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Robot Reviews: Wednesday Comics

by  in Comic News Comment
Robot Reviews: Wednesday Comics

Wednesday Comics #1
by lots of people
DC comics, $3.99.

Wow.

OK, that’s clearly not enough. How about this: Wednesday Comics is a candy-colored delight. A pop-art extravaganza that both evokes the past while offering something distinctly modern and unique at the same time.

Still want more?

You probably know the drill by now. This is a weekly, folded-over pamphlet that goes from 7 by 10 inches to 28 by 20 inches, with each of the 15 stories (by such noted comics luminaries as Neil Gaiman, Paul Pope and Kyle Baker) getting its own 14-inch by 20-inch page, all the better to evoke the classic Sunday comics section of the 1930s and ’40s.

There’s really not a clunker to be found here, and the few contributions that do come off as too cute or muddled at least hint at broadening their vision down the road. To an extent hinting is really all these stories are capable of right out of the gate, but more on that in a sec.

Reading Wednesday Comics, I can’t help but think it shares more than a few qualities with a certain oversized art-comix anthology that came out last year. Kramer’s Ergot 7 was, after all, equally inspired by the Sunday comics of yore, the idea also being to see what certain cartoonists could produce given a larger canvas. As Jog noted yesterday, the art is the main focus here, a not-insubstantial shift considering how writer-centric superhero comics have been of late. It’s a shift that’s made abundantly clear in the opening Batman comic by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, which tries to get by on a minimum amount of dialogue, save only what exposition requires.

So the main interest with Wednesday Comics then is getting to see what various artists do with the larger field they’ve been given to play in. Some, like Kyle Baker, expand their panels, to an overly dramatic size, all the better to heighten the dramatic import of the moment. Others, like Ben Caldwell’s distinctly original take on Wonder Woman, opt for density, packing the page in tiny panels that threaten to overwhelm the reader.

The best contributions may be the ones that deliberately harks back to the comic strips of yore. Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook come at Kamandi by way of Hal Foster, providing a Prince Valiant-like take on the character that perhaps suggests Kirby’s ties to his comic-strip forebears may be stronger than surface glances would suggest. Joe and Adam Kubert pull a brutal nine-panel sequence that nevertheless evokes Roy Crane and Milton Caniff. Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher’s Flash strip attempts the clever hat trick of offering two strips — one a straight-up adventure, the other a Juliet Jones-style soap via Iris West. And, of course, there’s Paul Pope, whose pulpish Adam Strange delivers Alex Raymond-like thrills while still being delightfully weird.

At the same time, a certain sameness does tend to crop up. Many contributions offer the same basic introductory scenario with surprisingly little variation. Establish hero, introduce menace, deliver cliffhanger — perhaps it’s just the nature of the particular genre, but it does seem odd how each tale seems to hit the same opening notes. It’s not that I expect these stories to contemplate the nature of man, mind you, but I am curious to see how they’ll strive to be different from each other, at least narratively, as the weeks wear on. And I might become a bit peeved if they fail to convince me of their own uniqueness.

Of course, there’s a good deal of ripe self-awareness going on here, and a great opportunity for a lot of fourth-wall winking that, thankfully, goes ignored for the most part. Having said that, though, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if these stories started referencing and spilling over into each other in some way, though I would imagine such a concept would require more work than editor Mark Chiarello could bear.

But really, I don’t need any of that frou-frou modernism here. This is a book designed expressly to revel in the joys of serial reading, and the pleasures it offers are simple but vast. There are some missteps (the coloring job on the Titans page seems muddy and gray), but overall it’s hard to to see the debut issue as anything but a success. I can’t even begin to guess if regular DC readers will latch on to a book of this nature — the superhero audience is much too fickle for me to gauge — but if they value artistry, originality and good design, they’ll pick it up in a heartbeat.

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