Welcome to Comics Bulletin’s new reviews column devoted to DC’s weekly Wednesday Comics series. Each Thursday for the next 11 weeks (along with this week), we will be running a commentary / review of that week’s Wednesday Comics.
Given the nature of the 15 serialized stories in DC’s new title, it would be difficult for one reviewer to comment meaningfully on each one-page installment of each story each week. Thus, we’ve broken up the 12 weeks among three reviews. Each week, Jason Sacks (our editor-in-chief ), Charles Webb, and/or I will be writing the column following only a few rough guidelines–which means this column won’t necessarily take a similar approach each week.
Here is the breakdown of who will be writing the column each week along with a rough indication of what that week’s column will address:
- July 9 Slugfest–All three write a review of the first issue.
- July 16 Charles Webb–commenting on issues 1-2.
- July 23 Jason Sacks–commenting on issues 1-3.
- July 30 Thom Young–commenting on issues 1-4.
- August 6 Charles Webb –commenting on issues 3-5.
- August 13 Jason Sacks–commenting on issues 4-6.
- August 20 Slugfest–All three reviewing the entire series thus far.
- August 27 Thom Young–commenting on issues 7-8.
- September 4 Charles Webb–commenting on issues 6-9.
- September 11 Jason Sacks–commenting on issues 7-10.
- September 18 Thom Young–commenting on issues 9-11.
- September 25 Slugfest–All three reviewing the entire series.
This first installment of our column is very long–partly because there are three of us writing it, and partly because we have a lot to say about this first issue. Naturally, when only one of us is writing the column, it will be shorter. I think we’ll also have less to say with future reviews (at least I expect to have less to say, though I’ll still probably be longwinded to some extent).
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this new reviews column, and we hope you enjoy it.
Diversity comes in many different shades. In comics, critics often voice frustration with the lack of diversity in the medium. This complaint usually takes the form of a complaint about genres. Where are the horror, war, and western comics that once dominated the nation’s newsstands?
However, real diversity comes from creators all exploring their own storytelling styles. Over the years, my great frustration with Marvel and DC has been an overriding feeling of sameness about their comic lines. So many mainstream books kind of meld and merge into a muddled middle-ground of massive mediocrity.
[Editor’s Note (Thom Young): Yes, Jason really wrote that over-the-top alliteration intentionally. He even directed me to consider revising it during the editing process. However, I left it in. After all, it would be hypocritical of me to have revised it–as you will eventually see in my own review.]
Wednesday Comics presents the latter sort of diversity, presenting 15 different creative teams attacking the idea of a broadsheet comics page in a manner that is different from that of the other teams. It’s a very intriguing package.
The issue starts out with a wonderfully presented Batman story by Azzarello and Risso, full of intense storytelling and some wonderful coloring. The tale is a bit dark and a bit mysterious–and thus an intriguing intro to this new weekly series.
Flipping the page then reveals something entirely different—”Kamandi” by Gibbons and Sook. Perfectly fitting the grandeur of a Jack Kirby creation, Gibbons and Sook elect to produce a narrative-heavy and grand-feeling page reminiscent of old “Prince Valiant” strips. Particularly stunning is Sook’s direct quote of Kirby’s famous double-page spread in the original Kamandi #1.
Then readers move to the next page and find a beautiful all-action page of Superman, featuring a stunningly gorgeous last panel illustrated by Lee Bermejo.
The best pages in Wednesday Comics allow the dictates of their stories to help drive their format and content. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Supergirl story features charming images and a breathless storytelling style, while Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher’s Flash story consciously echoes old-fashioned newspaper strips–even featuring a half-page that’s highly reminiscent of old newspaper Sunday comics. The art, coloring and overwrought story reminded me of a “Heart of Juliet Jones” strip from the 1970s.
The stunner for me this issue was Paul Pope’s dreamlike “Strange Adventures” strip. Pope is a genius at presenting bizarre and unique worlds; he doesn’t disappoint in this story featuring spacefarer Adam Strange battling strange alien creatures. The artist’s kinetic and unsettling style, combined with his deliberately dislocating writing, helps to ground this story in a world set far away from the familiar. Moreover, there’s a feeling that Pope is enjoying working on a larger canvas, exploring storytelling in ways that could be explosive in future chapters. I found myself thoroughly intrigued by nearly every element of the story that Pope creates on his page.
The most disappointing page for me was the dream team of Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred on Metamorpho. Having these creators in a Metamorpho story seemed to promise some fascinating retro-cool weirdness, but the first chapter feels like a rather uninspired piece–or maybe it just reads flat as a rather traditional first page to what could be a wonderful tale. Given the quality of the creators, the latter seems more likely.
