The Best Way to Read the Story of Image’s Step By Bloody Step Collection

The following contains spoilers for bloody step by Si Spurrier, Matheus Lopes and Matias Bergara.

Wednesdays (and Tuesdays if you love DC) are always an exciting time for comic book fans. Little beats the haste to head to his local comic book store to pick up the latest issue of the title he’s come to soak up every word and drop of ink. This format is at least as old as comics, but some have begun to outgrow it. These tend to be the outliers, however.

For each moon cakes (By Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu) and I am NOT Starfire (by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani), there are tens, hundreds, or thousands of Trade Paperbacks (TPBs) collecting odd numbers or limited series of monthly or weekly releases. Some TPBs, especially those that collect entire limited series, are much better than the episodic format they’re originally presented in. Although the monthly format is probably more profitable for comics, the system is somewhat antiquated and many comics would benefit from not being published in episodic formats but as trade paperbacks, and Image Comics’ bloody step TPB is a perfect example of when comics should be a single volume rather than monthly publications. Considering the amount of change already affecting the contemporary comic book release schedule, this seems like a natural next step.

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Serialization is obsolete in contemporary fiction

Rather, comics are rooted in serials. In fact, one barely exists without the other. The beginning of comics dates back to weekly political cartoons, with the first generally accepted comic strip, The yellow child, straight out of a weekly political cartoon. From publishing schedules to sheer capitalist strength, weekly and monthly publications were simply what sold. Many great novels, screw letters by CS Lewis at Bram Stoker’s Dracula, many novels were first published episodically and then collected in a collection, known as a novel. It was only natural that since comics are the written word, they would follow suit. Weekly or monthly publications are quickly collected in graphic novels, which is the case with The yellow childand this is the case with comics to this day.

The problem is this: serialized formats rarely work now. Free fanfiction gets a lot of attention, but in a culture focused on bulimia, getting it all at once is far superior. Novels are no longer published as they come in the weekly (itself largely a holdover from a bygone era). However, the comics continue to be serialized even though the process becomes obsolete, even among them. The existence of multi-issue and continuity arcs and stories work poorly against the original comic book monster of the week formula. This is especially true for limited series, and bloody step prove.

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Limited and one-off series suffer from series format

bloody step is a cyclical story, with the protagonist and his huge patron knight swapping places at the end, but furthermore the book contains no words in any obvious language beyond a spoken series of symbols that can be interpreted. Given these two very unique aspects of the story, it suffers from serialization. Additionally, each issue features time jumps and long periods of time experienced by the characters, which is usually reserved between issues in other comics. However, in bloody step, all of this happens in the narrative and “on screen”. There’s not really any benefit to reading a book as a series of individual short stories because, frankly, it’s not.

Naturally, monthly comics have their advantages, but bloody step and stories like this share none of these advantages. Serials are great for new readers, but most limited editions are very tightly woven. The casual reader would have a hard time picking up number 5 and continuing the story from there, as is much of the point of serialized fiction. Much of the character development and exploration was lost, only for the comic to spoil its own ending a few issues later.

bloody step is not meant to be the story of a weekly adventure, but of an ongoing adventure. Other stories like Saga benefit from episodic storytelling due to the sheer length of the story, but there are simply too many benefits to ditching the monthly format for comic book writers, artists, readers, and publishers to ignore. As told by the incredible story contained in the TPB of bloody stepthe comics would greatly benefit from figuring out if the current pat is good or just needs to be renegotiated alongside a changing world.

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