Recently, while sobbing over the beautiful, though only moderately satisfying final issue of Sweet Tooth—my illustrated steady since November 2009—I realized that finishing a work of serialized media that you've been actively following from the start is so much more hardcore an experience than almost anything else (besides finishing a 100-hour video game). I didn't go to business school, but I still know that a good payoff requires a good investment.
For books—especially good books—I used to feel this surging emptiness when they were over. The characters I had just spent the last week with were no longer around to keep me company. How was I supposed to exist without his wry insight into a situation I'd never be involved in, or her witty banter with a character I so would have tried to date if he were real? More importantly, how was I supposed to determine the next good book to invest a week in?
Now, while I guess I still feel some of those things to a certain extent—especially with really really good books—what I really feel is more along the lines of, "Well, I enjoyed our time together and this was really lovely, but it was just a brief (and wild) fling, so I'm off to the bookstore to find one to take your place. Ta!" And with movies, it's the same way.
Look, I feel a little ashamed about my love-em-and-leave-em approach to books and movies these days, but what's a week or a couple of hours in the face of two years (sometimes much longer for other comic fans)? Two years spent pining for that one Wednesday per month when the next part of Lemire's grand arc would be available to me? Two years spent re-reading issues trying to pick up the story where it left off. TWO YEARS spent accidentally buying the same issues over and over again because I couldn't quite remember if I already had that one at home. Two years spent hating then loving then hating then loving and loving and loving Mr. Jeppard. Two years developing a weird crush on Bobby the beaver hybrid. Two years spent trying to figure out who Sweet Tooth would become and why the sickness was really killing everyone. That's a lot of history, guys.
When I think about how crushed and unprepared I felt when I saw that final "THE END" written in issue 40 (even though I knew it was coming), it becomes all the more clear to me why binging on TV shows via Netflix or powering through an old serialized comic in the course of a weekend is so sickly satisfying—you're skipping the joy and pain of real attachment and subsequent loss.
There are three pains greater, though: good things get cancelled, writers get busy (I'm looking at you, Warren Ellis, and you, David Lapham), or the story starts out great but degenerates into a terrible mess (I'm looking at you, Garth Ennis). It's hard to want to get invested in something when these three things threaten to swoop in and poop all over your good time.
But you know what? When it lasts, it's so, so, so worth it, and you're going to fucking feel that ending like a punch in the gut.