The most unintelligible page in the issue has to be Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman story, full of tiny, puzzling panels that just left me confused. Give Caldwell credit for trying his own approach to the broadsheet comics page–and maybe I’ll warm to his style. However, I just found this strip confusing.
Yeah, this new weekly series could be something special. Wednesday Comics #1 is a virtual clinic on storytelling diversity as each of the stories spins off in its own, very creative direction.
The editor of the series is Mark Chiarello, DC’s art director. It’s obvious from the outstanding work that he presents in this comic that he is committed to presenting efforts that show the true diversity of DC’s characters. It’s not diversity in genres that really matters; diversity in style is just as important.
Wednesday Comics is an audacious project by DC with an equally audacious presentation. Say what you will about the company’s regular output (grim, ugly, dull, confused, tangled, and messy . . . I could go on if you want), but when it comes to their weekly comics DC is willing to try something interesting.
Whether it’s a grand triumph like 52 or a magnificent failure
like Countdown, DC is willing to trot out its catalogue, wind them up, and watch what happens.
With Wednesday Comics, DC is off to a start more reminiscent of 52 than the most recent effort to tie together the whole shared universe into a sloppy mess. The anthology format using some of the big guns (and some smaller ones) is the perfect hook to bring back readers each week. Even the presentation is eye-grabbing: A quarter-folded broadsheet newspaper (folded for comic store shelf display) that unfolds as full-page newspaper sheets for each strip devoted to a team or character. By giving us something retro, DC has somehow figured out how to give us something new (even the tactile sensation of this “book” evokes something beyond the normal comics reading experience).
Here’s hoping DC can maintain the quality on display in this first issue as the series goes forward.
“Batman”: (Azzarello & Risso) The pamphlet is led off by a story about one of the Big Two–this one’s about the mean one. Here, Batman meets up with Commissioner Gordon, whose admission that in calling on the Caped Crusader he feels like a failure takes on grim connotations by the final panel.
The creative team makes wise and economical use of the layouts. The pacing actually allows the final panel to pack a real dramatic punch as the Commissioner’s opening words to Batman take on a new meaning. The art puts me in mind of Mike Mignola–and that’s never a bad thing, especially when the artist finds a way to make the style his own.
Batman is somewhat beefy here, but not ripped–and it’s an interesting direction chosen to only have him on-panel for less than half the page.
“Kamandi–The Last Boy on Earth”: (Gibbons & Sook) This was one of the works I anticipated most, feeling that we don’t get enough of either Ryan Sook or Kamandi in the regular DCU. This eight-panel story tells Kamandi’s origin in flashback as he explores the mostly dead Earth.
There’s not a lot to say about this one except that it reminds me of “Prince Valiant” with the lack of dialogue in the panels and the entire story being told through narration. Like that serial, I suspect this one will have the slowest progression. As with most of the stories in the pamphlet, it ends on something of a cliffhanger that should kick things off next week.
“Superman”: (Arcudi & Bermejo) Visually, this one fires on all cylinders, with a lovely, painterly style uncommon to newspaper strips–which I think might be why this one left me so cold. It feels like it should be a first page in the regular Superman monthly even though, like most of the others, it ends on a cliffhanger. It feels like I should just be able to turn the page and see the next part of this Superman story.
Matters aren’t helped any by the vague psychic communication between Superman and the alien. As it reads, it’s an insufficient hook to get me excited about next week. Still, it’s very, very pretty to look at.
“Deadman”: (Bullock & Heuck) After the “Batman” opener, this story featuring the late Boston Brand has my favorite layout of any of the stories. Broken into eight panels with the middle four separated by Deadman framed in a diamond shape formed by his iconic collar, this portion of the sequence describes the current mystery in which he has gotten himself wrapped up in. I also really appreciate how Deadman’s ghostly and acrobatic nature are played up in every panel–with him never touching the ground, seemingly coming out of mid-flip.
“Green Lantern”: (Busiek & Quinones) This one actually has very little of its title character (he’s shown in the last panel in the midst of some undefined space battle)–and, you know, I’m kind of okay with that.
Most of the story concerns the flyboys and tough directress of Ferris Enterprises. It’s mostly setup for them heading to the local watering hole exhibiting all the 1960s bravado of manly men that’s possible to stuff into a flight suit.
Yes, like many of the stories in this issue, “Green Lantern” evokes a sense of the pulp stories from when full-page adventure strips were published regularly in the Sunday funnies, but this and the “Sgt. Rock” strip are the only ones explicitly set in a previous decade.
