Over the course of twelve successive weeks DC Comics published a broadsheet newspaper format ‘funnypaper’ anthology that contained fifteen single page strips by the industry’s top talent, that week on week told old-fashioned stories of some fan favourite characters.
We are seeing a time in which every major comic storyline feels it warrants a multiple book crossover, or at the very least any number of mini series/one shot tie-ins. So ‘important’ are these stories that continuity status quo has been thrown out of the window by the Big Two companies and replaced with a constant state of continuity flux in which to understand one story you must have an intimate knowledge of a handful of preceding stories.
This is all well and good if you’re already on the inside and have been following from the beginning, but where does it leave the casual reader and perspective new fans?
I myself am an unashamed Marvelite and have been able to follow their big stories over the years without a problem, but the thought of jumping on to an ongoing DC book fills me with dread. I don’t know who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s good, who’s bad or even if it actually matters now that the Infinite Earths are returned. And I’m sure the vise-versa is true of DC fans.
So, baring that in mind, imagine what a breath of fresh air DC’s Wednesday Comics was in the midst of any number of Crisis’, Black Nights and Bright Days. Letting go of all continuity hang-ups, Wednesday Comics chiselled characters down to their basic iconic portrayals and put them in stories that can be enjoyed by anyone. The stories are as follows:
Batman, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso sees Batman drawn into a nourish plot of murder and family betrayal.
Kamandi: The Last Boy On Earth, by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook is an illustrated prose story in which Kamandi provides resistance to the ape people’s coup of the Tiger people’s authority.
Superman, by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo lustrously presents a Superman who is wracked with self-doubt and a feeling of separation from the people of earth after taking down a fellow alien.
Deadman, by Dave Bullock finds Deadman in a hellish dimension searching for a murderer AND the souls of his victims, told in a very Darwyn Cooke fashion. (Though, Cooke ‘borrowed’ his style from Bruce Timm, so we can’t judge Bullock too harshly).
Metamorpho, by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred, who bathe in the pool of retro-quirky as Metamorpho and his companions traverse a booby-trapped jungle hideaway to find a mystical diamond.
Green Lantern, by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones has Hal Jordan searching for the cause of an alien transformation virus that has infected his old flyboy buddy.
Teen Titans, by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway teams up Titans old and new to take down a new improved Trident, in a kinetic tale for the Cartoon Network generation.
Strange Tales, by Paul Pope is classic science fiction that has Adam Strange fighting a race of blue space baboons, bent on commandeering control of the Zeta-Beam, twisted into that Pope style that I here christen dirty-psychedelic.
Supergirl, by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner turns the cuteness level up to eleven as Supergirl zooms around trying to calm an out of control superdog and cat.
Metal Men, by Dan Didio, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nolan goes old school when the under cover Metal Men find themselves in the middle of a bank heist masterminded by Dr. Pretorius.
Wonder Woman, by Ben Caldwell returns to the early days of the last Amazon as she dream’s dreams of perilous quests that have her finding lost treasures of her people which will eventually aide her in her life as Wonder Woman.
Sgt. Rock and Easy Co, by Adam and Joe Kubert tells a classy boys-own adventure of torture and rescue where Easy Company must prioritise saving the lives of civilians over finding their captured Sergeant.
The Flash, by Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher has multiple character perspectives of a story in which Barry Allen manipulates his time travel abilities to create an army of himselves as a way to defeat Gorilla Grodd.
The Demon And Cat Woman, by Walter Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze presents an oddball team-up with a very Hellboy feel in which the pair are pulled into a plot of rebirth by the evil Morgaine Le Fay.
Hawkman, by Kyle Baker uses a contemporary set-up for an old-timey fantasy adventure as Hawkman over powers a terrorist overrun plane only to crash-land it on Dinosaur Island.
While it’s true that none of the stories in Wednesday Comics are particularly extraordinary, every single one of them has charm and are entertaining in their own way. In truth, the format of a twelve page story told over twelve single page strips doesn’t lend itself well to in-depth storytelling, but then again that’s not really the point.
The art however ranges from great to masterful. Each artist taking advantage of the huge broadsheet format (each page is twice as high and wide as the average comic page) in various ways to heighten their style. Some go for large, impressive, splashy imagery while others load the page with unusual amounts of panels. Further, Ryan Sook, Lee Bermejo, Paul Pope and Amanda Conner, already formidable artists, here present themselves at an all time career best.
Such is the quality of artistic talent on the book that even artists I have never encountered in all my years of reading comics, impressed me to such a degree that I shall hence forth be following their careers eagerly. Brendan Fletcher (The Flash) has a quirky style akin to the late, great Mike Wieringo’s but changes it up to ape various talents as the story take a turn for the weird. Joe Quinones (Green Lantern) demonstrates a solid, slick, cartoony style that portrays facial expressions as well as any Kevin Maguire or Art Adams, and Ben Caldwell (Wonder Woman) mashes-up Disney and Bruce Timm to find new interesting ways of telling his story, despite the fact that he packs the page with, on average, about thirty four panels. Incredible.
Wednesday Comics was recently released as a beautiful oversized collection, which, though slightly smaller than the original format, is still large enough to show-off the wonderful works in all their glory. Put some innocent fun back onto your book-selves, I can’t recommend it enough.
A grade – for concept
B- grade – for storytelling
A+ grade – for artwork
Overall grade A-