Saturday, 1 August 2009

Wednesday Comics Part IV

So, Wednesday Comics then. We've hit week four of 12, which means that we're just about ready to tuck into the meat of our 15 stories. From what I've been reading, it seems that the good folk of planet internet are fairly united in their views on which strips are succeeding and which ones aren't. What I'm going to say isn't radically different to anything anybody's already said then, sorry. I feel the need to blather on a bit though, so for what it's worth, here is my take on all 15 strips in reverse order of preference...

15. Wonder Woman. I don't think I've seen a single positive review of this strip, and I'm afraid that I'm not about to write one here. I do admire Ben Caldwell for trying to do something interesting with the format, but it just isn't working. Even on A5 paper there's too much going on in those tiny boxes. It's confusing, murky and almost impossible to tell what's happening in a lot of the panels. I didn't even read the latest installment. Looked at it, thought it seemed like hard work and decided to skip to something more fun.

14. Teen Titans. Berganza and Galloway's Titans isn't bad, but it's not spectacular enough to stand up to the other strips in Wednesday Comics. I can see that the art is good, but it reminds me too much of an anime style cartoon to keep my attention. Like a few of the other strips, I don't feel that it's making use of the format, and that what we're getting is a blown-up page from a standard sized American comic.

13. Green Lantern. Quinones has done a good job of reproducing the look of Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier, but as of yet, Busiek hasn't captured the spirit of Cooke's book. Things aren't moving fast enough and Green Lantern hasn't done anything memorable. There is an interesting story developing, but I feel we could have put everything that's happened thus far into issue one and had a bit more ring-slinging action.

12. Superman. I love the Bermejo art, but Arcudi's Superman is a whiny little girl who needs to stop moaning about about how shitty his life is and punch Brainiac or something.

11. Batman. Given that it's by Azzarello and Risso and that it features a femme fatale who's very similar to the character Megan, this feels a lot more like reading 100 Bullets than it does Batman. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and the creators have conjured up an effective mysterious, brooding atmosphere which has me enjoying the story. BUT, it is supposed to be a Batman comic and, at the end of the day, Bats hasn't really done much, has he?

OK, so those are the stories that I have quibbles with. It's unfortunate that three of them feature DC's Trinity, as for this thing to appeal to a wider audience, it really needs super-strong Batman and Superman stories. Not that either of those strips are dreadful, they just aren't packing in enough action for my liking. No matter, from here on in everything about Wednesday Comics starts getting wonderful again...

10. The Demon and Cat Woman. Solid stuff this. Alright so there's nothing particularly groundbreaking going on, but the choice of characters is a really interesting one that Simonsen and Stelfreeze are working well. Being the nerd that I am, I'm irked that The Demon isn't speaking in rhyme, but I can let that slide because this reminds me of one of those odd Brave and The Bold team-up books which I used to pick up from the newsagents as a kid.

9.Sgt Rock. Yeah, this is basically a standard Sgt Rock comic blown up to super-size. It's also a bit of a pain that Rock has been strapped to a chair for four weeks, but he is at least being beaten up by Kubert-drawn Nazis, which is enough to keep me gurgling contentedly.

8. Supergirl. Blimey, this is a surprise! No disrespect to Palmiotti and Connor, but given the stellar list of creators on board Wednesday Comics, I wasn't expecting to be picking this strip out as one of my favourites. The thing is, it's a hoot! A genuine piece of all-ages superhero fun which looks cute and reads really well. The idea of having Krypto and Streaky causing mayhem by acting like a real cat and dog is a simple one, but perfect for this format. I've really enjoyed Connor's art, there's lots going on in the background of her panels which makes it a joy to go back over.

7. Metal Men. Another bright, light-hearted superhero romp. It's become bit of a cliche when talking about this to say, "Blimey, that Dan Didio can actually write can't he?" but let's face it, he can and it is a bit of a surprise. It helps that he's got a fantastic art team in Lopez and Nowlan who are producing some flat-out beautiful pictures of morphing robot people, but still credit where credit's due, Didio is pacing things well and ending each week with a nice cliffhanger.

6. Metamorpho. I can't believe this is only number 6! After week one I had it as number one, but while Allred's art continues to impress, things have slowed a little on the story front. That's hardly mattered because the layouts have been the most innovative in the comic and Gaiman is giving his characters distinct and interesting voices that keep things from teetering into standard faux silver age fare. Part four ended with a nice cliffhanger which suggests that the story is about to get back on track.

The remaining five strips are virtually impossible for me to split. I honestly think that they are all as close to perfection as you can get with a page-a-week comic. But, if we're doing a list, I suppose I have to rank them in some order, so here goes...

5. Strange Adventures. Christ this could just as easily be number #1 as #5. Classic space pulp with a twist. Paul Pope isn't so much knocking the ball out of the park with this one as hammering it into space. I'm loving that Saturday morning adventure serial vibe, Pope's visionary art and weird colour palette and the Space Baboons! I know it's really passe to say that something rocks just because it's got monkeys/Nazis in it, but sometimes there's a joy to be had from monkeys in spaceships, especially when they're as nasty and dirty as these ones. I could go a regular Paul Pope Adam Strange book quite happily.

4. Deadman. Action! That's what makes this strip. Indeed this week's installment may just be my favourite single page in Wednesday Comics thus far. There's a mystery to be solved here, but messrs Bullock and Heuck aren't getting bogged down with the minutiae of solving it. Things are going to be explained, but, (take note Mr Arcudi), we're going to have fun along the way. Bright colours, big fights and mystical mayhem. Love it.

3. Hawkman. From the first installment, which was narrated by Hawkman's bird army, to the latest where we get a full-on space battle juxtaposed against Hawkman's fight with an alien hijacker at 30,000 feet, this has been Grade A stuff. Baker's art is big and bold and his script is just a joy. Exciting, occasionally tongue in cheek superhero pulp as you like it!

2. Kamandi. Ah, now this is the good stuff. Incredibly detailed, fine-lined art from Ryan Sook. No speech bubbles, just caption-based storytelling from Dave Gibbons. As a whole it feels a bit like one of those old Daily Express Rupert Annuals to me. Old-fashioned is what I'm trying to say. That doesn't mean it's slow or tame. This is a full-on action packed story, but it's not in your face action, it's grand and magical. A very classy piece of fantasy that would make Jack Kirby proud.

1. The Flash. And so to The Flash. Or should that be The Flash and Iris West? Because Kerschl and Fletcher have created two comic strips out of one to make a very enjoyable whole.

The Iris strip is done in that polka dot old school style (is it called half-tone?) that screams retro romance comics. The Flash stuff is cleaner, less poppy, but insanely good.

There's a head spinner of a story taking shape here that reminds us that The Flash is more than just a man who can run really fast - he's a man who can run so fast that he can travel in time! It's top stuff, and it works even better when it's played against the very down to earth concerns at work in the Iris West strip. Take those elements and throw in Gorilla Grodd and you're on to a winner. This is innovative yet classic storytelling, a real sleek beast of a thing and pretty much my idea of the perfect comic.

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