Comics Disassembled: Ten Things of Note from the Past Week in Comics, Led by Quite the Test Case

After a big week of writing, we’re going with a slightly lighter edition of Comics Disassembled. And yes, I know, light for me still isn’t that light. But let’s get to it anyways, as I look at ten things I liked or didn’t like from the past week of comics, led by an interesting experiment by one of the only people in comics who can do that kind of thing.

1. Fire Power, Testing the Market

The direct market side of the comics industry knows how to sell first issues. They know how to sell…very little else at this point. That’s a problem, as shops see massive drop off from issue #1 to issue #2, and by the time it gets to issue #5, #6, #10…forget about it. Something needs to be figured out to solve that problem, otherwise single issue comics are the definition of diminishing returns.

That’s why I appreciate Robert Kirkman’s handling of his good fortune. The Walking Dead’s success has afforded him rare opportunities, and he’s using those to basically turn the single issue comic into his own personal lab. We saw it with Oblivion Song, in which he was able to work on it for over a year ahead of time, getting artist Lorenzo de Felici 12 issues deep before they launched, allowing for a monthly schedule to see if that made a difference. It allowed him to do a surprise launch with Die!Die!Die!, in which every shop received copies of the first issue for free out of nowhere to see if it would make a dent in interest. And it allowed him to end The Walking Dead without anyone knowing it was coming, much in the same way.

But his most interesting experiment yet is unfolding in April and May, even if he might not call it an “experiment,” per se. We already knew Fire Power, Kirkman’s new series with Chris Samnee, Matt Wilson and Rus Wooton, was launching with a Free Comic Book Day issue. That alone is interesting. Now we know that it’s truly launching the week before, as an entire trade paperback – Fire Power Vol. 1: Prelude – is coming April 29th, the Wednesday before FCBD, and it’s going to be seven issues for just $9.99. Then the real series starts, and bing bang boom, we’re rolling. Effectively, the series is launching with eight issues for $9.99, with issue #2 coming presumably the following month.

Basically, Kirkman is betting that a $9.99 introductory trade and a free first issue is going to be enough to get both readers and retailers to come back for issue #2, and hopefully #3, #4, #5 and beyond. Will it work? Who the heck knows. But at least Kirkman is trying to do something different, turning comics into his own personal test kitchen. Not everyone can afford to do this kind of thing – very few people can, actually – but it’s good to see that one of the biggest names in comics is trying something a little different that could potentially help others with his privilege. Good job by you, Robert!

2. The Warners, Returning

Obviously I quite liked Robbie Thompson and Niko Henrichon’s Meet the Skrulls. That five issue mini-series was one of the unexpected delights of 2019, and it made me hopeful that I’d come across the Skrull family – the Warners – that starred in it once again. And now, they’re coming back in a Empyre lead-in series called The Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War, a title that would have otherwise very much not interested me, but with the Warners, I’m all in.

It’s coming from Thompson once again, with Mattia De Lullis and Javier Rodriguez (!!) on art (the former is handling the present story, the latter is handling flashbacks), which makes me doubly interested because I am all about the Javier Rodriguez. The story is a continuation of Meet the Skrulls, but one that’s meant to set up the fractious relationship between the Skrulls and the Kree that’s at the core of the Empyre story. That sounds quite good to me. I’m not really in on Empyre, especially after reading Incoming!, which unfortunately made me rather sleepy instead of getting me excited for what’s to come at Marvel (besides the Sinister bits, because yes please on all Sinister fronts). But hey, I’m getting my Warners back, so I am all about Empyre. More events if it means we get some of my minor favorites back! Let’s do something stilt related, people!

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