Again, the final panel promises some Hal Jordan action next issue, but I could actually do without it.
“Metamorpho”: (Gaiman & Allred) Huh. Two of my favorite creators (and one of my favorite colorists) together, but it didn’t immediately thrill me into a seizure. It looks great, yet it reads like a sequence from Allred’s Madman.
I’m not one to knock more Frank Einstein, but the style feels like an odd fit for Metamorpho, whose voice I’ve always imagined to be more burly bruiser than sensitive freak. It’s Allred–so it is, of course, gorgeous. However, I’m just put off by Neil Gaiman not capturing the voice of another character entirely.
“Teen Titans”: (Berganza & Galloway) Of all the stories this one was my least favorite–in part because of the dismal state of the current “Titans” franchise and also because there’s not a lot here (and what is on display is a little confusing visually and thematically).
Narrated by the villain Trident, we’re told that the Titans always stick together–which is why each panel presents different incarnations and lineups of the team. I understand what’s being said, but the presentation is a little baffling.
Additionally, Sean Galloway’s art does very little for me with absolutely zero in the way of backgrounds and very little in the way of facial features for the characters. It feels like the most contemporary of all the strips, but in a way that seems overly processed and run through computer coloring and correction. Basically, it left me cold.
“Strange Adventures”: (Paul Pope) Yay! Paul Pope! Seriously, if I could marry Pope’s art, I would.
Pope gives Adam Strange and his wife, Alanna, a visual makeover; it’s more Buck Rogers than is the recent re-launch of that character. There’s always something a little trippy and otherworldly about Pope’s work, and this feeling is heightened here as Adam Strange seems to be sleepwalking his way into his newest adventure featuring his bikini-clad, war-paint-wearing wife against an invading army of sword-wielding, blue mandrills.
It’s somehow everything I ever wanted in a comic and didn’t even realize before this moment.
“Supergirl”: (Palmotti & Conner) Not a lot to say about this one other than it’s cute and brief. There’s something wonderful about a puppy and kitten version of Krypto and Streaky bursting out of their panels while pursued by a harried Supergirl.
This is the strip that could draw in younger readers given that it seems to strike that balance between something on Saturday morning Cartoon Network without feeling like it’s pandering.
It’s like being slapped in the eyeballs with pure joy (thanks, Amanda Conner!).
“Metal Men”: (Didio & Garcia-Lopez/Nowlan) So DC’s editor-in-chief Dan Didio wrote an installment here and it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read. Seriously, to go by his more vocal critics, one would think Didio has the storytelling instincts of a sadist made out of jackasses.
Now, while I won’t say this opening of his “Metal Men” story will set the world on fire, it is solid stuff that puts the characters in the kind of out-there situations they’re known for. The only aspect that stumbles is a weird line from Dr. Magnus about visiting the bank where the story is set to study the country’s financial system, but otherwise it works.
If I have one gripe, it’s how the characters are clothed–kind of drawing from all eras when the robbers who show up seem thoroughly modern. I can’t decide if this costuming is intentional, but I’m not overly worried about it. The little face-palm take that Doc Magnus executes in the last panel entirely summarizes the entire endeavor–it’s kind of charming, silly, and stupid but in
a way that’s intentional and pleasing.
“Wonder Woman”: (Ben Caldwell) This one had the second worst presentation behind the “Teen Titans” story. Caldwell’s art paired with the colors are thoroughly pretty to look at, but the page is crammed with tiny panels in such a way that it becomes unreadable. Maybe it’s my “old man eyes” (I did have to pull the page closer to my face to understand what was going on), but the whole thing was very difficult to follow.
I do really like this visual interpretation of Diana, who seems to be younger than her in-continuity incarnation–and I hope she continues with the toga look going forward since it works so well here.
Again, though, this strip was just a bit too busy. I hope Caldwell gives it more room to breathe in later installments.
“Sgt. Rock and Easy Company”: (Kubert & Kubert) It’s a 3×3-panel war comic by the Kuberts. I’m fairly certain you already have an image in your head of what that looks like (the Kubert on the art is Joe, just to clarify). It’s a good, nasty little start to what’s sure to be three months full of Nazi-killin’.
“Flash Comics / Iris West”: (Kerschl & Fletcher/Leigh) This combo was another of my favorites, presenting two stories bridged by the relationship between original Flash Barry Allen and his wife, Iris West. Using different art teams for each strip, the Barry story is a fun, first part to an action serial while the second story is done as more of a relationship comic featuring the Allens.
The mystery of the first strip is sure to be connected eventually with the events of the second strip–and together they make one of the most interesting presentations in the entire package.
