Have I griped recently about how poor a job DC does with distributing their hardcover/TPB collections and using them to build readership? I have? Ah, well consider this another anecdote on the pile, then.

So I was at the Barnes & Noble yesterday, and noticed a few collections of Geoff Johns' Action Comics run: Last Son, Brainiac, and Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Having heard good things about his stuff, I thought I might see about giving these books a chance. But where should I start, and what order should I read them in?

The trade dress was no help; nowhere did they say which issues they contained, nor were they numbered in any way to indicate their relationship to each other. Well, fine; I know where that information is contained in the copyright page, so I can hunt it out there. Except...a problem. Two of them were paperbacks, so that was easy, but the hardcover was wrapped in cellophane — no way to get to the copyright page.

After much finagling, I was able to ultimately discover the following:
Superman: Last Son — reprints Action Comics #844-846, 851
Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes — reprints Action Comics #858-863
Superman: Brainiac — reprints Action Comics #866-870

Which is great and all, except...look at those gaps in issues between books. Does that mean that these are not the full sequence? Was that other stuff filler, and so not "necessary" for following Johns' run? I don't know. I decided to leave the books un-looked at and came home.

Later, I went to DC's website, hoping I could get some guidance there, but no such luck; it was as mum about the relationship between one book and another as the books themselves were. And so...I won't be giving Geoff Johns' Action Comics run a TPB try because I don't know how to know if I'm missing anything.

And once again, to DC's reprint publishing approach, I say "Feh."

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Alan,
Please oh please forward a copy of that to DC.

It doesn't matter how many retailers ask them to print the list of issues on the back cover.

It doesn't matter how many people at a Con ask them to number their collections.

It doesn't matter how many people complain on their forums about how complete/incomplete a title is reprinted.

All that matters to them is consumers telling them that they didn't spend $60 on their collections because of {reason}. If enough people complain directly to DC about it, change will happen.

I had to beg Bob Wayne for a year and a half for DC to provide checklists for their major events (and ahead of time!), before enough other retailers joined my crusade and DC finally provided us with checklists for Blackest Night.

(Marvel is no better about listening to us, BTW)

Any voice that can be perceived as a lone voice in the night will be, until they can be deafened by the volume.

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Alan, I understand your frustration, and I share it. It should not be that much work to figure out what is collected and what is not for any title; unfortunately, DC drops the ball big time in this regard. As you know, DC's website isn't much help. You can't, as far as I know, do a search for "Action Comics" or "Geoff Johns", you have to scroll through a long list of "graphic novels", all lumped together under a heading of "Superman". Even stranger, some descriptions of the contents only give a summary of the story and not which issues are collected.

I could live without numbering on the trade or hardcover itself, but it should definitely state somewhere, in bold type on the back or front cover, which issue are collected inside. Look at "Last Son" - not five consecutive issues, but three in a row, a later issue, and an Annual. I have found that the best help is the Grand Comics Database (www.comics.org), allowing you to search by title, and when you click on a specific issue, who the creators were and will often tell you the title of the reprint collection that issue is a part of, where applicable. For Action Comics, Geoff Johns is the writer or co-writer for the issues between #837-873, excluding a number of fill-ins: #841-843, 847-849, and 852-854.
For Alan and other interested parties, with some research, here is what I came up with:

Up, Up, And Away: collects Action 837-840 and Superman 650-653. Co-written by Geoff Johns and Kurt Busiek. The first big storyline following Infinite Crisis bore the "One Year Later" logo. Establishes the post-IC status quo with one of the big changes being Luthor is no longer the Byrne-era evil business tycoon but back to his Silver Age and Bronze Age depiction. Recommended.

Back In Action: collects Action 841-843 - a fun three part story with several guest stars, written by Kurt Busiek, , along with DC Comics Presents 4,17, and 24, the old Superman team-up book from the late 70's/early 80's.

Last Son: - written by Geoff Johns, with Richard Donner; collects Action 844-846, 851, and Action Annual 11.

Action 847 - written by Dwayne McDuffie, collected in The Third Kryptonian, which also collects Superman 668-670.

Action 848 and 849 - written by Fabian Nicieza, collected in Redemption, along with Superman 659 and 666.

Action 850 - co-written by Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, and Geoff Johns, collected in Supergirl: Beyond Good and Evil, along with Supergirl 23-27.

3-2-1- Action!: collects Action 852-854, written by Kurt Busiek and also Superman 665 and Legends of the DC Universe 14. Spotlight on Jimmy Olsen!

Escape From Bizarro World: collects Action 855-857, written by Geoff Johns with art by The Goon creator Eric Powell. Additional stories from Superman 140, DC Comics Presents 71, and Man of Steel 5. Recommended.

Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes: by Johns, collects Action 858-863.

Action 864 - billed on the GCD as a lead in to Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds, both written by Geoff Johns, so this issue may (or may not) be part of the eventual FC:Lo3W collection.

Action 865 - written by Johns, spotlight on Toyman, Superman only makes a cameo. Not collected as of yet.

