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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WEDNESDAY COMICS #1

Unfolded front and back cover to WEDNESDAY COMICS #1.

Exactly one week ago DC Comics launched WEDNESDAY COMICS under the editorial guidance of Mark Chiarello — a true talent for whom I have limitless admiration and respect, the guy's one of the rarer-than-tits-on-a-fish handful of people working as daily staffers at either DC or Marvel who has considerable good taste in comics art and actually gives a shit about putting out good comics — so I was naturally curious to see what would result from him putting out an oversize Sunday comics page-style anthology.

WEDNESDAY COMICS mimics the large format of the old school Sunday comics page and unfolds to reveal fifteen initial installments in what will be a total of twelve weekly chapters, each featuring characters from all over the reaches of the DC Universe.

The folded WEDNESDAY COMICS #1, with a can of soda for scale.

The fully unfolded WEDNESDAY COMICS #1, with Metal Matt for scale.

The "Big Three" — Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — are inevitably present, as are other top guns such as the Flash and the Green Lantern, so allow me to break it down piece by piece. However, before I get to that, I should point out the book's most glaring problem: the coloring. Newsprint tends to muddy colors somewhat, and in several cases the colors serve to render some of the visuals a bit too dark to serve the work as intended, so when you pick up your own copy make sure to compare it to a few other copies since the color quality can vary considerably between individual copies. Anyway, here's what you get:

BATMAN-handled by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso of 100 BULLETS renown, this one looks okay but underwhelms because nothing happens that hooks the readers. I never cared for what this team did a while back with the Batman and I'm certainly not impressed here; as stated, nothing happens, and Risso's art brings to mind what would happen if this had been turned in by Joe Kubert if he'd either found the script boring or just decided to phone it in.

Ryan Sook's masterful take on Jack Kirby's KAMANDI.

KAMANDI-Jack Kirby's KAMANDI is one of my all-time favorite comics for reasons that would take up a post of their own, so I won't go into that now. Kirby's flagrant ripoff of the PLANET OF THE APES post-apocalyptic talking animals scenario took that template, dosed it on some particularly strong LSD and turned it loose upon the comics landscape, thereby creating a wonderland of anthropomorphic madness with a young, shirtless surfer-looking dude in cutoffs running from one insane adventure to the next, so there was plenty of room in which to let the creative imagination run rampant. Now in the capable hands of scripter Dave Gibbons (he drew some little book a couple of decades ago called WATCHMEN that almost immediately faded into total obscurity) and mind-blowing illustrator Ryan Sook (SEVEN SOLDIERS: ZATANNA), Kamandi's back and kicks ass across the board. This one's the big bad dog out of the lot and to me was worth the cover price for just this one page (yes, I know I'm crazy), and I pray that this will be collected on its own in a huge coffee table edition (yeah, like that's gonna happen).

SUPERMAN-written by John Arcudi and illustrated by Lee Bermejo, this one's over before it begins, much like the Batman page. The reader comes in on the middle of the Man of Steel duking it out with some random extraterrestrial menace, and when you reach the last panel the whole thing comes to a screeching halt that reads like some non sequitor from a 1960's underground comic. It's pretty to look at, though.

DEADMAN-owing a heavy visual debt to Darwyn (JUSTICE LEAGUE: NEW FRONTIER) Cooke, theis effort from Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck gets off to a start that flows well right up to the cliffhanger, and I'm interested to see where it goes.

GREEN LANTERN-this one seems set in a timeless retro-fifties and reads and looks quite nice, but we get exactly one panel of GL in action and that's right at the very end. If they weren't going to re-present GL's origin for the eleventy-jillionth time (which, thank god, they didn't do; If I have to read that story one more goddamned time...), Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones should have just dropped us straight into some kind of deep-space action, chock full of the wild-looking space aliens and starships and shit that keeps me glued to both Green Lantern books instead of taking us along with the employees of Ferris Aircraft to a lounge as they get off from work for the day. Yeah, that's I look for in my superhero adventures: a pack of mostly-nameless characters I'll never see again heading toward getting their drunk on, while the hero remains MIA until the last panel. Again, it's well-drawn, but it fails to hook as an opening chapter.