“The Demon and Catwoman”: (Simonson & Stelfreeze) It’s totally Catwoman getting set to rip off Jason Blood (AKA The Demon Etrigan). The strip makes for a fine introduction to the two characters–with Blood alluding obliquely (for new readers) about his storied past tied into Arthurian legend and Kyle donning her Catwoman togs to get up to some theft.
There’s a cool trick executed here of implying location with just an arch and a raised building. In just a couple of panels, and without any obvious landmarks, I was aware that this story is taking place in Europe.
Completely random aside: Wouldn’t a Steven Soderbergh-penned and directed “Catwoman” feature be just aces?
“Hawkman”: (Kyle Baker) I would really like this one if the word “flap” where replaced with the word “fly” in every instance. As it’s written, it comes off as a little silly–particularly when paired with such stark and stunning imagery (you know Hawkman is totally going to destroy some hijackers with that sword and mace combo).
The entire story is narrated by the flock of birds following Hawkman (I didn’t know he controlled birds–that’s kind of interesting). After Pope’s illustration on “Strange Adventures,” this one is next most visually pleasing. Shame about the poor word choice, though, because “fly” would have put this one on the top of the heap.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins
In his promotional build-up for Wednesday Comics, DC’s president Dan Didio said that one of the ideas behind the series is to recapture that childhood feeling of reading the comics section of the Sunday edition of a newspaper. Like Didio, I also recall reading the Sunday comics each week when I was a kid. My father would sit down at the table with the “boring” news section of the paper while I would lie on the living room floor with the comics section in all of its four-color glory.
I wouldn’t read each strip–only the ones I liked, obviously–though I might sample a new strip if one debuted (which was rarely). I mostly read the humor strips–such as “Blondie,” “Snuffy Smith,” “Peanuts,” et cetera. At the age of ten, things like “Doonesbury” (which debuted that year) or “Mary Worth” didn’t interest me.
I liked “Steve Canyon,” but I didn’t read it regularly. Even at age 10, it seemed odd to me to read a strip that took a pro-Viet Nam War stance–though I fondly recall the flashback story that was set in Steve’s days at college when he was on the school football team.
Aside from that college football story in “Steve Canyon,” none of the non-humorous strips in the Idaho Statesman (Boise’s newspaper) interested me. The rest were all soap opera strips rather than adventure strips–well, except for “Prince Valiant.” I discovered it right around the time that Hal Foster brought on John Cullen Murphy to take over the strip as Foster went into semi-retirement). However, I didn’t read “Prince Valiant” even though it should have been one of my favorites.
I used to check out books on Vikings at my grade school library and the summer bookmobile, and the kids in my neighborhood didn’t normally play “Cowboys and Indians” in our backyards the way most boys back then did. Instead, we played “Knights and Vikings” (I always chose to be a Viking). I would also watch the 1958 Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis film The Vikings whenever it came on television as the Weekend Matinee movie.
However, despite my interest in medieval adventure stories, “Prince Valiant” didn’t appeal to me at the time. I think my lack of interest in it was based on two things: The absence of word balloons and the pacing of the stories.
Instead of word balloons, Foster (and then Murphy) essentially wrote text stories with narrative captions that he then illustrated. The narrative would usually provide the same information that was shown in the accompanying illustration–and there was little continuity between panels as the story would often leap ahead in time several hours from one panel to the next.
“Prince Valiant” might have been intended for 10-year-old boys in 1940 (when my dad was that age), but it didn’t interest me in 1970. After all, I was growing up in the age of television! What I did enjoy, though, was the Sunday “Tarzan” strip by Russ Manning. However, it wasn’t carried in the Boise paper. I came across it one Sunday evening when my family went to visit my great grandmother in a nursing home in Caldwell, Idaho.
Those visits were mostly boring for my sisters and me, of course–sitting around in what was essentially a residential hospital room while Mom and Dad visited with Grandma Scrivener for an hour or two. That particular though, I came across the local Caldwell paper’s comic section. Oddly, it wasn’t in four colors. It was black and white printed on yellow paper (so . . . black and yellow, I guess).
This weird Sunday comics section from another world had a lot of the same comics the Boise paper had–and the Boise paper’s were in color! However, the Caldwell paper had Russ Manning’s “Tarzan.” The only Tarzan material I had been exposed to at that time were re-runs of the 12 Johnny Weissmuller films on Weekend Matinee and the two-season television series that starred Ron Ely as the Jungle King.
As much as I enjoyed the Weissmuller and Ely Tarzan series, that single black and yellow Sunday comic strip by Russ Manning blew them away and made me instantly crave more. Why wasn’t this great strip appearing in the Boise paper–in color? I immediately asked my great grandmother if she could save her Sunday comics sections for me to collect whenever we visited.