Brainiac: collects Action 866-870, by Johns.

Action 871-873, written by Johns, parts 4,7, and 10 of the New Krypton storyline.

I would also highly recommend Superman: Strange Attractors, which reprints the entire Gail Simone/John Byrne run from Action 827-835, excluding Action 829, which is part of the Superman: Sacrifice collection. That storyline tied in heavily to Infinite Crisis; the storyline of Wonder Woman executing Maxwell Lord and the aftermath of all that.
Wow. Nice work John.

I'm just about to start getting these from the library, so I'll be coming back to your list again.

I've also read all the new Supergirl collections up to Joe Kelly's abysmal 'Oooh, I'm emo and mixed up, now I'm even smoking a cigarette, even though it can't give me cancer... I'm a bad teen...' fiasco. So its good to see where I should get the Supergirl collection in the middle of all that.

Given that Action and Superman were published concurrently, would you say you you've got more or less the correct order up there?
There's also Kurt Busiek's Camelot Falls storyline, which I think was collected in 2 volumes. I'd put it concurrent to Last Son, between Back in Action and The Third Kryptonian.
Yes, Camelot Falls is indeed spread over two volumes: Volume 1 reprints Superman 654-658 and Volume 2 reprints # 662-664, 667, and Superman Annual 13. I don't disagree with Rob but my own personal preference would be to read both Busiek's run on Superman, #650-675, and Johns' run on Action, #837-873, independent of each other. Up, Up, And Away (Action 837-840 and Superman 650-653) was co-written by both men, but after that, they're each doing their own thing, with only passing references to each other's work. I never got the sense you needed to be following both series to understand the stories. As stated several posts ago, the triangle numbering has only recently returned. There weren't any crossovers between Up, Up, And Away and the New Krypton storyline (Action 871-873, Superman 681-683, plus two issues of Supergirl and two one-shot specials), and by then Busiek had been off Superman for six issues.

I should note as well that readers of both books were subjected to delays and fill-ins during both runs. Johns didn't write Action 841-843, 847-849, and 852-854 (Busiek did 841-843 and 852-854) and over on Superman, while Busiek wrote all of the issues between #650-675, Camelot Falls seemed to go a wee bit off track in its latter half. Seven issues of Busiek's run remain uncollected (660, 661, 671-675). Also, I'm pretty sure that Kurt had a Krypto story cancelled on him and he was going to bring in Chloe from the Smallville TV show as a character in the comics, and both times the rug was pulled out at the last minute.
IMHO, there is no reason for Camelot Falls to be in two volumes. Instead of being one decent-sized book, it's in two spindly-looking volumes. Don't like it, and it's probably the only reason I didn't buy them. They don't look good on the shelf.
A companion to my earlier post about Geoff Johns' run on Action, here's some info on Kurt Busiek's run on Superman:

Superman 650-653 - along with Action 837-840, this is Up, Up, And Away!
Superman 654-658 - Camelot Falls Volume 1
Superman 659 - A woman believes Superman is an actual angel, collected in Redemption.
Superman 660 - Spotlight on the Prankster; uncollected.
Superman 661 - A new villainess, Khyrana, who reminds me of the Cheetah, and (appropriately) a guest appearance by Wonder Woman; uncollected.
Superman 662-664, 667, Annual 13 - Camelot Falls Volume 2
Superman 665 - A tie-in to (ugh) Countdown (to Final Crisis) starring Jimmy Olsen; collected in 3-2-1- Action!.
Superman 666 - Superman goes to Hell - literally (look at the issue number); collected in Redemption.
Superman 668-670 - collected in The Third Kryptonian; Action 847 is also part of that collection.
Superman 671-673 - "The Insect Queen" storyline; uncollected.
Superman 674-675 - featuring an old obscure JLA foe, Paragon, and an all-new Galatic Golem; uncollected.

Superman 676 is by writer Vito Delsante and artists Julian Lopez and Bit; it's the tale of how the Man of Steel met the original Green Lantern Alan Scott, and is uncollected. Superman 677-680 is James Robinson's first storyline entitled "The Coming of Atlas"and has been released as a hardcover.
I agree, Jeff -- I wish Camelot Falls were in one volume, too.

Thanks for all that info, John! I liked the return of Paragon, because I remembered enjoying that original JLA story (one of Busiek's first professional efforts, with Chuck Patton art, IIRC).

The reason I placed Camelot Falls where I did was the appearances of Chris Kent -- but maybe he only appeared in The Third Kryptonian. At any rate, whichever stories he appeared in had to have occurred somewhere between the beginning and the end of Last Son.. but I think there's enough air in that story to allow a few others to live there.
Thanks, John! I actually had done that legwork myself (using the GCD) and discovered that, but it didn't fit into the narrative of my gripe, so I left it out. ;-) It's definitely good to have all that info collected in one spot.

(And if you'll notice, the book store actually was missing one collection from Johns' run: the Escape from Bizarro World book.)

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