When getting into comics, or even just collecting in general, there is a slight debate on physical copies. Do you go with the single issues or the collected trades? This is more for people who read rather than collecting. Collectors will go for the singles, especially variants as they have more value. Readers on the other hand have some options on how they want to be able to read their books.
Trying to catch up on a series is hard, even harder if you’re looking for a series that has been around longer then you were born. Trades are a way of helping out by collecting a set of issues, usually spanning over one or more stories into one book for a cheaper cost. They are also used to reprint older issues that are hard to find or out of print. Some people will only read through trades rather to avoid weekly spending on comics.
There has been effort to collect the old series of comics so that newer readers can either enjoy the older stories or catch up on some character’s history. DC has their showcase series, and Marvel does Essentials, as a large collection to catch up on teams, heroes, or series. Now these aren’t perfect, especially with Marvel losing rights to many characters they would have team up with their heroes. However, where Marvel lacks, IDW seems to pick up. IDW has extensively gone and collected previously printed works of licensed characters they now print, and offer them in omnibus form. This is currently the only way to get original Transformers and G.I Joe comics from the Marvel era in a collected format. One day we can hope for other missing licensed characters like ROM the Spaceknight can join them.
Now going back and grabbing trades is good for older series, but what about current ones? Common trend is that about a month or two after the final issue of a set (somewhere between 5-6 issues depending on storylines.) This can be painful if you want to avoid spoilers, or there are delays in shipping of the single issues. Usually for about a year’s worth of comics you’ll be waiting once out of every 6-7 months, depending on the story. While waiting that long can be tiresome, the fact you get multiple stories at once, sometimes with a bonus or two, can help alleviate that feeling.
Now that being said I myself do a combination of collecting trades and getting new issues. Generally the main reason I started to collect trades was to catch up on past issues. This has been helpful for getting through a backlog of stories that I may have missed otherwise. Also gives me more of a chance to find these stories at my own leisure rather than right away. I do a mix with some ongoing issues, that I know will either get broken up by crossovers or generally want to read monthly. Another reason I do both is that very few series are picked up from good sales of trades. Most series stay alive through issue sales, but some have been brought back by the sale of trades. Some examples I know of are Runaways, Spider-Girl and Young Avengers. Currently Runaways is the only active book, as part of the Secret Wars crossover. Spider-Girl was a part of the Spider-verse crossover, with a decent sized role. Young Avengers comes and goes with focus on various members in other books, so it will be back again someday soon.
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Are trades the way to go for starting out? Depends on how you want to start, most books have jumping on points, where it is made for newer readers to start with single issues. Trades normally focus on one or two story arcs, beginning with the jumping on point. Personally, I would recommend trades for going back and catching up to where you started, or if you want to collect a series as a whole. You may also want to do collections for crossovers that you may have tie-ins for, but as a side story and not the main focus. With that, happy reading, and see you next time.