She agreed to do so, but my father quickly butted in to put a stop to it. He didn’t want his 80-year-old grandmother to be saving stacks of yellow
(and yellowing) newsprint for me. I can see his point now, but I was crestfallen at the time. The next Sunday I scoured the four-color section to see if maybe the strip had been printed in my paper all along and that I had simply missed it.
No such luck. To this day that single Russ Manning “Tarzan” strip is the only one that I have ever seen. I’m sure books of reprints exist out there, but I’ve never come across them nor sought them out. Perhaps someday. . . .
Anyway, I mention all this about what Sunday comics were like for me when I was a kid nearly 40 years ago for a few reasons that relate to DC’s Wednesday Comics. First, DC is not recreating the type of Sunday comics that Dan Didio and I read as kids. For the most part, the fifteen strips in Wednesday Comics are more akin to the comics that my dad would have read on Sundays when he was a kid–if my dad even read newspaper comics (I know he didn’t read comic books, and he may not have read comic strips either).
Second, DC’s Wednesday Comics do not contain humorous strips, just adventure stories. Thus, it’s more like a collection of the adventure strips that appeared in newspapers 70 years ago–full-sized strips on 14″ x 20″ pages (the typical broadsheet size of American newspapers).
In this way, the stories in DC’s new series are not only reminiscent of the “Prince Valiant” strips of 70 years ago (there were no dailies, just Sunday strips) but also of such classic continuity strips as Roy Crane’s “Wash Tubbs” and “Captain Easy,” Milt Caniff’s “Terry and the Pirates,” and Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon” (though Raymond’s might have been only a half-page strip rather than a full-page Sunday comic).
These are the way comics looked 70-plus years ago–before the advent of the comic book format. As with the movie serials that played each week at the local theater, the Sunday comic strips (which often had a different ongoing story than was running in the daily version of the strip) were episodic installments that appeared each week to advance the story a bit before ending on some sort of “hook” (not necessarily a life-and-death cliffhanger) that was designed to bring the reader back to the story next Sunday.
I would say that the fifteen strips contained in this series mostly do a great job of re-creating the sense of reading a Sunday comics section from 70 years ago–or, perhaps in re-creating the sense of reading such strips from 40 to 70 years ago had the era of full-page Sunday strips never faded away. There were only two obvious duds in the line-up. You’ll notice which ones they are as I comment on each strip:
“Batman”–Good dialog and illustrations, but with an odd plot point. Commissioner Gordon switched on the Bat-Signal to bring Batman into a case just before the midnight deadline at which time a kidnapped man was to be murdered. Gordon waited until the last minutes because bringing in Batman means that the Gotham Police failed.
Thus, Batman will not have time to save the man from being murdered. In fact, the man seems to be being suffocated to death in the last panel. It looks like Batman’s job will be to bring the murderer to justice before he can kill again.
I would have expected Gordon to bring in Batman an hour or two before the deadline, to see if he might be able to uncover the killer and his victim before the murder occurs. Of course, Batman might not have been able to do so (after all, we need an extended story) but I would have thought Gordon would have given Batman the chance. It’s an interesting twist to the typical Batman story, and it has bitten Gordon on his pride.
“Kamandi”–The only strip of the fifteen that seeks to introduce the concept of the character and story rather than just dive into a current adventure. I don’t mind the “diving into the current adventure” approach since that’s what we would be doing if we actually picked up the Sunday comics section from July 9, 1939.
Those strips wouldn’t have started with an introduction to a new arc, let alone a new character and concept (unless there was a strip debuting on that day, of course). We would have just started reading in the middle of an ongoing story or long-running continuity–much as I did with that one Russ Manning “Tarzan” Sunday strip that I read when I was 10.
While I don’t mind that “jumping into the middle of a story approach,” I’m glad one of the strips here has a writer who chose to introduce the character and concept in the initial page.
Dave Gibbons (the writer of the “Kamandi” strip) didn’t start with a retelling of Jack Kirby’s Kamandi #1 from 1972. Instead, he has the title character rowing the same waters that he rowed in Kirby’s initial issue–past the half-submerged Statue of Liberty on his way back to the Command D bunker (which, of course, was near New York City, not in Blüdhaven as it was in DC’s Countdown and Final Crisis series.
In other words, Gibbons and Ryan Sook are giving us Kirby’s classic Kamandi, who is on his way back to the Command D bunker to commemorate the anniversary of his grandfather’s death (which occurred in Kirby’s Kamandi #1). I’m half hoping that Gibbons and Sook will reveal that Kamandi’s grandfather was Buddy Blank (aka the original OMAC).
