With “Wednesday Comics” almost at an end, it’s fun to look back and see just which strips have used the potential of the format to its best, and which… didn’t succeed quite as much. There are two different aspects of “Wednesday Comics” to keep in mind: not only the one-page-a-week frequency, but also the large dimensions of the comic. The best strips use both of these pieces of the format off, and make the book a satisfying experiment.
Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook have knocked their “Kamandi” story out of the ballpark. Clearly inspired by Hal Foster’s classic “Prince Valiant” strips from many years ago, each page is beautiful to look at, with great detail on every single page, with individual hairs and blades of grass carefully rendered by Sook. Gibbons understands the weekly format as well, though, with a rise and fall of action in every page. From warring groups of different anthropomorphic animals to the ravaging of the U.S. Capitol building, there’s always something going on. If I had to pick a single feature to somehow return for a second run of “Wednesday Comics” this would be it, easily.
Of course, there are other strips that use the format perfectly, too. Paul Pope’s “Strange Adventures” virtually explodes off of the page every week with a mad combination of swashbuckling art and adventure. I love how he’s able to draw all sorts of craziness and make it look normal, and as the main action wraps up this week (with no doubt an epilogue to follow) Pope gets one final twist of fun into the story. Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher on “The Flash” are also having a ton of fun with the format of “Wednesday Comics.” While this week doesn’t ape classic comic strips like others have in the past, they’re still thinking about this being more than just another page of art. Here, as characters are dragged into the experiment gone awry, panels form concentric rings, each radiating out (or rather, getting pulled in) and providing a pathway for the reader’s eye to follow. The large page dimensions give it that extra punch, and it’s a truly beautiful creation.
Last but not least, Kyle Baker on “Hawkman” brings to mind old serials of not only print but also the screen. With a menace always lurking around the corner (terrorists! explosions! dinosaurs!), Baker channels his inner “Perils of Penelope” and keeps “Hawkman” moving at a brisk pace. Even his art, with its faded, almost monochromatic colors, helps ape that old movie reel look and feel. He gets what’s going on here, and delivers in spades.
While the remaining ten strips aren’t quite at that level, most of them comfortably fall into a pleasant second tier of quality. Some, like Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones on “Green Lantern,” tell a slightly more standard tale that is taking advantage more of the larger dimensions than anything else. The story’s week-to-week cliffhangers have been variable, but overall the story’s been entertaining, and watching Quinones draw Green Lantern versus an alien armada this week is breathtakingly beautiful and in a way that would lack some punch at a normal comic-book size. Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s “Supergirl” strip has coasted through on sheer cuteness in such large dimensions; Conner’s art is always beautiful, but Palmiotti’s made sure to give her a lot of extra panels on each page thanks to the additional space, and that means more cuddly super-pets to ooh and aah over.
Even some of the strips that seem little more than an average comic book page have still been satisfying, like Dan DiDio and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’s “Metal Men,” or Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s “Batman.” Neither of these seem to take advantage of the frequency or the dimensions, but they’re nice solid stories. Adam Kubert and Joe Kubert’s “Sgt. Rock” almost qualifies for this, although the pace is so slow that it’s perhaps the only story that has seemed to ignore the weekly format entirely. I love Joe Kubert’s art so having it at a huge dimension is a treat, but I wish that Adam Kubert’s script had broken out of the nine-panel grid and let Joe Kubert really cut loose with some huge, beautiful drawings.
I feel bad for Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway’s “Teen Titans” because it’s the one strip that doesn’t seem to fit here at all. The larger dimensions seem to hinder rather than help Galloway’s art, and the story itself is leaden and uninteresting. Titans comics from DC have struggled for a while now, and for whatever reason that curse seems to have extended into “Wednesday Comics” as well. And while I’m still not a fan of Ben Caldwell’s “Wonder Woman” strip, I will give him credit that he fully understands what having all that extra space on a page should be used for, and he does get a lot of kudos for it.
Will I come back for another “Wednesday Comics” run down the line? Absolutely. I think this has been a slight learning process for DC Comics as well as the creators, and there’s no doubt in my mind that a second run would have much more top-tier stories. But even then, I still feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth and more with the existing “Wednesday Comics.” This is a fun series and experiment, and for a twelve week project, it makes me want to make sure I hit the store every week. For that alone, it’s a wild success.