It's true that this volume collects single-issue specials that have been released one at a time over the entire life of the comic. This was not a surprise to anyone who was reading single issues, as it has always been discussed in the letters section, but I understand that it might take someone aback if they're reading just the trades. It may seem like a pointless diversion, but I promise it's not.
This volume is not skippable. It may not be immediately clear why you need some of the information present here, but I promise that you will--otherwise some of the events of the final volume will absolutely not make any sense.
This trade collects six things: four "historical" specials with stories centering on or involving Lucifers past, taking place during recurrences from 455AD, 1373, 1831, and 1923; the Christmas Annual #1; and The Funnies.
The historical specials are presented here in chronological order, though not in the order they were initially published. There is a guide in the introduction about when to read them, if you'd like to experience them in the order that they came out during the story. This isn't an essential way to approach it, but it does fit in very nicely with certain twists and reveals in the comic. For instance, the 1923 special originally followed the end of Volume 6, Imperial Phase Part II. The very last two pages of that volume contain a major series twist, which is then referenced in the 1923 recurrence. It's fun to see it play out that way, but again, not essential to experience in that order. And again: these specials contain vital information for the final volume of the comic, "Okay." My favorite special: 1923, a mix of comic and prose which is also about a struggle between "high art" and "low art." It was really interesting diving into the message being delivered in the high art/low art mixed media presentation itself, the events themselves lead directly into how the first issue of the comic opened, and identifying the historical pop-culture figures represented by all of the gods was a lot of fun.
The Christmas Annual is a handful of short vignettes taking place during the modern recurrence showing scenes that the creators didn't have the space or means to get to naturally while telling the story. This is less essential than the historical issues, but does flesh out character backstories in an interesting way that I didn't think was a waste of time. Finally, the Funnies special is a series of short humorous stories that aren't canonical and are just for fun. My favorites are showing how Laura broke her phone screen (reacting badly to some of author Kieron Gillen's tweets), and how Matt Wilson was hired as colorist (under dire threat from Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie).
To wrap back around, I guess an argument could be made that the Christmas Annual and the Funnies special are totally skippable; one doesn't seem to be absolutely vital but is still worth reading, while the other is non-canonical anyway, but very silly and fun. But for real: they are releasing this as volume 8 for a reason. The historical specials contain information that would have been a spoiler if they had been released before any other volumes, and absolutely contain information necessary to understand some of the events of volume 9. Not skippable.
- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Image Comics (12 March 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1534308806
- ISBN-13: 978-1534308800
- Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 1.5 x 25.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 481 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)