Is there a downside? Sadly there is. The printing quality can sometimes be right off. The most recent volume, Spectacular Spider-Man Vol II, suffers from some of the worst reproduction that I've ever seen. These aren't Golden Age comics we're talking about, these are comics from the late '70s through to the early and mid '80s. For the most part the reproduction is crystal clear. The line-work is fluid and sharp. Then we come to the odd reproduction - in this case issues #40, 43 and annual #2 look for all the world to have been reproduced from scans of photocopies of low resolution scans of photocopies. I'm sure that Marvel have those issues on hand, if not then I know people who own original art from the issues in question and when it comes down to it, I have a complete run of the book from issue1 through to 150 - they can borrow mine if they want. There should be no excuse for this kind of shoddy work, especially in this day and age of digital reproduction.
The Spider-Man volume isn't the only one to suffer from poor reproduction. Other books usually have one or two issues in them that look horrid. The problem with the Spider-Man book is that the reproduction on those three stories render them virtually unreadable. It's a shame really, and all Marvel say is that they'll 'fix' future printings. That means if I want a perfect volume I'm either not going to buy the first print, or buy two printings. Mind you if I don't buy the first printing, and others do the same, then it's highly unlikely that there'll be any future printings. I applaud Marvel for printing obscure titles, but I wish they could just get it right.
You see, the idea of Essentials isn't new. We've had similar volumes here in Australia since the dawn of print. And the idea is so good that DC are now doing the same with their Showcase series. However the difference is that DC are making damn sure that the reproduction for all their reprints is top shelf. No great surprise there - perhaps Marvel can take a leaf out of their book - if it's not 100% then just wait until it is.
Now I'm waiting for Essential Moon Knight. That'll have some tasty art!