Wednesday Comics #1

I can be cynical when I need to. So while I signed up for "Wednesday Comics" at my local comic store the day it was announced, I was also a tiny bit wary. Sometimes a project, after all, turns out to sound better as a press blurb than it does in reality. Having read "Wednesday Comics" #1, though, I'm rather tickled to say that "Wednesday Comics" didn't meet my expectations. Instead, it surpassed them.

When I first unfolded "Wednesday Comics" #1, it was hard to keep from feeling a little thrill as Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso's Batman story faced me. They're reveling in the format here, with long-stretching panels running both horizontally and vertically to show off the extra size. Azzarello starts off the story simply but confidently, letting the art tell the story instead of burdening it with too much dialogue. And from there, the comic just gets better.

Some creators are clearly drawing inspiration from the old broadsheet, full-page comics of the old days. Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook's Kamandi story feels like an old "Prince Valiant" comic, with the story being told in narration boxes, and with rich, lushly detailed art that you can just stare at for hours. Even the "Next Week: Outnumbered!" feels like the comic strips of old, and I wholeheartedly approve. Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher provide a nice twist with their Flash story, telling it as two horizontally-oriented comics next to each other in the Sunday comics pages. Even better, while the first strip focuses on the Flash and is a standard superhero story, the second is an Iris West strip that looks and feels just like a serialized romance comic. The two work together perfectly, each having their own tone but fitting together to form a greater whole. And of course, new Kerschl art is always something to applaud.

Other comics take a more familiar approach. John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo tell a story that feels like it could belong in a regular Superman comic, save for the amount of panels that can fit onto the page. That's also true for Dan DiDio, Jose Luis García-López, and Kevin Nowlan's Metal Men story. They're both enjoyable enough, but because they're playing less with the format and more just letting the art shine through, it's not lacking quite the punch of some other installments. That said, seeing Bermejo or García-López art at such a large dimension is a real treat, and installments like those or Walter Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze's Catwoman and Demon story justify their inclusion just by how beautiful the pages are.

One thing I found myself especially pleased about is how none of these stories feel constrained to fit into current, 2009 continuity. Instead, they're scattered all over the place. Having read "Showcase Presents: Metamorpho" last year, for example, it's fun to see Neil Gaiman and Michael Allred's Metamorpho story appear to fit squarely in that era of the character. Rex working for billionaire Simon Stagg while still in love with the beautiful Sapphire Stagg may seem a bit old fashioned, but it ends up being part of its charm. Likewise, Kurt Busiek and Joe Quiñones serve up a beautiful retro Green Lantern, which looks so slick and stylish that I found myself wanting to put down the book to find out what else Quiñones has worked on. Even the logo for Green Lantern gets the retro touch, here, and it looks marvelous.

The two stories that surprised me the most (in a good way) were both ones from a single creator. Paul Pope's Adam Strange lets you view the DC Comics character through Pope's own vision, and it's fantastic. It reminds me of old Edgar Rice Burroughs novels with warrior woman, space monkeys, and mad science. At the same time, though, it's got that great oily Pope art. Even panels as simple as Adam Strange blasting off while space mandrills plummet down around him look great, with the contrast between up and down looking smarter than ever.

Likewise, Kyle Baker's opening page for his Hawkman story feels remarkably bold and fresh. I love his choice of a narrator other than Hawkman, giving it a voice that I don't ever recall seeing in a Hawkman story before. Baker boldly gives us just five panels, but each one is huge and in-your-face, using a muted color palette to make the images look that much more striking.

Only two pages ultimately didn't work for me, although both still have their selling points. Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway's Teen Titans felt remarkably slim to me, more than the other comics here. I understand that everyone's having to introduce their situations on a single page, but Berganza's script felt a little too light on story, barely even getting started. Galloway's animation-fueled art looks interesting, but I do think that it's the only art that doesn't gain from the larger dimensions. Galloway's a good artist but it feels like a slightly smaller size would result in a tighter, stronger look. Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman certainly has beautiful art (that reminds me of Ronnie del Carmen's work) but its loose pencils and huge number of panels seem to almost meander a bit too much; at the end of the page I wasn't entirely sure what I'd read, although it sure was beautiful to look at and boasted the neatest Wonder Woman logo I've ever seen.

Still, there's always something good waiting for you on every page, and as more issues are released I can't help but feel like the stories will feel that much bigger and exciting throughout the twelve-issue run. This is a bold, beautiful experiment that any company would rightfully be proud of.

Last but not least, I hope DC Comics considers this an open letter with a specific request. Please, please, please offer "Wednesday Comics" in a collected edition that runs the full 14x20" size. Also released today was the first volume of Fantagraphics's "Prince Valiant" reissues, and the Hal Foster art looked amazing on this same size and with sharp paper. I fully expect there to be a smaller-sized version of this book for all the stores that won't stock something oversized, and I get that. But something this beautiful deserves to be collected in the larger size, too. Please? I promise I'll buy two copies, because I bet my brother-in-law would love one for Christmas or his birthday. (The other, of course, is for me.) This is too good to get shrunken down.

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