?By Rob Bricken and Matt Wilson
Thirteen weeks ago, DC began a bold new experiment: Wednesday Comics. If American comics aren’t your domain of nerd-dom, here’s the deal — in order to recapture some of the glory of the old serialized newspaper comic strips (specifically, when they were huge and legible), DC released a a 12-issue weekly series which contained 156 separate strips, each one getting one full page in each issue. Obviously, Wednesday Comics contained Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman stories, but also lesser known characters like Metamorpho and the Metal Men. Wednesday Comics ended last week, and shockingly, Rob actually read all of them. So he thought he’s do something a little special — make a Daily List that was also a review of the project. Because Rob is still pretty much a moron regarding U.S. comics, he called in The ISS‘s Matt Wilson for the heavy lifting. Here now are the best and worst stories of DC’s Wednesday Comics, and what we thought of the project over all.
THE MERELY OKAY:
? The Demon and Catwoman
This strip was basically one long fight between the team of Demon/Catwoman and the Arthurian sorceress Morgaine Le Fay. There’s some cool action and the flirty relationship between Selina Kyle and Jason Blood is fun, but Walt Simonson goes to the well one too many times by trying to pull off a plot twist that involves someone turning into something else. Seriously: Catwoman turns into a cat creature, Morgaine goes from old to young back to old and then turns into bees, she takes over Selina’s body twice, and the Demon turns back into Jason Blood at an inopportune time. By the fourth or fifth time, all that metamorphosis just wasn’t all that interesting anymore. The biggest twist was in the last strip, where Jason Blood and Catwoman kept their normal bodies intact. Frankly, the story sounds better summarized here than it ended up being, but it was certainly worth a read.
? Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.
Here’s the plot of this strip, as Matt understood it: Sgt. Rock, who has been kidnapped by Nazis, meets a long-lost relative (who, incidentally, dies) while Easy Company spends a really long time trying to find him and take a break to meet some poor people. For a war comic, there is surprisingly little battle. The lone grenade, in fact, turns out to be a potato. There’s some shooting, but it is pretty much contained in two of the twelve strips. It’s saved from being bad since the art is by legendary Sgt. Rock artist Joe Kubert saves it from being bad, but it could’ve been a lot better.
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso did amazing work on 100 Bullets, but their work here seemed to try too hard to smush the two together and throw Batman directly into the hard-boiled noir world of their Vertigo title. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a pretty well-done noir story, but like other noir heroes, Batman’s really just an unwitting participant in a drama that probably would have played out pretty similarly without him even getting involved. Which would be fine if he was anybody but fucking Batman, the world’s greatest detective.
With excellent art by Madman‘s Mike Allred, Neil Gaiman’s Metamopho story was really pretty decent, but surprisingly thin. Man, was there a lot of filler in there. All the stuff with Metamorpho fans of America was cute, but was it really necessary to put re-do it like three or four times to fill 12 pages? And two strips that played off a running-through-the-periodic-table concept? Again, it’s not bad, but we’re confident that we could and should expect more out of Gaiman, Admittedly, though, the gag that caps off the last strip almost makes up for all of it.
Dave Bullock’s Deadman strip didn’t have anything majorly wrong with it, but it didn’t have anything terribly right with it, either, particularly given that the murder plot from the first strip gets explained away with a line in the last one and that Deadman, as it turns out, unwittingly kinda does more harm than good in the whole thing. Still, the parts set in a hell-like demon prison, which is where most of the strips take place, are reasonably action-packed and all have neat cliffhangers. Plus, the plot twist in the next-to-last chapter makes for a nice payoff — it’s just not enough to hang with the best.
? Green Lantern
You know what isn’t the tiniest bit interesting? Some guy Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, knew and competed with during astronaut training. Or what people in a bar have to say about him. What anyone would be more interested in is Green Lantern fighting alien monsters in space. Which is why it’s so unfortunate that this strip was 70% some old guy Green Lantern used to know, and 30% Green Lantern fighting alien monsters in space.
? Teen Titans
There could have been a worthwhile story tucked in these strips, with Deathstroke the Terminator impersonating lame-o villain Trident and fooling the Titans into thinking one of their crappiest villains just suddenly up and became capable. But writer Eddie Berganza decided to cloud that story in entirely unnecessary exposition — seriously, there’s like twice the number of panels there needed to be per installment — and almost every single one of those panels contained trite moralizing about the importance of teamwork. Seriously, in case you didn’t read the strip, teamwork is important, guys. Remember that!
When the first page of Superman ran on the front page of Wednesday Comics‘ first installment, it looked to be an harbringer of awesomeness. Aliens crash-land, and superman beats the heck out of ’em — beautifully painted by Lee Bermejo. Then, the next issue was Superman feeling bad about beating up the aliens. Then another week of Superman feeling bad. Then four more — even Batman told him to take some “super-prozac” (which is terrible writing, but still proves our point). Admittedly, the plot revolves around some alien guys attacked Superman by getting inside his head and making him a navel-gazing, self-doubting loner who doesn’t know his place in the world anymore. But who the hell wants to see that? The end result is still beautiful art of Supes gazing at his navel, doubting himself, doubting his place in the world and totally out of character for two full thirds of Wednesday Comics’ run. Why oh why, DC, would you think that readers would want to see Superman, your flagship character, whine for eight weeks?
? Wonder Woman
While WC’s Superman story was needlessly dull, at least it was readable. Neither Matt nor Rob, after reading the entire story, have the faintest clue what it was about. Maybe it’s awesome, maybe it sucks, but either way, it is impenetrable. Writer/artist Ben Caldwell clearly had no idea how to do a one-page serialized strip, and forced 20-40 panels into almost every page, each with dialogue. The art — what little you could see of it — was nice, if very cartoony for Wonder Woman, but it didn’t make a character who may or may not be Wonder Woman talking to two fairies for like 200 panels any less baffling.
The best is yet to come. Because it’s on the next page.
? Metal Men
Who’d have thunk that DC vice-president/executive editor Dan Didio, of all people, would write one of Wednesday Comics‘ best strips? Not us, brother. Didio took the rains on the ’60s-tastic Metal Men story that started with a run-of the mill bank robbery and escalated into the threat of citywide destruction. The only problem was that almost all of the title characters were dead by the end. That…was kind of strange. But it was a story perfectly suited to the page-per-week style and had just the right balance of action and humor that many of the other Wednesday Comics‘slacked. Good on you, Didio.
? The Flash
It’s pretty much inevitable that any story involving time travel is going to get confusing. That’s just as true here as it is anywhere else, but writer Karl Kerschl does a really nice job of balancing a multitude of timelimes and a multitude of Flashes in a convoluted story involved the Flash, his gal Iris, and Gorilla Grodd being an asshole. It might be a touch too convoluted for it’s own good, but seeing a herd of Flashes try to stop a hyper-intelligent ape and keep his girl from leaving him is more than enough to make up for it.
The funniest of the Wednesday Comics strips by a mile, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s strip about Supergirl’s troubles keeping Krypto the Superdog and Streaky the Supercat behaving worked like a charm. Even Aquaman’s guest appearance got laughs. And the punchline in the last strip. You guys, that punchline. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked if every Wednesday comic was as flat-out humorous as Supergirl was, but this strip was so much more entertaining than the Superman or Batman strips that DC might as well have tried.
We’ll get into this more in the summary, but when you only have 12 pages to tell a story — even if they’re big pages — you really need to bring the awesome fast and furious. So writer Kyle Baker starts his Hawkman strip with him crash-landing on Dinosaur Island, fighting dinosaurs, and then topping it off with a JLA space battle that manages to get Superman and Batman better in just a few lines than either of their own strips did! Kyle Baker, you are a treasure.
? Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth
If you had one page to show someone what Wednesday Comics was all about, you could do a lot worse than showing them any page of Dave Gibbons’ Kamandi. Gibbon’s perfectly captured the spirit of the old adventure serials of the past, and artist Ryan Sook made the whole thing look like some kind of parallel universe Prince Valiant. Gibbons did up Jack Kirby’s Planet of the Apes-style creation right, introducing the character, his story, and a new character with infinite ease and grace, while building up that character enough that her end is affectingly tragic without it seeming fakey. Oh, and there’s apes, dogs and big cats yelling and shooting machine guns at each other, which is pretty spectacular.
? Strange Adventures
If Kamandi was the perfect ode to the old strips Wednesday Comics was purportedly celebrating, Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures — starring Adam Strange — illustrated the possibilities of the new. More than any other strip in the series, Paul Pope’s otherworldly high-adventure Adam Strange story manages to make 12 newspaper pages into something epic. There’s an invading force of mandrills, an interlude where two lovers are torn between two worlds, crazy-awesome battles, a tough female lead who carries several of the strips on her own, a journey to return home and an ironic comeuppance for the villain. Sometimes you don’t get that much story in a whole 12-issue comic book series. It was seriously jam-packed, and it was beautiful and it was a blast to read. When DC had Wednesday Comics in mind, they certainly had this in mind, too — or they should have.
IN SUMMARY: So, was Wednesday Comics a success? Yes and no. Certainly, there were more good comics than bad comics in in, but overall, not all the comics were necessarily worth reading. On the other hand, while $4 might seem to be a lot for 16 one-page strips, the paper quality — a significant worry for many U.S. comics fans — was fine, and the art and colors were superb. A major problem was that several of the writers had clearly no idea how to write a 12-page, large format strip, and Wednesday suffered for it. The biggest problem is that neither Superman, Batman, nor Wonder Woman were in the “Best” column. How could DC let people get their three flagship characters so wrong? We’re not sure (but it seems to be a problem beyond just WC).
Overall, Wednesday Comics was a mixed bag. Certainly the good stuff was great, but whether than means you should pick them up in the inevitavle trade with the crap stories is up to you. However, to us, there was enough greatness in WC to hope that DC gives it another shot next year. Also, damn if it wasn’t a serious pain in the ass to fold it just right so it goes back in your mylar bag after reading it