Welcome to sixth installment of Comics Bulletin’s reviews column devoted to DC’s Wednesday Comics series. This week’s column at the halfway point is by Jason Sacks.
It is, of course, difficult to comment on weekly one-page comic strips without “spoiling” the action–and this week’s mini review of the “Superman” strip contains a lot of spoilers. However, efforts are generally made to minimize the problem of giving out too much of each week’s story. Be aware, though, that in addition to “Superman” some spoilers may be included in the comments about the other fourteen strips.
Jason Sacks: This week’s Wednesday Comics seems a bit of a transitional issue, with several pages that seem to be in the midst of a changeover from the previous few weeks. The “Metal Men” strip picks up speed, while the “Metamorpho” strip gets very weird. And “Superman” might finally begin getting less dull.
“Batman”: (Azzarello & Risso) This week’s page is almost completely silent, after last week’s wordy episode. In it, we see the minor paranoia of a petty criminal, Hardy Stone, stalked by Batman.
We’ve seen this sort of stalking scene before, of course, but Azz and Risso breathe life into this standard trope with a nice feeling of shadowy menace. The third tier of panel, showing Stone falling over his card table, is especially effective in its use of shadows.
“Kamandi–The Last Boy on Earth”: (Gibbons & Sook) Kamandi and the mysterious, unnamed girl fight for their freedom from those damned, dirty apes in yet another whizbang chapter of this wonderful series.
Much of the water cooler talk around Wednesday Comics is around Ryan Sook, who’s emerging as one of the real stars of this series. Every one of his first five pages has been spectacular, and this installment is no exception. I love the way Sook draws the girl attacking the ape in panel three–the moment is so full of energy that I almost feel the impact of the girl’s kick.
“Superman”: (Arcudi & Bermejo) I’ve been absolutely hating the “Superman” strip the last few weeks. In my review of Wednesday Comics #3, I called this strip the emo Superman, complaining about Superman pouting and whining through every scene.
Finally in this installment, the Man of Steel has a moment of action . . . except that he doesn’t actually do anything.
Some nasty aliens attack the Kent household while Superman is sleeping. We see Supes asleep, then a giant boom, then the house on fire, and then Superman emerging from the shattered house as he is confronted by aliens.
So even though Superman has action happen to him, he never actually takes action himself in this issue–and now Clark is going to have to deal with the damage to his folks’ home. I’m sure that will bring yet still more pouting.
The coup de gras is the revelation that Clark sleeps in his Superman costume. That seems awfully uncomfortable to me; couldn’t he at least have a set of Superman underoos to wear to bed, instead?
This story has been an absolute waste of paper. I would much rather see Superman as a heroic man of action–as Hawkman is in his strip–than an overgrown crybaby who sleeps in his damn hero costume.
“Deadman”: (Bullock & Heuck) Heuck’s page layouts and character designs for this strip are strikingly unique and fun. Another transition happens in this installment as a potentially significant meeting happens, one that might help bring this story together in an interesting way.
If “Superman” has had no little or no action, “Deadman” has compensated by presenting unending action. Ol’ Boston Brand seems to be stuck in a battle he can’t win, so hopefully the meeting he has in the final panel will help him transition towards better news.
“Green Lantern”: (Busiek & Quinones) Another transition here, as we conclude the flashback to Hal’s astronaut training days and begin the promise of action.
“GL” and “Sgt. Rock” are the stories in Wednesday Comics that seem the most conventional. It’s easy to see how both could appear in standard comics form without the need for many changes. That’s not necessarily a complaint because this story is very professionally done, but I was hoping for more interesting stuff from this series.
“Metamorpho”: (Gaiman & Allred) The most disappointing series in Wednesday Comics has to be “Metamorpho.” This story has already meandered through five disappointing installments, and number six might be the most disappointing yet.
The stellar team of Gaiman and Allred give readers half a page of story and… half a page of the kids’ game Snakes and Ladders, in a way that doesn’t advance the narrative one iota. Yes, you read that right, a board game. What the hell were Gaiman and Allred thinking?
I’ve almost begun wondering if this whole series is some elaborate practical joke from these great creators. How else to explain the incompetence and stupidity of the choices they’ve made so far? I’m really scratching my head on this one.
“Teen Titans”: (Berganza & Galloway) I know that several of my fellow reviewers hate this series, but I can’t work up the energy to have much of an opinion about it either way. Each week I dutifully read “Teen Titans”, and each week it fills me with a vague sense of apathy.
This issue’s story, which focuses on the Blue Beetle, just left me cold.
“Strange Adventures”: (Paul Pope) Leave it to Paul Pope to give a completely different spin on the idea of transitions. Adam Strange has returned to Earth from his paradise of Rann, but the changes he experiences on Earth fill him with fear and dread rather than joy.
