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Wednesday Was Yesterday

September 25th, 2009 No comments

The final issue of DC’s Wednesday Comics hit stores this week. My initial enthusiasm about this experiment–a 12-issue miniseries of weekly installments printed in the manner of a Sunday comics supplement–waned after the fourth issue or so. Several of the stories wasted too much of their limited page count dicking around. Neil Gaiman’s Metamorpho featured two straight weeks of full-page panels in which the Element Man walked and talked.

So, how did the individual strips fare?

Batman – A wonderfully moody first chapter turned into an unambitious murder investigation. You mean that the rich geezer was done in by his hot, gold-digging wife? What a “mystery!”

Kamandi – This Prince Valiant-style excursion through a post-apocalyptic world ruled by beasts was terrific from beginning to end. It made me want to check out creator Jack Kirby’s original run.

Superman – The one which failed most spectacularly is disappointingly the one which received the most exposure courtesy USA Today. Superman spent six issues moping until he remembered the time he was adopted by loving parents and spend thirty years living happily among humans. Then he punched some aliens.

Deadman – Enjoyable overall, but not necessarily a good introduction to the character. Deadman’s main traits are his incorporeality and his ability to possess others, and the setting of much of the story–a hellscape in which he had a physical form–rendered both of those moot.

Green Lantern – A very slow start that, while it picked up midway through, didn’t amount to much of a story.  At least it wasn’t about a guy with a power ring who only fights other guys with power rings, as is the case with the monthly comic.

Metamorpho – I was very annoyed by the panel in which the characters name-checked the (off-panel) traps they faced. If you’re going to reference a “laser attack” room, I’d rather see that than two weeks of walk-and-talk. Still, I liked that Gaiman heavily mined Silver Age continuity here, particularly the inclusion of Algon the ancient Element Man. He kept teasing with the idea of an ongoing Metamorpho title, and I think that he should convince someone at DC to let him take a whack at it.

Teen Titans – I had no damned idea what was going on here. I don’t know if it was the art or the script, but I couldn’t make sense of it. Something about Deathstroke the Terminator dressing up as an even sillier villain.

Strange Adventures – Paul Pope’s art was…interesting. Yet I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy his version of Adam Strange via Edgar Rice Burroughs. It took some enormous liberties with the concept–particularly the nature of the Zeta Beam and the notion that Adam is an old man when he’s not on the planet Rann–but it was intriguing and fun.

Supergirl – Second only to Kamandi. I loved this, and would buy an ongoing monthly in a heartbeat. The artwork was appealing to the eye, and full of character moments. Krypto and Streaky (and Supergirl!) have never been cuter. Aquaman’s clam phone? Brilliant!

I want to know what a bucket of shrimp is thinking.

Metal Men – My number three choice. I know that people dump on DC Comics’ executive editor Dan DiDio, but he bulls-eyed this one with a script that included everything I like about the Metal Men, with none of what I dislike about them.

Wonder Woman – Again, no idea what happened here. I think it was supposed to be a riff on all those old stories that told how WW won the individual elements of her costume, but I felt as if I was battling the artwork, and the artwork won.

Sgt. Rock – It just seemed to be a standard-issue Rock story that made no attempt to fit into the newspaper format.

Flash – The initial idea–a Flash strip running in tandem with one about his suffering wife Iris–was neat, but I lost track of what was going on with all the time-travel. In stories of this sort–in which multiple incarnations of a character from different time-periods simultaneously appear–the writer needs to clearly signpost which version is which. And I’m not sure what was up with the suggestion that the Flash had intentionally created Grodd’s gorilla-filled parallel realm.

Demon/Catwoman – It was okay, but I started out wondering why Catwoman was in the story and ended it feeling the same.

Hawkman – Well done for the most part. I was happy to see Dinosaur Island. Leaving Hawkman without his wings for half the story was probably a mistake; he’s pretty much Manman at that point.

I wouldn’t mind seeing DC try something like this again, but I think that the creators need to remember how to tell a complete story in twelve pages. They managed it all the time in the Silver Age.

See You Next Wednesday

July 13th, 2009 No comments

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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