FLASH OF TWO STRIPS
Columnist/reviewer Timothy Callahan and reviewer/CSBG blogger Chad Nevett formerly discussed comics every week in a column called “The Splash Page” for the now-temporarily-inoperative Sequart.org website. To celebrate the twelve weeks of “Wednesday Comics,” they’re bringing their signature comic book chit-chat style to COMIC BOOK RESOURCES. Join them each week as they discuss the unfolding drama of DC’s experiment in oversized weekly comics.
Last week they tackled “Wednesday Comics” #1.
This week: “Wednesday Comics” #2!
Chad Nevett: After last week’s big debut with the entire internet talking about it, “Wednesday Comics” #2 actually coming out seems almost anti-climatic. I don’t know why I’ve got that feeling, like the build-up to the first issue was so big and so discussed that another issue (let alone 11 more issues) so quickly is weird. Is this what it was like for those of you who were reading “52” in singles? I’m used to having a solid month (or more) to recover before jumping into the next dose and here we are, one week later, and issue two is here! Part of me can’t believe it. Before getting into this second issue, do you have any comments on pretty much everyone having something to say about the first issue? The reactions seemed pretty polarized with those of us who LOVED it on one side and those who HATED it on another — the main contention actually being the price with many not liking getting 15 pages on newsprint for $3.99 each week. After reading the issue, I don’t know how anyone could have that problem, but that’s me. Anything jump out at you last week in the reactions, Tim?
Tim Callahan: I was surprised by the constant complaints about price. And almost everyone who did complain about the price seemed to feel the need to interject, “well, if it was $2 an issue, maybe I’d buy it…” which seems like an arbitrary make-or-break point. Why $2? No comics are two bucks anymore, and those people are saying that this thing — which is printed on, gasp, newsprint — is worth less than an issue of “Red Robin” or “Deadpool” or “Dark Reign: D-Man”? And let’s say it did only cost $2. What would they spend that extra-saved two bucks on? A booster pack of Magic: The Gathering cards circa 1998?
I can see that there’s some specific price point at which the target audience would simply reject it, but I think the people who might be interested in what “Wednesday Comics” has to offer would be willing to spend up to maybe $5.00 an issue to get it, maybe a little more (wasn’t the Paul Pope Vertigo stuff like $7.00 an issue, even the black and white ones? Quality is quality). I’d probably buy “Wednesday Comics” no matter what, but I’m a guy who bought the gigantic and decidedly uncheap “Kramer’s Ergot” last year, so my “if it’s good, then it’s worth a whole lot more than if it’s just average junk” philosophy is probably different from other comic book fans. Plus, I buy a lot of average junk all the time, so I’m the wrong guy to ask about any of this “worth” and “budget” stuff.
I didn’t read all that much specific commentary on the first issue itself, other than general praise about what it’s trying to do or general complaints about how it isn’t doing what certain readers want it to do. Most of the stuff I read just touched on the same points we made last week. But leave it up to Jog to succinctly clarify how we all probably feel about “Wednesday Comics,” even if we’re loving what we’ve seen so far: “let’s face it – if we’re up to week 7 and it’s obvious that three-quarters of the content is DC Annual back-up fodder drawn in blown-up traditional styles, the bloom’s coming off the rose really damn quick.”
Yeah, there’s that.
CN: I don’t know what my breaking point would be regarding price, but $5.00 an issue would probably be it. I will admit that knowing that “Wednesday Comics” is only going for three months makes it easier to accept as a cost. I also didn’t read a lot of the specific writings on the first issue, mostly because when it was all going up, we were writing our column and I didn’t want to accidentally rip off anyone. But, for the most part, it did seem like we were in line with most people. People’s favorite strips changed a bit, but “Metamorpho,” “Strange Adventures,” and “Hawkman” seemed the three that consistently got mentioned.
Jumping to this week’s issue, I’ll start near the beginning and say that, wow, the “Superman” comic was just flat-out awful. That has got to be some of the worst Superman/Batman dialogue I’ve ever read. Neither character sounded like himself. It was weird, whiny, teenage emo dialogue. I’m not one to say things like “That’s crap!” out loud while reading a comic, but, in this case, I did. I just could not believe how completely horrible it is. I normally like John Arcudi’s writing, but this… yeesh!
TC: It works great if you imagine Superman with Tom Welling’s voice. Batman’s voice is played by Kristin Kreuk. She always was damn hard for Clark to please.