METAMORPHO-Neil (THE SANDMAN) Gaiman and Mike (MADMAN) Allred, teamed to give us an adventure of the Element Man? Not a team I would have come up with, but it works.

TEEN TITANS-I'm unable to evaluate this one fairly and for that I must apologise, because I hate, hate, HATE the art style that fuses a manga/Japanese animation influence with graffiti art. There are several artists who've employed this stylistic angle since the 1990's and I didn't like it then, and I have definitely warmed to it now. There are those who like this kind of stuff, so if you're a fan of Sean Galloway's art, help yourself. I was so put off by the art that I didn't even read Eddie Berganza's script, so since this is probably the art that will be gracing this run, I'll be skipping it for the duration. But, again, that's just my taste in art.

STRANGE ADVENTURES-I'm hot and cold on Paul Pope's art and stories, and I genuinely feel about that because he's a really nice guy. More often than not, his stuff's just too "artsy" for me, but with that said, his take on Adam Strange worked very well and lends the goings-on on the planet Rann a truly alien feel that they haven't had in ages. I look forward to more.

SUPERGIRL-Jimmy Palmiotti scripts while Amanda Conner makes with her usual gorgeous artwork as Supergirl chases after an inexplicably berserk Krypto and Streaky. Jimmy's script plays to A.C.'s kooky cartoon-flavored style, so I predict much destruction and mayhem as the super-pets run amok. Fun stuff!

METAL MEN-robotics genius "Doc" Will Magnus and his sextet of awesome robots are back, and while storywise the first installment lays there like a dead cat, the art by my man Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez — one of the medium's finest talents — is simply mouthwatering. Hopefully things will liven up in part 2 when the robots kick the collective ass of a bunch of bank-robbers, but this chapter does garner extra credit for giving us the ludicrous image of Mercury in a human disguise that makes him look like a 1970's-era porn star (think John Holmes), complete with white man's Afro.

WONDER WOMAN-Ben Caldwell's take on comics' first super-heroine greatly vexes me because 1) there's little here to visually indicate that the story's protagonist is Wonder Woman, 2) the composition of the page is both visually dense and loaded to the gills with word balloons of several sizes, making it so busy that I could barely make heads or tails of it, and 3) the aforementioned muddy coloring victimizes this page the worst out of the whole book, and that's a shame because Caldwell can certainly draw, but those unfamiliar with his work would never know that from what's seen here. I'm a Wonder Woman booster, but this was such a visual challenge to perceive that I gave up on reading it a third of the way down the page. Hopefully that won't be as much of an issue as the story proceeds. Oh, and from the way she's drawn, I could not tell if it was a grown Diana or the princess from her days as a teenager.

SGT. ROCK
-you can't go wrong with a Joe Kubert-drawn Sgt. Rock story (with script by Adam Kubert), but this one opens with a whole page of Rock in the clutches of some Ratzi scum and getting the crap beaten out of him. Other than that, we have no clue what's going on. I'm not hooked, but I like the art.

THE FLASH-this segment features the top half of the page devoted to Barry Allen attempting to foil Gorilla Grodd's latest scheme, while the bottom of the page gives us "Iris West" as a HEART OF JULIET JONES-style soaper, only involving a woman who's unknowingly dating the Fastest Man Alive. It's an amusing stylistic contrast and I like what Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher are doing with it, so I'm on board for the duration. (You give me Gorilla Grodd and I'm yer pal.)

THE DEMON/CATWOMAN-this pairing of Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze gives little in the way of story but it's quite nice to look at, so I'll reserve full judgment until it's a few more chapters in.

HAWKMAN-Kyle baker's Hawkman entry is beautiful to look at and told from the POV of one of his winged minions, so I'm in.

In the final assessment I would say that the first issue of WEDNESDAY COMICS mostly works on a visual level, but the bulk of the stories really needed to have kicked off with some sort of a "bang" that would glue readers to the page. Hopefully the color printing concerns will be sorted out shortly, because the large-scale spectacle of the endeavor is definitely hurt by that technical glitch. But whatever the case, I enjoyed the big-assed artwork and I'll definitely be back for more of Kamandi. I mean, check out chapter 2, fer chrissakes:

Today's gorgeous KAMANDI installment. And Prince Tuftan's in it! Yaaaay!!!

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