Wednesday Comics #3

In one of my "When Words Collide" columns, I called "Wednesday Comics" the mainstream event of the summer, and though I think most of the strips in issue #3 fall far short of their potential, I stand by my initial statement. This is a comic that's trying to do something new with the form, and it's a comic that challenges what we've come to expect from periodical graphic narrative. Sure, it may be a tribute to the Sunday Comics of yore, and it may be more of a celebration of the final era of print serialization, but where else are you going to read Paul Pope Adam Strange comics, or see Hawkman drawn by Kyle Baker, or read about the trials and tribulations of Iris West?

So while the three-and-a-half star rating above might seem to indicate that "Wednesday Comics" is merely a pretty good issue, it's meant to provide more of an overall indication of quality. If I were to judge it merely on the contributions of Azzarello, Risso, Pope, Gibbons, Sook, Baker, and Kerschl then this would be four-plus stars no problem. And if this comic were, indeed, only five pages long, but filled with the work of those creators, I'd still say that it's worth the cover price. Make of that what you will.

The best of the bunch this week is the Gibbons/Sook "Kamandi," with its majestic scope and gorgeously evocative art. The contrast between the insane Kirby sci-fi ideas and the austere presentation works wonderfully, and though my initial reaction to this strip (after reading issue #1) was negative, mostly because it seemed like too much exposition and too much arch formality, the strip has become completely enchanting over the past two weeks.

Kerschl's work on "The Flash" continues to be excellent -- it easily wins the award for "Best Strip Consistently From Day One" -- with Iris West's domestic pain nicely contrasted with the time traveling adventures of her scarlet significant other. And the Azzarello/Risso "Batman" continues its weirdly engrossing, near-poetic elliptical rhythm, while Baker's "Hawkman" shifts from high-flying anti-terrorist adventure to battles with Lobsters from Space. Good stuff in those strips. Paul Pope continues, of course, to be the great Paul Pope.

Unfortunately not everything in issue #3 is close to the level of the Top 5. The Gaiman/Allred "Metamorpho" strip has gone off the rails already, and many of the nicely-drawn ones haven't progressed past their initial premise -- neither "Green Lantern," nor "Metal Men," nor "Sgt. Rock" have launched past the here's-the-setup phase, as beautiful as those setups might look. And though I love the ambition of Ben Caldwell's "Wonder Woman" strip, it's just a mess of one dream sequence after another. The Berganza/Galloway "Teen Titans" strip continues to look and read like it doesn't belong among the rest of its peers.

But "Wednesday Comics" #3 is still one of the best releases of the week, because the quality of its best strips (as few as they are) more than makes up for any weaknesses in the other strips. And even the underwritten, uninspired strips tend to look wonderful. This is an art project, largely, and there sure are plenty of pretty pages to gawk at, even if you skip the word balloons and captions.

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