This is an established general fact, but the evidence currently on the table regards IDW Publishing's run of Transformers comics. What's so wrong with IDW's Transformers collections, asks absolutely no one? Well, I'll tell you.
A bit of context first: IDW has been putting out Transformers comics steadily since acquiring the license in 2004, starting off their run on the brand with a succession of miniseries and one-shot character-centric Spotlights set in a rebooted Gen One universe that took cues from Marvel's Ultimate universe, written and built primarily by Transformers veteran Simon Furman. These books sold, but weren't drawing the warm reception that the company hoped for. In 2008, they switched tracks. While still putting out miniseries and one-shots, they tugged the reigns from Furman's hands and passed them along to newcomer Shane McCarthy, who revamped IDW's main output with ongoing title All Hail Megatron. Telling a story somewhat more inspired by that of the original cartoon, it was intended as a jumping-on point for new fans, especially casual fans more familiar with the cartoon universe. It, uh. It didn't go over well. Reconfigured as a maxiseries, the title wrapped up in 2009 after sixteen issues. It was soon followed by yet another intended jumping-on point ongoing, this time titled simply The Transformers, helmed by another newcomer, Mike Costa. It... wasn't terribly well-received either, though it ran nearly twice as many issues as its predecessor. IDW took another chance on yet another jumping-on point and found the third time to be the charm. One-shot The Death of Optimus Prime set the stage for twin ongoings Robots in Disguise and More than Meets the Eye, penned by John Barber and James Roberts respectively, both still running today-- though Robots in Disguise has been through a renaming and both titles are set to be renamed and renumbered in October-- and both critical and fan darlings.
Of these two, it's More than Meets the Eye that holds my heart. I was introduced to the series through scans_daily and finally checked it out proper thanks to Humble Bundle offering, as I recall, all then-current volumes and issues available-- in digital, natch. I've been following pretty faithfully since then, also in digital. More and more, however, I've been craving the series in hard copy. For all digital's advantages, I like to have something to hold sometimes when I'm reading. Having a physical copy also grants me the option of lending the title out to people I've been trying to get to read it. And, at a glance, I'm in luck! IDW is pretty quick to collect their titles in trade, and in a small variety of options even. So, again no one asks, what's the problem? A combination of questionable choices on the publisher's behalf and my own picky aesthetic preferences.
More than Meets the Eye is available in nine-- soon to be ten-- volumes. Only, no, it actually isn't. Remember those Spotlight one-shots I mentioned earlier? Those pretty much came to a halt back in 2009, with only one being published in 2010 and then only because the story, originally intended as part of the ongoing The Transformers, was needed to placate irate fans of the title character (Prowl) after a questionable bit of characterization. The Spotlight line made a brief comeback in 2012, however, as a series of pack-in tie-ins to the Transformers Generations toyline as well as forming together a soft prequel to the then-upcoming Dark Cybertron event. Two of the six titles, Spotlight: Trailcutter and Spotlight: Hoist, take place between the pages of More than Meets the Eye. Despite this, the powers that be have not seen fit to release a More than Meets the Eye collection which includes them.
But, okay, so a couple of character-focus issues are missing. They have a bit of foreshadowing and some characterization context, in addition to featuring characters who don't usually get the-- if you'll excuse me-- spotlight, but ultimately don't affect the story in any major way. A person could go through the run never knowing either of them-- Hoist in particular-- exist and not have any trouble following what's going on (though they may wonder what Trailguy's beef is in More than Meets the Eye #6 and wonder when Rodimus started handing out medals modeled after his own face). Is that enough to say the series hasn't "really" been collected? Even I would agree that, no, it isn't-- but that isn't all that's missing. You know what else you won't find in any IDW volume with More than Meets the Eye written on the side? More than Meets the Eye issues #23 through #27, that's what. See, those issues are the title's tie-in to the aforementioned Dark Cybertron event, a crossover marking the first time the casts of More than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise would meet again since the titles launched. Because they form a whole story along with issues #23-#27 of Robots in Disguise and the event's beginning and ending one-shots Dark Cybertron #1 and Dark Cybertron: Finale, they are instead collected-- understandably, even I can admit-- in the Dark Cybertron trades.
What does that mean for a shelf of More than Meets the Eye trades? It means, if you want the series in order, you go from More than Meets the Eye Volumes 1 through 6 to Dark Cybertron Volumes 1 and 2 (or the full run Dark Cybertron hardcover) to More than Meets the Eye Volume 7 onward. To round the title off, you'd need the upcoming Titans Return event trade, which will be collecting issues #56 and #57, which form a two-part tie-in story to the Titans Return event. And you'd still be missing Spotlights: Trailcutter and Hoist, unless you also stick in the Dark Prelude trade, in which all the 2012 Spotlights are collected; they'd be out of order, though, since they take place between the fifth and sixth issues of More than Meets the Eye, which are both collected in Volume 2. Some, perhaps even many, would be unbothered by this disarray. I am not among those many. The very idea curls my lip.
Lo, but there is another way. Starting in 2010, IDW sought to collect its entire output in oversized (typically over three hundred-page) hardcover volumes in a roughly chronological/"suggested reading" order. Phase Two of the initiative, collecting The Death of Optimus Prime onward, began hitting shelves in 2014. The day is saved, right? Not exactly, for a few reasons.
First and foremost-- Phase Two Volume 4, due out this month, will see More than Meets the Eye collected in this format up to issue #16; the title is currently on issue #56. If I want the full run on the title in my mits, this isn't going to satisfy me anytime soon. The second reason casts a wary eye upon the first phase of the line, which is riddled with questionable placement of stories. There's been no tell of such a thing so far in Phase Two, but there hasn't been much to mess up yet either, since the collection is at a point where IDW's Transformers output wasn't terribly busy. Not that the post-Death years in general have been nearly as busy as IDW's first few, and the story has been told in a more linear fashion, but there are one-shots and miniseries still to be collected, as well as a third ongoing title. I can't help worrying. The final sticking point is easily the pettiest, relating to one of said miniseries to eventually be collected in this phase. It is Sins of the Wreckers, loose sequel to the only pre-Death story I especially care about, miniseries Last Stand of the Wreckers. Last Stand is also the only pre-Death IDW Transformers comic I own-- in fact, I own it physically, in both soft and hardcover, though I'm looking to sell of the former. It's been my intention to get the softcover trade and later the hardcover of Sins for some time, but I won't need to if it's properly collected in the Phase Two hardcovers (admittedly questionable, as the first phase hardcovers are missing Last Stand's bonus story content). Which would mean having everything post-Death in the Phase Two collections and then just Last Stand on its comparatively little lonesome. Or everything post-Death in the Phase Two collections, plus an extra trade of Sins. Which would be on the opposite end as the lone Last Stands, if I maintain the order, as is my wont.
I'm not going to deny that I have petty grievances-- but, honestly? Yeah. Comic collections are really freaking obnoxious.