I found it very spooky to see what happened to Adam on Earth. Panel three, which shows him discovering himself in a mirror, is very disconcerting and sets a great tone for the page.
Maybe more interestingly, Pope plays explicitly with the issue of fantasy versus reality, and how it directly impacts readers’ lives. Those of us who love fantasy adventure stories have to empathize with Adam as he wrestles with existential questions: “I’m starting to believe all of it has been nothing more than an elaborate dream. Alanna . . . Ranagar . . . Am I the hero of Rann dreaming he is [. . .] on Earth? Or is it the other way around?”
While we all know that Adam will return to his beloved Rann and his even more beloved Alanna, this scene adds a lot of depth to Adam’s inner life. Adam seems a man who truly lives on the emotional edge, a man whose sanity and sense of self seem to be terribly fragile. Those attributes help to explain how an Earthman would fall in love with a strange alien woman and choose to be a hero of a completely alien world rather than his own world. Pope gives readers characterization in subtle and meaningful ways.
“Stange Adventures” is the richest and deepest story in Wednesday Comics. However . . .
“Supergirl”: (Palmotti & Conner) . . . the funnest story has to be “Supergirl.” This week’s story had me giggling all the way through, with Palmiotti’s wacky depiction of an Aquaman who’s crazy busy, and Conner’s perfectly exaggerated art.
“Metal Men”: (Didio & Garcia-Lopez/Nowlan) Here’s another transition, as the “Metal Men” adventure finally seems to open up a bit w
ith the introduction of the evil giant robot Chemo poised to battle our heroes. I’ve been frustrated that this story has seemed claustrophobic, as the Metal Men seem to have been trapped in an adventure that was too small for their amazing abilities. Finally we have the promise of something greater, and I’m looking forward to Didio unleashing the robots next week.
“Wonder Woman”: (Ben Caldwell) This sweet and innocent story has grown on me a bit. Caldwell’s page layouts are a bit claustrophobic, but they’re also energetic and powerful, and I enjoy his different take on the Amazon Princess. I also like and admire how committed Caldwell is to his storytelling style. It may be challenging to read at times, but “Wonder Woman” has a consistent look and feel that is thoroughly unique.
“Sgt. Rock and Easy Company”: (Kubert & Kubert) I’m struck every week by the contrasts that editor Mark Chiarello presents in this comic. Every week we transition from the unconventional storytelling of young Ben Caldwell to the stolid traditional storytelling of veteran Joe Kubert. It’s a brilliant contrast, a nice gift to the reader that a less adept editor might never consider.
It’s unfortunate that this story is so slight, almost dead on the page. Even more than “Green Lantern,” “Sgt. Rock” feels like an unremarkable twelve-pager that would fit in a standard comic book.
“Flash Comics/Gorilla Grodd”: (Kerschl & Fletcher/Leigh) Suddenly half of this page is taken up by a “Gorilla Grodd” story this issue rather than an “Iris West” story as in previous issues. I know many readers have gotten attached to the “Iris” stories, but “Grodd” is a really nice history tale that reminds me of nothing more than the “Kamandi” story that I enjoyed several pages previously. The “Grodd” story suffers a bit in comparison with “Kamandi,” but how could it not?
In fact, right after praising editor Chiarello, I have to question his choices. Poor guy can’t win, can he?
However, I have to wonder why Chiarello is presenting two stories that are so similar to each other in presentation. On their own, each is interesting–but juxtaposed as they are, they kind of detract from each other.
However, the “Flash” half of the page doesn’t disappoint. The last panel of the story brings us three Flashes getting ready to confront a fourth counterpart. I love how this part of the story resembles a Cary Bates Flash story from the 1970s with a strong dose of 2000s-era storytelling. Kerschl stays true to the character while giving it a new spin.
“Demon/Catwoman”: (Simonson & Stelfreeze) I’m not sure if I find this story so dull because it comes at the end of a very strong comic or if it’s really pretty dull. It’s pretty surprising how powerful the impact is of reading so many broadsheet-sized comics one after another, and I always feel a bit of tiring taking hold as I get to this story. Yet, I still have lots of enthusiasm for Kyle Baker’s “Hawkman,” so I suspect that I’m just anxious for the Demon and Catwoman to actually get together and have their adventure already.
And like my fellow reviewer Charles Webb, it bothers me a lot that the Demon’s dialogue doesn’t rhyme.
“Hawkman”: (Kyle Baker) Hawkman attends to the victims of a plane crash that would have been much worse without his amazing aid. Well, maybe it will get worse, as the jet fuel explodes.
I love the intensity of this story, as well as the heroic power of our hero. This sort of heroism is what I wanted from the “Superman” page as Hawkman fights a seemingly endless gauntlet of battles to stop aliens and save humans. Furthermore, Kyle Baker’s serious art–as opposed to his more cartoony work–is very satisfying.