Not much happens in this single page, of course, as it’s mostly expository narration as Kamandi backtracks his journey to the bunker of his origin, but Gibbons does an excellent job with the narrative and Sook’s illustrations are beautiful. I am really looking forward to this strip in the coming weeks.
I also like the great way that Gibbons and Sook commemorated Kirby at the bottom of the page–including an image of Kamandi drawn by The King himself. It was very classy and greatly appreciated.
“Superman”–Based on the early promotional releases for Wednesday Comics in which DC revealed a few of the pages in the issue, the Superman strip was the one I was expecting not to like as much because the illustrator has such a distinctive late 20th- or early 21st-Century style. It’s not that I mind that style, but I didn’t know if I would like it in this “throwback” series that is meant to evoke 1930s style (if not exactly 1930s stories).
However, I found that I liked this strip more than I expected. It opens in the middle of a fight as Superman is sent flying backward by a powerful blow–so there is a sense that we have already missed part of the story that would have ran in earlier Sunday installments (or Wednesday installments, as it were).
There’s also the sense that the strip is being written for people who are already familiar with Superman and the conventions of a typical Superman story–with the Man of Steel thinking that he wishes that just once a “first encounter” (with an extraterrestrial) wouldn’t result in a battle.
Obviously, this first encounter has resulted in a battle. Thus, the strip seems very clichéd, but with some solid 21st-Century illustrations. What won me over, though, is the depiction of the alien. It’s an intriguing design for an extraterrestrial species, and one that I think is reminiscent of aliens in 1930s pulp novel covers.
I’m not sure it’s going to be a good story, but it caught my interest enough to look forward to the next installment–which, after all, is the goal of each page of each strip.
“Deadman”–While this installment didn’t introduce us to the character, it did contain a one-panel synopsis of the character’s origin. Oddly, only Arnold Drake is credited as Deadman’s creator in this introductory panel–with nothing for Carmine Infantino.
Drake wrote the first Deadman appearance (in Strange Adventures #205), but he didn’t write any of the character’s other solo appearances. After that first issue, the scripting duties fell to Jack Miller for six issues before Neal Adams took over as writer for the final five.
s had taken over as illustrator from Infantino after the first issue, but Infantino stuck around as the plotter of the series through issue #209. Thus, I think Carmine Infantino should get a credit here, too, not just Drake.
As for the story, it neither thrilled nor disappointed me. It opens at the crime scene of the latest murder by a serial killer, and Deadman is there to check it out after he became involved in the case after an earlier murder (again, we get the sense that we are picking up a story already in progress).
I’m interested enough to want to keep reading it (partly because I have fond memories of the old Neal Adams Deadman stories).
“Green Lantern”–I love the visual design of this strip. It evokes the late 1950s and early 1960s perfectly. It had me the moment I saw the design of the title rendered in a Populuxe font style.
This particular episode didn’t excite me with its narrative of the employees of Ferris Aircraft all hitting the local bar together for Happy Hour–with the exception of Hal Jordan, of whom no one seems to know the whereabouts. The characterization of the giddy Ferris crew as they knock off from work to get drunk (including Carol Ferris herself) didn’t thrill me, and I was also disappointed that I didn’t spot Thomas “Pieface” Kalmaku in the group (though perhaps I overlooked him).
Still, with its Populuxe design elements and the other pages that I’ve already glimpsed of this story on the illustrator’s Web site, “Green Lantern” is one strip I’m eager to see more of.
“Metamorpho”–This was an enjoyable strip that evoked the 1960s work by Bob Haney and Ramona Fradon (the creators of Metamorpho). Neil Gaiman does a good job in re-creating that 1960s style of storytelling, and Mike Allred’s illustrations have always owed a great deal to the non-Populuxe style of 1950s and 1960s science fiction–and they bear a similarity to Fradon’s more “cartoony” illustrations.
We also have the promise of Element Girl making an appearance in the story–a character created by Haney and Sal Trapani in Metamorpho #10 in 1967, and one that Gaiman used in a memorable story in 1990 in Sandman #20.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Metamorpho (nor have I hated the character), but this installment has me looking forward to more from Gaiman and Allred in this strip.
“Teen Titans”–This was the strip that I disliked the most. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I hated it. Far from evoking classic Sunday comics, this strip has a juvenile narrator (a female teen villain) who provides juvenile narration–which is exclusively expository as it moves through flashback images of the various incarnations of the Teen Titans over the years.
