100 Days, 100 Comics #2: ‘Wednesday Comics’ #1

Posted by – August 30, 2009

Wednesday Comics #1Right, so I’d feel bad about lagging behind for the last week, but since that reason was getting an unexpected influx of work, I can’t really offer too wholehearted of an apology. Besides, I’ve been pouring over a stack of news, week-olds, and month-olds and fully plan on keeping pace. Still expect to see 100 reviews in 100 days.

One of the great industry-wide sins being consistently committed in comics involves being arbitrarily married to the pamphlet format. Yes, it’s what people are used to reading Batman and Spider-Man in, but in a flooded market that drowns new books like unwanted cats, there’s beacon of innovation going on with DC’s weekly Wednesday Comics series right now that smaller publishers could stand to learn from. Particularly because Marvel seems to be taking the lead (or at least first chances) on everything tech-related right now, I’m also encouraged to see DC being the first ones to come out of the garage with this concept.

Admittedly, it took me at least two months to finally crack this nothing-but-comics-pages newspaper open. There are two major reasons for this. One: I’m a busy fellow. Two: The format here, demands a less casual reading venue than other comics off my stacks due to its size and physical frailty (Give me a break — I care about my comics).

As someone who is usually at least moderately well-informed of what’s going on in comics, this release had been on my radar for some time. The Mike Allred and Neil Gaiman Metamorpho story was just as good as I’d hoped, Kyle Baker’s evolved style for the Hawkman page was immaculate, and the other high-profile creative team-ups are likewise stellar. There were also a couple of surprises — for instance, Joe Quinones on the retroish New Frontier-esque Green Lantern story.

As a reading experience, though, Wednesday Comics gets three things right that really elevated in my rankings this year. First off, the one-page-per-story chapters force the creators to do with comics what great prose short stories do best and what monthly pamphlets often lack — economy of narrative elements with an acute moment to get across. For the stories here that didn’t hook me from issue one, it’s because in one page the one-page installment couldn’t offer me any bait. And seriously, come on. This is issue #1. Bait me.

Paul Pope’s Adam Strange had the smallest of trouble with this issue. He applied the same urban tribalist tone he runs so well with to a sci-fi city with a beautiful woman and the title character’s costume. They could have been splitting a sandwich together and I’d have bought issue #2 to find out how it tasted.

The first Superman page also killed in the baiting respect. Granted, its materials are quite cliche — no offense to Arcudi and Bermejo, who present cliche very elegantly here, but I’m really hoping to see a new trick show up later on, because they’ve basically given me a meaningful Superman poster at this point that I can look at and say, “Well that’s nice. I’m glad we both appreciate a couple of core ingredients of Superman’s character,” without having digested a story that did anything memorable to set it apart from the pack. I’m looking forward to being proven paranoid about this concern.

The second big victory was its diversified sampling of the DCU. I am only moderately familiar with DC’s third and fourth-tier pantheon faces like Metamorpho and and Deadman, so I think they mixed it up pretty well giving me characters I liked and fitting those two into stories that didn’t read like Urdo sonnets to unfamiliar reader.

Thirdly, most of the creators wrote to their format, which really brought this experiment full circle. It’s nice see stories being kicked off with splash-page-worthy moments. And it’s nice to see creators who can competently render those splash-page moments. I’m in for the long haul on Wednesday Comics, or at least until my wallet tells me to be more discerning.

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