Recently I decided to reread the Brandon Graham comic book series “Rain Like Hammers.” It was one of my favorite series of 2021 so I looked forward to reading it all again. In that reread the series got me thinking about comic books and their relationship to time.

First of all, in general, all comic books are about time. The comic book creators are in charge of time in any given comic book and they can manipulate it to tell a story. They can slow time down and use a whole page and its panels to show us a split second in time or they can show us a whole year passing by; showing us the seasons going by in just one page. That’s what comic book storytelling is all about but “Rain Like Hammers” didn’t even get me thinking about that kind of time.

I like buying and reading my comic books as single issues. Some people like to “Wait for the collected edition” (there is time again) but I don’t. A reader only gets one chance to read a comic book as it’s coming out issues by issue. For the rest of that comic book’s life new readers will read it as a whole and not in parts over time.

What I like about reading a comic in parts over time is that other fans are reading it the exact same way at the exact same time and we can discuss it. I mostly talk comic books on YouTube these days but that’s still fun. I discuss with other fans what comic books came out that week and we talk about them. What happened this issue, what does it mean, and what we think will happen in future issues.

If you “Wait for the collected edition” then you’re on your own. Much like me rereading “Rain Like Hammers” right now no one else is doing it at the same time. It’s not most people’s habit to rush out, buy the collected edition, and read it right away. After all they have patiently been waiting for the collected edition so there is no rush. Plus often the reaction from us “Read it as it was coming out in single issues” comic book fans to the “Collected edition waiters” is that we’re done talking about whatever comic was just released as a collection. “Yeah, we talked all about that last year” is the attitude.

So here I am reading “Rain Like Hammers” all together (not a collected edition but all the single issues) and it’s a different experience than reading it fo the first time over time. It always is. The month to six weeks wait between issues is now a matter of minutes or seconds. I’ve got the next part right there at my disposal. There is no wondering what is going to happen and what events in the book mean. Instead I can know right now. Time has changed how I perceive the comic. But I also have the memory of how I first perceived the comic as it played out over time.

Another aspect of “Rain Like Hammers” that got me thinking about time is it’s page count. Unless they are special issues, Marvel and DC comic books are 20 pages a month. Most of the indie comic books that I buy are around 22-24 pages a month. Brandon Graham’s comic was released in five 48 page issues. Sometimes he even used the covers as part of the story. So the whole thing is about 250 pages long.

A lot of comic books come out monthly but indie books sometimes come out every six weeks instead. I think this one was monthly but I really don’t remember. So I originally read it over a period of five to six months. For 250 pages that’s a short period of time. If this were a 20 page comic from Marvel I would have read it over a year’s time in twelve issues instead of five. How would that change in time have made the book different to read? I’m not sure but I was thinking about it.

Then there is Brandon Graham’s notes about the book. Some issues have some writing from him telling us behind the scenes stuff. Such as that he was working on this comic during Covid lockdown. That certainly changed all of our perceptions about time. Suddenly time didn’t pass in the world as it usually did. That was a big deal.

Graham also wrote about writing the story and how it changed over time. The first issue is almost self contained. It’s a sci-fi story that takes place in the future (more time) and involves an average Joe adjusting to a new job in a new city. It’s all about his routine and how he spends his time. The next three issues have a different cast and plot and the original character doesn’t show up again until the final issue.

At the time the comic was coming out one of the discussions we were having was how that first issue was going to tie in to the rest of the story or if it even would. We would speculate on how the story was written. Was it all planned out or was Brandon Graham writing it issue by issue not knowing exactly what was going to be in the next issue? Comic books are written both ways.

Graham mentions in one on the later issues that he was originally going to have the book be a series of short stories. It was as he was going along that he decided that it was one big story. Time made the story change in his mind.

The story changed for me too as I read it over an evening and a morning. It moved differently. It moved faster but sometimes it seemed to move in a little more of a jerky-jerky fashion too. That’s because I was probably moving through it faster too.

When I get a new issue of a comic book I read it twice. I read it for the first time within couple of days of buying it and then I let it sit around for a week or so and then I read it again before filing it away. That gives me a fair amount of time with a new comic book and I might even be discussing it on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter during those first two weeks.

As I sit and read all the issues of a comic book by myself as a whole time is different. I spend less time with it and I may even be a little more impatient as I have a pile of comics rather than just one. Plus there is always the next one to read to see what happens. It’s a different sort of experience. Time makes it that way.

Time is a tricky thing isn’t it?

Now I’m going to take some time out of my time talk to tell you that, “Rain Like Hammers” is a good comics. It was one of my favorites of 2022 so you should take some time to track it down and read it. You’ll be happy you did. At least I think you will be.