Last time, we defined what a Graphic Novel was. But that definition was pretty broad — ANY reprint collection? Let’s break that down a bit further.
In the last several years, Marvel Comics have begun a format called Epic Collections, where they will eventually reprint EVERY story in a character’s history in chronological order. They cost about $40 for about 20 or so issues. When they’re all available, you’ll only have to buy the Epic Collections and not have to worry about any other formats in order to have a character’s complete history. This is great if you don’t mind paperback covers (I don’t!), and you don’t mind the other oddity about Epic Collections — They’re being released out of order.
Well sure, they COULD just be like, Hey here’s every issue of, I dunno, let’s say, Spider-Man, in order. But in the past, they have already released SEVERAL collections of early issues of Spider-Man (or Iron Man, or Hulk, or whatever character you like) as well as all the newer stuff since about 2000. Therefore, Marvel have decided to let the older collections all sell out and begin by releasing Epic Collections based around what’s either been out of print for a long time, or stuff that’s never been reprinted!
So if you look at what’s included in each Epic Collection, you’ll see it’s usually some early stuff, some more recent stuff, and a few of the character’s more memorable stories — But with the issues surrounding the bigger stories. So continuing the Spider-Man example, one of their more noteworthy stories is KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT, which ran in Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294, and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132. And the original collection includes exactly those six issues.
But the Kraven’s Last Hunt Epic Collection includes (in the proper reading order) Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #289-294, Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #20-21, Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #7, and the Spider-Man vs. Wolverine one-shot. This way, you have a much better context for what was going on in Spider-Man’s world immediately before KLH — To my knowledge, Amazing Spider-Man #289-292 have never been collected before. Plus, because it’s clearly numbered volume 17, if you want to follow it up, you know to look for Spider-Man Epic Collection vol. 18 — Which happens to be the introduction of Venom. Pretty cool!