it’s really difficult in the world of comics to start from the beginning. But more so than that, it’s difficult to keep going as well.
Let’s say you decide you like an ongoing series, let’s say Amazing Spider-Man because that’s been going on forever. So you try your best to get as close to the earliest issues as possible but they’re so rare now and you eventually give up and decide ‘close enough’ will do. Still, that ‘close enough’ is hundreds of issues worth of reading and it takes you a really long time before you’ve finally caught up with the current progression. By that point two things are made absolutely clear to you:
- Continuity is relative to the amount of people working on the comic at a time, and how much they respect each other’s work.
- There’s always something else to deal with.
That second one especially is why I have come to detest ongoing series; actually that’s slightly harsh. Rather, I just find them to be exhausting. With an ongoing series, there is no overall resolution or ending of any sort, just something new for the characters to deal with. Thus, as much as I’d like to see Rick and Carl survive all of that shit they have to deal with, or die trying, I know that the point of the ongoing storyline is that it’s ongoing, and so I won’t get to see that resolution. Or, in the case of Spider-Man, I do and someone else just takes up the reigns from there — seriously wtf Mephisto fix that shit.
The only real thing that ongoing series have going for them is that they allow you to ‘follow’ someone’s life, the way you would follow a daily soap on TV or perhaps a weekly guilty pleasure series that you don’t admit to watching. In that respect, every issue for you isn’t purchased in the hope of some final resolution but rather discovering what happens next. You don’t care how long the comic lasts, or how many issues are printed with a particular antagonist or story arc; you care only about the characters, watching how they deal with whatever is currently going on in their lives. You are invested in their ongoing story.
This is in stark contrast to a limited series, which is something with a definite beginning and end, and is typically a single arc of a story. It could last just one or two issues, or it could last twelve or more issues. The point is that it begins definitively, and then at some point it ends with resolution.
I’ve recently been reading a lot of these and I have to tell you, I quite prefer them. I’ve read Daredevil: End of Days, Deadpool: Sins of the Past, Deadpool: Circle Chase, Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass 2, Taskmaster (2002) and I’ve recently begun the fifty-issue-spanning Cable & Deadpool. Previously, I’ve also read the likes of Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, The Killing Joke and even the Crysis comics.
The really great thing about the limited series styled comics is that they’re not at liberty to follow canon, so they have the potential for following some amazing storylines that just wouldn’t work practically anywhere else. Consider if you will, the Marvel ‘Kills The Marvel Universe’ series which has featured the likes of Deadpool and The Punisher. Then there’s Marvel’s ‘End Of’ series of comics which show how various characters might some day come to an end. Consider Marvel’s ‘What If’ series which has featured Venom and Deadpool in a series, as well as the likes of The Impossible Man donning the Infinity Gauntlet. Limited series allow for some truly amazing things.
Even if they’re considered canon, there’s still the possibility of closure and real repercussion, where if a characters dies then they’re dead and that’s it. There isn’t some magical resurrection or, “Well he didn’t really die,” or anything like that. In limited series, actions will lead to consequences. And that is almost always a joy to behold.
The only obvious issue with limited series, as far as I’m concerned, is that they tend to show you a brief glimpse of the potential of characters. They hold back a bit and they don’t give you the full picture. Further, if there is an ending and it’s kept ambiguous or perhaps it’s created in such a way as to keep you thinking about it, you don’t get to find out what happens next. I personally take issue with that because what you’ll find happening is that for example, at the end of some series Deadpool will be sitting next to Siryn on a rooftop and then when a new series begins he’s somewhere entirely different, wearing different clothes and upon meeting Siryn, he doesn’t so much as bring up that time they sat next to each other on a rooftop. So some continuity is sometimes lost.
Still, I much prefer it that way because I’m the type of person who appreciates resolution. I can enjoy having closure and not needing to go through the exhaustive monthly catch-up with a bunch of fictional characters. I’m currently reading Cable & Deadpool and holy hell, if it isn’t the best series of comics that I have ever read.
What about you guys? Are you fans of the ongoing storylines, or do you prefer your stories in smaller chunks, like I do? Stay tuned for part two next week, when I talk about the gaming half of this topic.