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See You Next Wednesday

July 13th, 2009

DC Comics has just begun a bold, new experiment that’s really older than comics themselves…but still bold. Wednesday Comics is a 12-issue, weekly miniseries done in the style of a newspaper’s Sunday funnies section. And we’re not talking the modern-day variety, with its shrunken artwork and lazy gags, but rather the days of glorious adventure strips such as Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant.

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Each issue includes one full-page installment of fifteen different features, from stalwarts such as Superman and Green Lantern to more obscure DC characters such as Kamandi, the Metal Men and Sgt. Rock. And without the need to directly tie into any ongoing continuity, the creators are free to get their Silver Age freak on, with decidedly old-school versions of Metamorpho and Supergirl.

The giant format–literally done on newsprint and unfolding to 14″x20″–allows the art to breathe in some cases. The best example is Kyle Baker’s poetic take on Hawkman, in which the Winged Wonder leads an army of birds to confront a hijacked airplane. At the other end is Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, which jams about four pages of panels into a dense, nearly unreadable mess.

That’s okay, one or two clunkers (the other being Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway’s uninvolving take on Teen Titans) isn’t bad when you’ve got material like this:

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It’s a bit hard to make out at this size, but look at all of the storytelling going on in this selection of Supergirl panels, from the panicking shoppers in the far background of the pet shop sequence, to the smitten canine on the sidewalk. (Plus, damn, those are some cute puppies!)

Even better is this group of four panels from the Batman strip that kicks things off:

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The Batman installment wound up being one of my favorites, even though all it is the Caped Crusader and Commissioner Gordon standing around talking.

Other highlights include the Flash, which splits its page into two strips–one a traditional superhero story and the other a romance strip featuring the Flash’s suffering wife. There’s also a Sgt. Rock feature drawn by Joe Kubert himself, Neil Gaiman’s take on shape-changing hero Metamorpho, and a freaky interpretation of Adam Strange by Paul Pope.

I don’t like buying individual comics any more, as I prefer to wait for the trade paperback. But Wednesday Comics is simply too much fun to pass up. Can’t wait for Wednesday!

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