Wednesday Comics (Issues 1 – 7) (DC) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Wednesday Comics (Issues 1 – 7)

DC

Aug 24, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Many children of the ‘80s and earlier no doubt read the comic strips in their parents’ Sunday newspapers. Most of the strips were mildly amusing at best (with the exception of The Far Side and a couple of others) and some were downright lame (Family Circus, anyone?). Sometimes there would be a Spider-Man or Superman strip that was tailored more for a mainstream audience than the diehard comic book fan. With Wednesday Comics, DC has reinvented and revitalized the comic strip.

The concept is simple—bring together a bunch of great comic book writers and artists for a weekly collection of comic strips featuring DC’s iconic characters, which is presented in a 14” x 20” broadsheet format. Each continuing story gets a full page and isn’t beholden to current DC continuity. While the execution isn’t always flawless, the results are generally a delight, making a Wednesday trip to your local comic book store even more anticipated. It’s a good time to evaluate the project, now that we’re a little more than halfway through Wednesday Comics’ 12-week run.

Highlights abound. Artist Dave Bullock makes the most of the full-page format with his take on Deadman, often having one vibrant splash page panel take up the whole page. Deadman (aka Boston Brand) is already a ghost, but in trying to save a girl from being murdered, he ends up in some strange hell-like realm where he is flesh and blood and can be killed all over again.

Comics giants Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Mike Allred (Madman) collaborate on Metamorpho, with Gaiman writing and Allred doing the art (with Allred’s wife Laura handling the coloring). Metamorpho and team (including Element Girl) are searching for the fabled Star of Atlantis Diamond. In one episode they encounter some giant snakes and escape via some ladders, which allows Allred to create a playable Metamorpho Snakes and Ladders game that takes up the whole bottom half of the page. Sometimes at the bottom of the page, Allred and Gaiman somewhat break through the fourth wall and present kitschy messages from “The Metamorpho Fans of America,” in which a group of kids fill you in on Metamorpho and tell you about fictional Metamorpho merchandise you can’t really buy.

Paul Pope has an interesting take on Adam Strange in his Strange Adventures strip—when Adam returns to Earth from his adventures on Rann, he is old man rather than the young virile warrior he is on the alien planet. The Flash‘s page is often split in two, with half the story centering on the speedster (in this case Barry Allen) and the other half centering on his wife, Iris Allen. Iris is tired of Barry always putting his superheroics before their marriage and is preparing to leave Barry. In order to save his marriage and stop the villainous Gorilla Grodd, Barry travels in time so that multiple versions of himself can be in the same place at the same time.

The Wonder Woman strip is the densest of the bunch. Writer/illustrator Ben Caldwell squeezes so many panels and so much information on each week’s page, that sometimes it can be hard to grasp it all, but his art has a certain flowing poetry to it. Diana is at the start of her Wonder Woman career, and is on a quest to find the ancient magical weapons with which she will become the hero we know and love: her tiara, magic lasso, bracelets, etc. Her adventures appear to be happening in her dreams, which adds to the otherworldly quality of the strip. Other highlights include Kyle Baker’s Hawkman (in which aliens hijack a passenger plane) and Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth!, which is written by Dave Gibbons (co-creator and artist of Watchmen) and in which Kamandi meets the last girl on Earth.

Not every strip rises to the same heights. A common problem with a few of the strips is that not enough happens each week. Surprisingly, the strips for DC’s two heaviest hitters, Superman and Batman, have this pacing problem. Superman is starting to feel out of place in Metropolis and on Earth in general and returns to Smallville. Batman is investigating some sort of society murder in a strip written by Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) that doesn’t feature any of the Caped Crusader’s signature adversaries. Metal Men, written by DC’s Senior Vice President/Executive Editor Dan Didio, started out a little slow, but has picked up the pace. The Metal Men get caught up in a bank robbery, but it eventually becomes clear that the robber is a much more dangerous threat. Green Lantern, written by Kurt Busiek (Astro City) gets extra points for being set during the ‘60s space race and having a New Frontier feel to it, but the strip spent a week too long on a flashback sequence. The slowest paced strip has to be Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.—so far the World War II hero has spent most of his strip being interrogated by the Nazis, while his company wanders around aimlessly searching for him.

The Demon and Cat Woman team up together, except that for most of Wednesday Comics’ run, Cat Woman has been magically transformed into an actual cat and is thus AWOL from her own strip. Supergirl, who has been developed into a more complex and interesting character in the last few years, has been saddled with a silly story in which Krypto the Superdog and Streaky the Supercat are acting strangely and out of control, and Supergirl turns to Aquaman for advice (who asks Aquaman for advice?). Similarly, the Teen Titans strip doesn’t offer much of interest either.

Despite these quibbles, Wednesday Comics is a largely successful venture. Even the strips with pacing issues or other problems are worth reading and those strips that shine, really shine. The main complaint is that this series is limited to only 12 weeks. Countdown to Final Crisis and Trinity both had 52 weeks to play with and Wednesday Comics is definitely more enjoyable than either of those. DC has found a way to take a form (newspaper comic strips) that dates back to the early 20th century or earlier, and do something fresh and innovative with it. DC would be wise to continue Wednesday Comics, perhaps by rotating the creators and characters out every 12 weeks. And DC fans would be wise to pick up the first seven issues now. And because Wednesday Comics is not tied up in years of continuity and crossovers, it’s also a good jumping-on point for comic book novices or lapsed comics fans. (www.dccomics.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Elisabeth
May 9th 2011
11:45pm

Wednesday Comics was a revelation. I picked up the HUGE hardcover collection and it was worth every penny. Seeing the artwork in such a large, high-quality format is awesome, and the nostalgic format brought out some really classic tales from the writers.

I keep hearing rumors that DC Comics will be doing a followup. Fingers crossed . . .