So, yeah, whiny teenage emo dialogue. I suspect there’s going to be an in-story reason for that, but I’ll probably be wrong. It’s an interesting strip this week, at least, because the hyper-leathery/metallic Lee Bermejo art is such a contrast to the inane dialogue. These characters talk like something out of an Adam Warren comic book but they look like they’re from a Brian Azzarello comic book. So it just becomes a kind of high camp. It’s safe to say that the “Superman” strip was one of the worst this week — the second worst, actually, behind the so-bad-it-doesn’t-belong-at-all “Teen Titans” strip. The “Supergirl” installment was light and uneventful to the point of near irrelevance, and “Wonder Woman” was just another it’s-all-a-dream “Little Nemo” riff with less-clear art, but neither of those matched the poor quality of “Superman” or “Teen Titans.”
But, hey, we’re starting with the negatives again. And we like this comic, right? So what’s your number one favorite strip this week? Readers demand to know!
CN: Just a quick diversion: I’m digging “Supergirl.” It’s a fun, cute page that just makes me feel good.
My favorite page this week is “The Flash,” barely edging out “Strange Adventures.” Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher just knocked this week’s page out of the park, using the two strips to tell a single story, but with different feels and looks. I really loved what they did last week, but that made me assume that we were going to get two adventures, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it’s one told in an unconventional way. Very entertaining and inventive. And “Strange Adventures” is Paul Pope being Paul Pope, which is always going to put him ahead of nearly everyone else. How about you?
TC: “The Flash” was my favorite too. I love the use of time travel in this kind of domestic romance story, and the set-up/switcheroo that happened when Barry left the “Iris” strip to pop into his own was a kind of genius that I’d love to see more of in “Wednesday Comics.” It plays with the form of the one-page strip but it does so for an in-story reason. Great stuff from Kerschl!
I also liked “Kamandi” a lot this week. Now that the exposition is over with, the narrative captions add a grandeur to the story of the Last Boy on Earth, and the Kirby-spawned combination of a swashbuckling tiger man, old computers, and rat soldiers were tons o’ fun. It’s great to see the Kirby creations reimagined in this kind of story, because just the method of its delivery (Gibbons’s text and Sook’s artwork) turns it into the stuff of legend, as if humans have been retelling these tales of Kirby for centuries. My doubts about the “Kamandi” strip — after the disappointing first installment — were totally eliminated by the goodness seen here.
And you’re right about “Strange Adventures.” It’s Paul Pope! He’s amazing. Though perhaps we should take time to discuss why. What is it that makes Paul Pope “ahead of nearly everyone else”?
CN: “Kamandi” was stronger, but still didn’t really wow me too much. Sook’s artwork is amazing, but the writing style just doesn’t grab me — nor does the subject matter.
As for Pope… Well, for one thing, his work has energy. Anyone who knows my views on comics and art knows that energy is a bit persuader with me. His panels just crackle with energy and movement even when character are standing around. His art has a very dynamic look to it. It’s also different from the standard art that you see in these comics, which gives it a bit of a novelty that I can’t deny. But, beyond that, his design sense and storytelling are very strong. His Adam Strange looks like he jumped out of a pulp magazine from the ’30s. He’s got that slightly seedy look to him, a bit of a swagger and sneer. The plot itself is also very pulpy, which helps. Although, I’ve been reading it not like I usually read comics, focusing more on what Pope does with the art and the words being there just to keep things moving. I’m actually not that familiar with Pope’s previous work (because I suck), so is “Strange Adventures” typical of him or is he trying something new here?
TC: It’s quite representative of his work, at least visually. The dialogue’s a bit more of a throwback to classic adventure comic strips or Silver Age comic books, and Pope’s normal dialogue is less declarative and more elliptical. But the visual style is pure Pope. What I like about it is the inventive design of the world. From the (are those propellors?) descending balloons covered with baboon invaders to the martian/Barbarella/tribal chic of Alanna’s costume to the noodly details on Lord Korgo’s body, Pope takes the relatively sterile sci-fi world of Rann and gives it a flavor unique to him. Plus there’s the simple stuff like the insert panel of Alana as she cries for help. Notice how it cuts into Adam Strange’s panel, overlapping with the bottom half of his mouth in an almost ineligant way. The composition of the page is disturbed by the irregular placement of the circle panel, and appropriately so: it’s the image that halts Adam Strange in his tracks and shifts the narrative into a new direction.
If you haven’t read a lot of Pope’s previous work, you have a lot of great comics waiting for you.
