Trading Up: Potter's Field

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Publisher BOOM! Studios have slowly made a name for themselves and risen in popularity. For the most part their success has been based on stories that fall outside the usual comic book genre of the capes and cowl set and they have said that they deliberately focused on comics that had the feel of movies or TV shows. Nowhere is that more true than with Mark Waid’s Potter’s Field.

It was slightly less than two years ago now that BOOM! Studios published the first installment of Waid’s original three-issue mini-series introducing the mysterious John Doe – a man who tries to identify the anonymous dead buried on Hart’s Island off Manhattan – New York’s own "Potter’s Field". Those three issues were followed up this past March with a one-shot: Potter’s Field: Stone Cold. Now the three issue mini-series as well as the one-shot have been collected into a hardcover edition and the publisher has pulled out all the stops for this one.

The volume has a stitched binding and the paper is a nice heavy stock on which Paul Azaceta’s artwork and Nick Fillardi’s colors really pop and glow on the page. Also, if you peep beneath the dust jacket you see a little Easter Egg for the series, which is a lot of fun – almost like a little in-joke for readers.

 While the story read great in its original, episodic format it is surprising to see how well it flows when read together. In fact, in some ways it reads better when taken all in one sitting. The separate issues become chapters in the greater book and subtle clues, hints and plot points, which might have gotten missed when waiting a month between issues, now foreshadow the action. Even the "Stone Cold" story, despite coming as a one-shot long after the original series, folds into the rest of the story with hardly a ripple and, while it is obviously included to help fill out the volume it is still nice to see it collected here.

To help bolster the edition there is a lot of extra material in the back and all of it is solid gold. I, personally, am fascinated by craft. I love seeing how writers or directors think – learning how they change scenes and why – seeing how a project evolves over time. Here readers get treated to Mark Waid’s original, five page script pitch for Potter’s Field and some of the original pencil drawings for those pages. In addition to getting to see how the story has changed from the initial concept to the finished product, readers can see that the script, dated a number of years previous, has been percolating in the back of Waid’s head for a long time. Also amongst the back matter are various early design sketches for the character John Doe – letting readers see how much he changed as well before reaching the final iteration.

It is, admittedly, a little unusual to give such a slim collection the deluxe treatment but it is difficult to argue that the material does not deserve it. The tightly plotted, twisty-turny, mystery is made even stronger by being collected and the extras that come with it are definitely a bonus. If you’ve got the free money, go ahead a splurge a little bit on this one – you won’t be burying it in your own Potter’s Field.

Potter's Field hardcover edition is published by BOOM! Studios priced $24.99.

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