The manga-inspired illustrations weren’t bad on a technical level, though Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy was depicted with facial deformities–twice with no eyes at all (which made her look like a freakish monster from a horror film), and once with just narrow lines for eyes. It was bizarre, and I’m half tempted to skip this strip in future issues–not just because of the facial deformities but also (and mainly) because the writing soured me on it.
“Strange Adventures”–This strip starring Adam Strange does not give us the classic version by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, Carmine Infantino, and Murphy Anderson. Instead, Paul Pope gives us an Adam Strange rendered in a style that evokes either Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter from A Princess of Mars (with Adam Stranges’s paramour Alanna-Sardath filling in for John Carter’s Dejah Thoris) or Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon” (with Alanna as Ming’s daughter Princess Aura–which, I guess, would make Sardath the equivalent of Ming the Merciless).
Of course, Gardner Fox probably named Sardath as an homage to Raymond’s Dr. Zarkov from “Flash Gordon,” and Adam Strange was obviously a late 50s / early 60s version of those classic pulp-era characters. Pope’s protagonist evokes the pulp period perfectly.
(Yes, I really wrote that over-the-top alliteration intentionally–and without first seeing Jason’s alliteration near the top of this column).
The scratchy lettering is a bit difficult to read. Aside from that, though, this strip looks like it will be a winner.
“Supergirl”–This story of Kara Zor-El of Krypton is brought to us by the same husband and wife team that is working on the monthly comic book that stars Kara Zor-L of Krypton. Other than the “E” in the character’s last names, the only other differences would seem to be their costumes and their bust sizes.
It’s a decent enough strip, but the two-year-old girl who wants all of the animals in the pet store and then “wants that” as she points to either Krypto, the Superdog; Streaky, the Supercat; or Supergirl herself (or perhaps all three) was a bit much.
“Supergirl” looks like it might be a strip my seven-year-old daughter will like more than I will–especially if Krypto and Streaky are going to be regulars in it, and if the story really is going to be about Supergirl and her pets rounding up escapees from the pet store.
I think I’ll show it to Kara (yes, my daughter is named after the title character of this strip) to see how she likes it.
“Metal Men”–Having never read anything written by Dan Didio, I didn’t know what to expect from this story. I thought he handled the dialog well and has crafted an interesting introduction to this story that stars characters that I have never really cared for. In fact, I really enjoyed this strip–and not solely because of the great work by illustrator Garcia Lopez (one of my longtime favorite comic book pencilers).
I’m a bit confused as to how the Metal Men are able to look human in this strip. After all, if they were wearing “skin suits,” they should still look like bulky robots wearing skin suits (except, perhaps, for Platinum–or “Tina”). I suppose it will be explained as some sort of hologram camouflage technology–and I’ll be okay with that, though I think it makes for too convenient a way of getting the characters to integrate into situations without being detected.
This strip does not evoke the 1930s. Instead, Didio and Lopez dress the characters in the distinctive flashy fashions of the 1970s (which is when Lopez made his name in comics). It’s like, cool, man.
“Wonder Woman”–After the “Teen Titans” strip, this is the other one that I hate. The lettering is so small that it hurts my eyes to try to read it, and the layout of the illustrations is awkward and doesn’t flow easily from panel to panel.
Of course, the lettering had to be small because this strip is also text-heavy. I haven’t counted the number of words in any of the strips, but I would think “Wonder Woman” easily wins as having the most text in the issue.
It’s not a particularly memorable introduction to the story. In fact, I don’t remember much of it at all other than the fact that I didn’t like it. I recall that it ends with Wonder Woman waking up from a dream–the entirety of the long narrative up to that point.
At the end, she’s still on Paradise Island. I don’t believe she had yet visited “man’s world.” Instead, I think this was supposed to be a dream that she had after winning the competition in which she earned the right to be Paradise Island’s ambassador of peace in “man’s world.”
Her dream was what she imagined the experience would be like, but then she wakes up and discovers it was only a dream–or was it?
It looked like the final panel might have been showing a cut on Wonder Woman’s leg that was supposed to imply that the experience might not have been a dream after all. However, the image in that panel is so small, and so murkily colored, that I’m not certain the panel is meant to highlight a cut on her leg (though it looks like a line on her leg is getting the “spotlight” treatment).
Additionally, I di
dn’t see anywhere in the “dream” where she might have received a cut on her leg. Then again, everything was so small, that it was difficult for my bad eyesight to see what was happening in the story (plus the colors are dark and murky).
With a huge broadsheet newspaper page to play with, I’m amazed that the creator of this strip chose to give us tiny letters attached to small illustrations. This is the other strip that I would skip each Sunday if I wasn’t assigned the task of reviewing the series every few weeks.
“Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.”–In contrast to the small pictures and text-heavy strip that precedes it, this “Sgt Rock” strip gives us large pictures in a rigid nine-panel grid with minimal text. I love Joe Kubert’s art, but he wasn’t given much to illustrate here–just nine panels that mostly show the title character tied to a chair while German soldiers beat him (and one panel of a German officer gloating).
They are good illustrations, but they don’t really allow Joe Kubert to showcase what he can do–and the nine-panel grid doesn’t work to any interesting advantage. The 3×3 layout evokes a sense of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen–or of Joe Gill and Steve Ditko’s work at Charlton–but for no apparent reason.
Perhaps the original 1959 and early 1960s Sgt. Rock stories by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert (who started with the third official Sgt. Rock story in Our Army at War #83) were laid out in nine-panel grids. I’ve never read those original Sgt. Rock stories, so I don’t know if that’s the case.
In any event, Adam Kubert, who is scripting this strip for his father, does a good job of recreating dialog and a narrative that reads (sounds) as if it had been written by Kanigher. I’m interested in this strip because I love Joe Kubert’s work, but I certainly hope that future installments are more dynamic.
“Flash / Iris West”–The Flash story is broken up into two separate strips–a half-page “Flash” strip at the top of the page, and a half-page “Iris West” strip at the bottom of the page.
The “Flash” strip is in the classic adventure vein and evokes sort of a generic 1960s vibe. I guess it looks a bit like the way “Flash Gordon” was in the 1960s when it was written and illustrated by Dan Barry. It’s an enjoyable and dynamic beginning for the story, and I’m eager to see more of it.
The “Iris West” strip at the bottom is drawn by the same illustrator who does “Flash” at the top of the page, Brenden Fletcher, but he uses a different style here. Rather than evoking Dan Barry’s 1960s work on “Flash Gordon,” the “Iris West” strip is more akin to such soap opera comics as “Mary Worth” and “Apartment 3-G.”
I was never a devoted reader of those Sunday strips when I was a kid–though I will admit to reading an occasional “Mary Worth” or “Apartment 3-G” (especially after I hit puberty and saw some appeal in three beautiful girls sharing an apartment together in New York in the happenin’ 70s). However, I think this “Iris West” strip does a good job of evoking that soap opera vibe of a young woman struggling to cope with her feelings as she moves from being a “girl” into womanhood.
It’s curious that the strip is titled “Iris West” but the title character seems to share a home with Barry “The Flash” Allen. Are we to assume that Iris and Barry lived together in the 1960s in this incarnation of their story? That Iris didn’t hold out for a ring, or (if they are married) that she didn’t take Barry’s last name?
How shocking! It’s like something I might expect from one of those “girls” in apartment 3-G.
Additionally, even though Iris shares a home with Barry Allen, she doesn’t seem to know that he’s secretly The Flash. I think that’s how it was in the original comic book, too–that Iris Allen didn’t know her husband was The Flash until they were several years into their marriage.
The lies and deceptions that Barry has to go through to keep that secret must be difficult. After all, I have trouble keeping a stash of Cherry Coke and comic books hidden away in the basement of my house.
“The Demon and Catwoman”–The first installment of this strip presents Selina Kyle flirting with Jason Blood in order to case his residence that is filled with priceless artifacts from the Arthurian era. Little does she know that a demon named Etrigan is likely to meet her when she sneaks back later to steal the objects that she covets.
I think “The Demon and Catwoman” will be a lot of fun. So far it has well-scripted dialog, great illustrations, and an intriguing opening premise.
“Hawkman”–The final strip in the issue is also the first that I heard about when the Wednesday Comics project was first being put together. Kyle Baker let it slip early on that he was working on these full-page Hawkman strips for a then-untitled project, and he revealed several of his unlettered pages at the time.
I thought those unlettered pages were absolutely gorgeous, and I still do. I must say, though, that I don’t care for the narrative now that the text has been lettered in. This first installment is narrated by a hawk who is flying with Hawkman and a flock of fellow hawks toward a jet plane that is being hijacked.
I don’t mind that Hawkman can communicate with birds–after all, that’s how Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert first presented the Silver Age version of the character in 1961. I’m just not thrilled with the idea of a hawk communicating the story to me while I look at Kyle Baker’s beautiful drawings.
Hopefully, I’ll either warm to the narrative approach or Baker will abandon it.
Anyway, of the fifteen strips I think only two are losers and most are clear winners–at least after one installment. Wednesday Comics is giving me a reason to go to the comic book shop each week–even on weeks when I might not be buying anything else.