Marvel has announced a new bi-monthly book called A-Force Presentsthat will collect issues of various Marvel comics featuring female heroes in trade paperback format. Rather than the traditional collection of a single storyline, these collections will be more of sampler of what's going on at Marvel at any given time. This is a great idea from Marvel, and a really exciting example of how the publisher is taking women seriously as an audience. In their press release, Marvel explained the concept:

A bi-monthly series focusing on the strength, courage and power of Marvel’s female heroes, A-Force Presents collects a new selection of Marvel’s critically-acclaimed female led titles for fans to explore. Targeted towards young adult readers, each volume of A-Force Presents includes 6 issues and offers a clean entry point into the Marvel Universe through some of the most popular titles. Releasing this September, the first volume, A-Force Presents Vol. 1 collects the critically acclaimed first issue of Ms. MarvelCaptain Marvel,ThorShe-Hulk, Black Widow and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Don’t miss your chance to jump on board with Marvel’s mightiest superheroines when A-Force PresentsVol. 1 bursts on to the scene later this year!

In terms of outreach to an audience that isn't necessarily going to comic shops, this is how it should be done. Last year, Bookscan sales of comics were up 17% while Diamond comics sales were up 4% --- and the comics doing well at bookstores are overwhelmingly those created by or aimed at women and girls. It's a mark of the drastic sea change in comics that a publisher as large as Marvel is putting together an initiative like this. The only real concern about a book like this is that consumers may be confused --- will they know they're not buying a complete story, but rather a sampler? Will future volumes continue the story by publishing second issues of the comics listed above, or will it sample a completely different list of comics? There's also the question of where the collection will be shelved. It would be interesting if Marvel can manage to get these trades shelved in the YA section. That would be a spectacular coup that many publishers in comics would love to pull off. One reason many observers give for the failure of DC's Minx line is that the initial plan to have the books shelved with YA titles rather than with the comics at bookstores was never implemented. For readers who want to pre-order the first A-Force Presents, it's up on Amazon already. Volume Two is up as well, and the cover suggests that the series will at least continue the stories of Thor, She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel.