Edited by Mark Chiarello with Chris Conroy
Published by DC Comics
One of DC Comics’ most interesting publishing projects in recent memory remains Wednesday Comics. The concept was part throwback, part attempt to find alternative publishing models. Each week, they published a broadsheet, folded in half and in half again. When readers sprawled the sheets out to their fullest dimensions, 14” x 20”, they were treated to a humongous canvas, allowing the selected artists to showcase their ability on a larger scale than anything since the heyday of the Sunday newspaper strips (a format Wednesday Comics consciously emulated, with its newsprint production). Now available in a collected hardcover edition, on much sturdier and shinier paper, Wednesday Comics remains an interesting project, though not nearly as interesting as in its original format.
Simply put, as it ran only twelve weeks, each story has only twelve pages of real estate to make its point. Comics writers have been crafting some very engaging and witty short stories for decades upon decades, but there are still certain limitations on what you can do in twelve pages and many of the scripts here run up against those boundaries. Few are outright poor, but even fewer are actually memorable in any way. Much of the art is, fortunately, quite good, and the large size and quality paper does provide an effective showcase for the illustrators, making Wednesday Comics, ultimately, a project more suited to art-admirers than story-readers.
A quick rundown of the strips included in Wednesday Comics:
**Batman, by Brian Azzarello, Eduardo Risso, Patricia Mulvihill & Clem Robins – an effective noir story, beautifully depicted in Risso’s ink-heavy, cartoonish style.
**Kamandi, by Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook – the best of the bunch, a graphic tribute to the best Sunday strip of all time, Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant, this strip comes with strong twists and great artwork.
**Superman, by John Arcudi, Lee Bermejo, Barbara Ciardo & Ken Lopez – Arcudi provides a clever misdirect in the early chapters, but the script never quite manages to feel comfortable in itself. Bermejo’s over-rendered style and the muted color palette take much of the majesty out of the character.
**Deadman, by Dave Bullock, Vinton Heuck, Dave Stewart & Jared Fletcher – a dimension-hopping thriller, effective, very well drawn. Pretty much the standard for the entire project, passable story, good art.
**Green Lantern, by Kurt Busiek, Joe Quiñones & Pat Brosseau – Nice, bouncy cartoon artwork bundled with a run-of-the-mill superhero script, readable but unmemorable.
**Metamorpho, by Neil Gaiman, Michael Allred, Laura Allred & Nate Piekos – The entire strip hinges on a clever-but-too-long gag of Metamorpho and the Element Girl punning their way through a two-page spread of the elemental table. It’s beautifully drawn, but doesn’t quite work.
**Teen Titans, by Eddie Berganza, Sean Galloway & Nick J. Napolitano – The exact wrong type of script for a project like this, one that wallows in its superhero history, coupled with the least accomplished artwork (dull colored, inconsistent anatomy, though the layouts are quite nice) make this the book’s first must-miss.
**Strange Adventures, by Paul Pope, José Villarrubia & Lovern Kindzierski – DC’s old sci-fi hero Adam Strange takes the lead in this one, a cross between the pulp adventure of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and a “this guy might be insane”parable. Story’s okay; Pope’s artwork is gorgeous.
**Supergirl, by Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts & John J. Hill – a tongue-in-cheek lark about Supergirl dealing with amok super-pets Krypto (the Superdog) and Streaky (the Supercat). Great art, fun script, one of the book’s best offerings.
**Metal Men, by Dan DiDio, José Luis Garciá-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan, Patricia Mulvihill & Ken Lopez – Interesting if only for how accurately it apes the tone and plot of those old Bob Kanigher-scripted Metal Men shorts from the ‘60s, with puns on the characters’ names, the only notable Metal Men foe (Chemo) and the deaths of most of the heroes. Garciá-Lopez and Nowlan make it look even better than the originals, which isn’t as easy task.
**Wonder Woman, by Ben Caldwell – the book’s other must-miss, although it gets a few points for sheer ambition. Jamming more panels per page than any two other strips, Caldwell’s tiny frames can’t convey the necessary information, the story flow is all over the place, and the color palette causes too many images to blend into the page rather than popping out of it. If we were grading for effort, this one would be tops, but we’re not. Give it a pass.
**Sgt. Rock, by Adam & Joe Kubert – Solid enough little war piece, though having seen Joe Kubert draw Rock as many times as many comics fans have, I think I speak for many of us who’d love to have used this opportunity to see Joe do something a little different.
**The Flash, by Karl Kerschl, Brenden Fletcher, Dave McCaig & Rob Leigh – The second-most ambitious strip split each page in half, weaving together several threads, but alas, the threads collapse in the end rather than pulling together in a satisfying climax. Strong illustrations in this one, however.
**The Demon & Catwoman, by Walter Simonson, Brian Stelfreeze & Steve Wands – Essentially a Demon strip with Catwoman along for the ride, the strip’s narrative stands out as one of the book’s most effective. Stelfeeze has done better work, but even mediocre Stelfreeze looks pretty good, and Simonson writes some of the best Demon dialogue ever.
**Hawkman, by Kyle Baker – even when he’s being serious, Kyle Baker writes some of the funniest lines in the book. The Hawkman strip is only so-so overall, however.
**Plastic Man, by Evan Dorkin & Stephen DeStefano – a one-page, gag-heavy strip included in the hardcover, it’s clever, cute and fun.
**The Creeper, by Keith Giffen & Eric Canete – another one-pager included in the hardcover, this one doesn’t amount to the time it takes to read it.