Every comic could be somebody’s first comic.
It could be the first comic book a person has ever picked up, or their introduction to a new-to-them series; whether it is a first time reader who is a fan of superheroes from other media, or a long time comics reader checking out a new series, opening a comic you have very little familiarity with can be a daunting prospect. You never quite know what you’re going to get when you turn the front cover, where in the story you’re going to be (unless you’ve deliberately picked up the first part of a new story arc).
So what do you have to rely on when it comes to familiarizing your self with the story?
Well, my friends, that’s where you’d be hoping for a recap page.
Recap pages are a life saver for those new to a series, giving us a brief snippet of the previous happenings in the story or relevant details to the upcoming story that may have happened months or years ago. Recap pages are also a dying breed in many comics these days, much to the despair of new readers. Or maybe not.
One of the many things I admire about Valiant‘s comics, aside from the general top notch quality of their individual issues and the publisher’s cohesive comic book universe, is the fact that they endeavour to make their comics as new reader friendly as they can with some pretty useful recap pages. Not always, granted, and sometimes you will be lost, but by and large their recap pages are very welcoming. Which was fantastic when I was just starting to read their comics, allowing me to jump onto whatever comic’s story – usually with the first or second part of an arc, but not always – without being (too) lost.
Recap pages are especially useful after a rebooted or relaunched comic hits the stands. By giving fans a bit of an idea as to what has happened prior to the reboot/launch publishers allow readers to be able to pick these comics up without requiring them to have read the previous events that spawned them (DC‘s Flashpoint or Marvel‘s Secret Wars as the most recent examples from the Big Two).
The most specific example I can think of regarding this was the recent 1872 miniseries and the Red Wolf comic that span out of that once the Secret Wars series should have ended. You can find my thoughts on the first issue here, but in a nutshell I wasn’t overly impressed with the assumption that readers had read 1872, coupled with the dire recap page included.
For me, a recap page is an integral part of a comic. Done well it can negate the need for a new reader to have to pick up back issues in order to understand the story; of course, there’s nothing stopping you from picking the back issues up, but it’s nice when you grab the earlier issues because you want them rather than you need to read them.
When a comic doesn’t have a recap page it’s not always a deal breaker, but it certainly doesn’t help new (or forgetful) readers out.