What did you think of the Batman strip this week? No costumes in sight, just a strikingly-drawn graveyard scene. And did Bruce Wayne intervene with the shooting? The shadow in panel 12 seems to hint at it (and why else would the two victims fall down?) but it’s not clearly shown. The whole page — and last week’s page — seems much more poetic than the much more literal offerings inside the rest of “Wednesday Comics.”
CN: One thing that I find amusing about Pope’s strip is that Rannians are a weak people yet Alanna is dressed in total warrior princess gear — and is useless. Interesting contradiction.
Yeah, it was Bruce. You can tell in the panel where he tackles the woman because of the color of the jacket/suit. It took me a couple of extra seconds to grasp that, but, yup, Bruce Wayne saves the lady. You are dead on with the odd poetic, suggestive nature of the strip, which fits with Azzarello’s writing, except, normally, you get this sort of storytelling over the course of an entire issue instead of just one page. Though, since each page is, by default, an ‘issue’ of these stories, that makes a lot of sense. I think each week’s strip will be stand-alone in that it’s not a direct continuation of the previous week’s action, but will be a building up of clues and information. What I’m waiting for is the ‘big reveal’ where Azzarello and Risso leave everyone scratching their heads, because that’s what they like to do. The last time they did Batman, they delivered a devastating story with “Broken City,” which was almost vicious in how cruel it was to Bruce in that final issue and the revelation of his final words to his parents (in that context, at least).
I think it’s one of the book’s stronger strips — to the point where I wonder why it isn’t the strip being serialized through “USA Today” instead of that godawful “Superman” strip. I understand wanting to use one of the big characters and, well, Batman is bigger than Superman in many ways, and this strip is far superior.
TC: And that’s clearly Bruce Wayne’s profile that the girl is kissing in the final panel, but I think the confusion comes because his suit is black until the panel where he’s lying on top of her. Still — it’s a visual storytelling style that’s based more on discrete images than on panel-to-panel movement. It’s montage in the classic sense — juxtaposed images used to create meaning — and though it can lead to some head-scratching moments (that’s one of the problems of the brilliant “100 Bullets), Risso is a phenomenal artist. He’s on par with Pope and Allred, definitely. And it would make much more sense to serialize the “Batman” story, indeed. (Although maybe “USA Today” readers are closer to the “Smallville” demographic than the “100 Bullets” demographic, so maybe “Superman” is what they like.)
What about “Metamorpho” and “Hawkman,” two of the major discussion-worthy strips from last week? Do you think the second installments were as interesting/disappointing/controversial/tepid/awesome as the first?
CN: “Metamorpho” was nice looking, but rather empty and bland otherwise. The “letter column” at the end wasn’t nearly as cute or funny as intended. It’s the sort of page that wouldn’t be problematic in a regular comic, but, here, it makes you wonder what Gaiman and Allred are going for. “Hawkman” impressed me more than last week. Some nice little gags by Baker, almost making light of this terrorist threat because we all know Hawkman is going to stop them. What I’m amazed at is that it’s a Hawkman story and I’m interested. Not only that, but Baker has come up with a plot that lends itself to Hawkman rather than simply plunking him down in the middle of a plot where any hero could save the day.
Why not end this week our top five of this issue? I’ll go first:
1. “The Flash”
2. “Strange Adventures”
TC: I also found “Metamorpho” pretty but insubstantial, though I liked the little “letter column” thing at the end because it was a quick way to add some exposition about other characters who we’re soon to meet in this story. It got that stuff out of the way in a suitably whimsical manner. And, yeah, it’s nice to see a “Hawkman” comic that’s a uniquely Hawkman kind of story, and Baker’s little panels where the character gestures to the little boy? Those make the page zing.
My top five for this week?
1. “The Flash”
3. “Strange Adventures”
5. “Sgt. Rock”
There’s not much to this “Sgt. Rock” story, but I love everything about Joe Kubert’s oversized artwork. It narrowly edges out Baker’s “Hawkman” this week, maybe for sentimental reasons. Kubert doing “Sgt. Rock” always looks good.
Timothy Callahan writes “When Words Collide” for CBR each Monday, reviews comics each and every week, and maintains the Geniusboy Firemelon blog while he’s supposed to be working on further book projects.
Chad Nevett writes his “Random Thoughts” and “Reread Reviews” for COMICS SHOULD BE GOOD, reviews as many comics as Tim, and contributes to the GraphiContent blog while not reading Joe Casey or Jim Starlin comics.