I am not one who is prone to hot takes. It’s just not in me. I’m a mellow kind of guy, and one who can see a lot of value in perspectives that differ from mine when it comes to the world of entertainment. When someone likes a movie or TV show or comic or whatever that I don’t, I chalk it up to a simple difference of opinion. Maybe that’s related to the fact that I genuinely enjoy a lot of objectively dumb things 1 or maybe it isn’t, but the point is, I rarely will take electric stances on specific things within this realm strictly because I don’t consider my view as the end all be all for anyone but me. 2
I want to talk about omnibuses or omnibi or whatever you want to call them. With each passing year, this format that collects an immense number of comics into one oversized tome – I’m going to say we’re talking about a minimum of 30 issues in one book to qualify 3 – has only seemingly gained greater traction. You almost cannot watch a person talk about comics on YouTube 4 at this point without the familiar wallpaper of comically large hardcovers, compendiums and assorted other omnibus variations behind them. It’s visual shorthand for, “I know what I’m talking about…I mean…do you see these massive books behind me?” It’s been a fascinating phenomenon and a fitting one for this era for one simple reason, and that’s the hot take at the center of this.
The omnibus is, without a doubt, the worst format to actually read comics in.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s something cool about omnibuses. There are so many comics in there! They’re often giant monsters that visually reinforce a definitive nature! Sometimes 5 they’re even really well done, with a level of production value and care we often do not see elsewhere! But I’m not talking aesthetics. I’m talking about actually reading comics. That’s what I’m all about as a comic fan, as, despite an impossible to ignore collector side to myself, trade paperbacks and other similar formats take the lead for me because they’re designed for reading above all. And omnibuses, which can weigh ten plus pounds on the regular, fail at that task comparatively. They’re showpieces built for display, not for enjoyment.
Of course, I do own several, most of which gather dust on my bookshelves because it’s considerably easier to read other formats rather than going down to my office 6 and bench pressing a thousand-page brick so I can enjoy a beloved story. And the situations where I’ll get one off my shelf are very, very rare, simply because of that readability factor. They’re just not a great reading experience. But is there a right situation to read an omnibus? Or, at the very least, a time and place where this beguiling, frustrating, outrageous format could and should be the choice for the purposes of reading? That’s what we’re going to investigate today, as we rate a variety of situations one could possibly read omnibuses in.
Pros: You’re in a comfortable place, in theory. If you read in position 1 as shown above, you’ll potentially see rapid muscle gain.
Cons: Gravity. Difficulty reading. If you fall asleep while reading you might be killed either by the weight of the book or it smothering you.
The vast majority of the reading I do is in bed before I go to sleep. Whether it’s reading comics, books, or whatever, this is far and away my most common final activity before slumber. So it made sense for us to start here, as this is where my reading happens, more often than not.
And this is arguably the worst place to read an omnibus, which makes my distaste for the format fairly logical. Just look at the supplied images. Position 1 is the least likely reading position with an omnibus for a number of reasons, but when you’re making the attempt, it’s still considered because none of the options are great.
When you’re reading in position 1, it’s the most ideal in the sense that it’s the best way to actually see both pages at one time, so the act of reading is improved by it. It’s the least ideal in every other way. You’re perpetually bench pressing a ten pound plus book, which isn’t a lot for a second, but over the span of 1,000 plus pages, it’s exhausting. You can’t turn a page easily, so you’ll have to bring the book down, turn the page, and then reload into position 1. 7 If you get tired, you might have your hand slip and lose your page in a giant book or, even worse, the whole book might drop on your throat/face/chest area, which would be an extremely not fun result. 8
Position 2 is better, but you have to lay with your neck craned in a way that would make an ergonomics expert cry. You’ll also have to lift the book each time you want to turn the page, making it for a rather unnatural experience. Also, you’re resting a ten plus pound weight on chest for the entire reading experience, which doesn’t seem that bad until the next day when you wonder to yourself, “Why does my sternum hurt?” Position 3 is pretty useless, as every factor besides personal safety is worsened here. The biggest downside is the simple act of looking at the right page is difficult, as it’s at the worst possible angle for reading save for facing the book away from you completely. This makes for problematic comic reading.
The only successful position I’ve actually read an omnibus in is unpictured. I’ll call it Position 4, and it’s laying on your stomach with your elbows under you as you read so you can have the pages sprawled out in front of you. That’s actually how I originally read the New X-Men omnibus I’m holding in those pictures, as I was in middle of nowhere Alaska in my parent’s motorhome enjoying that tome as it poured rain outside. I appreciated the experience despite the awkwardness of turning pages in that position – you sort of have to do a mini-plank and turn to make this happen – until I got up at least. At that point I was still in my 20s and in pretty good shape, so most things didn’t faze me. But my back was destroyed by laying in the aforementioned position for several hours, only realizing the devastation I had done to it when I stood up. Position 4 is unpictured because I learned two lessons that day: don’t lay like that, and don’t read omnibuses in bed.
Omnibus Readability Rating (ORR): 2 out of 10
On a Chair
Pros: Solid reading position. Generally comfortable.
Cons: Have to read with your leg crossed, leading to a high probability of your leg falling asleep. If you have a cat, there’s a 100% chance your cat will eventually come and fall asleep on the omnibus.
This one makes a lot of sense. Sitting in a chair is a pretty ordinary way to read a book, even if it’s a comically large book. And it works generally speaking. Sit with the book on your legs, with one crossed to add some height and an effective reading angle, and you get a great view of both pages. It’s nice. If all things are optimal, this is one of the preferred ways to read an omnibus.
Optimal…but pretty limited.
If anything happens really – your pet decides they want attention or to be on your lap, your leg falls asleep, whatever – your options are few, as placing the book flat on your lap leads to a tough reading experience and holding it in an elevated position to avoid a resting animal is bad for reading and your arms. Now, if you had some sort of prop to modify the experience, like a BabyBjörn but for enormous comic collections, you could make it work. Unfortunately that does not exist.
Omnibus Readability Rating (ORR): 5 out of 10
I love you, Stilt-Man!↩
Now, ask me any question about people talking on speakerphone in public and you’ll see a much different David.↩
So ordinary hardcovers and Absolute Editions do not qualify.↩
A thing I do not do, I want to point out. I have just seen enough screenshots of those who do.↩
Meaning when they’re not produced by Marvel.↩
Where all my comics are stashed.↩
More reps for your low weight bench pressing, at least!↩
Ever been punched in the throat by a New X-Men omnibus? No? I don’t recommend it.↩