Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday Wednesday Break My Heart...

Cure song lyric, OK? For the life of me I couldn't think of any cute post titles involving "Wednesday".

Anyway, WEDNESDAY COMICS. DC's latest attempt to do something a little different without really innovating, giving us a format nobody really was clamoring to see return at a price point that gives all but the hardcore pause, and featuring either obscure fringe players of the DCU, or mostly different, more "traditional" (i.e., not grim, downbeat and depressing) versions of the flagship characters. Not to mention, USA Today tie-in aside, putting them only in comics stores where none of the Great Unwashed that presumably would be entranced by the novelty of this product could find it. As a comics fan, as well as someone who gets their comics at a discount, I can't help but be interested; it was made with the deep-seated comics connoisseur in mind, not surprising since Mark Chiarello, whose design smarts and aesthetic savvy is second to none, is riding herd over it. Look, Steven Grant has already summed up the pros and cons very succinctly, as is his wont, so you should go read what he says. He pretty much nailed every point that occurred to me as I read the first two issues in one sitting. When you return, I'll put my two cents' worth in about each feature so far.

OK? Here we go.

BATMAN: Unsurprisingly, this reads like an episode of 100 Bullets that just happens to have Batman in it. Just like the last time Azzarello and Risso tried their hand at the Caped Crusader. Oh well, gorgeously drawn as usual, but the story is so far routine, and you have to believe that Azzarello will see fit to work the title character in at some point. B

KAMANDI: Ryan Sook's art on this is just magnificent; by choosing to imitate Hal Foster's Prince Valiant style, complete with caption narration rather than word balloons and such, he gives Dave Gibbons' script a resonance, weight, gravity, whatever that I just don't think it would have in lesser hands. There really should be more of this in the future. A+

SUPERMAN: Lee Bermejo's art is very good here, if a bit dark and excessively Photoshopped. Shame John Arcudi has chosen to write such a sodden script, featuring Supes flying around and indulging himself in self-doubt after an encounter with an alien. I know, I know, just trying to show that you can do serious drama with a man who flies around and lifts buildings, and show that he has depth and dimension. Fine, but is this really the best way to showcase (arguably) the most recognizable character your company has to offer? B-

DEADMAN sports wonderfully vertiginous Darwyn Cooke-style art by Dave Bullock in service of a decent murder mystery with supernatural overtones; kinda standard fare as Deadman stories go but the illustration goes a long way towards making it shine as far as I'm concerned. I guess it would help if you've never read a story about Boston Brand before. A-

GREEN LANTERN gives us the early days of Hal Jordan, in a deliberately early 60's-flavored Quatermass XPeriment-type story about an astronaut who returns to Earth and turns into a monster. It's reasonably well-done, if not particularly original, and Kurt Busiek keeps it moving along smartly- but again the real star is artist Joe Quinones, who has a light, dynamic style. I'd like to see more from him as well. A-

METAMORPHO benefits from Mike Allred's rendition of the title character and his supporting cast; while I've had my problems with his output in recent years- I eventually had to throw up my hands and walk away from his most recent self-indulgent attempt at Madman- he is definitely in his "element", if you'll pardon the pun, here, and his style is perfect for Rex Mason and Co. Neil Gaiman is giving us a most un-Gaimanish script, if you want to call it that, because it's so slight and not at all precious...and along with the intentionally cutesy accompanying features with the little kids or #1's roll call, it does evoke the feel of those old Haney issues of yore, even though Haney would have told the story we've been given so far in two panels of the old book. B+

TEEN TITANS is some amalgamation of the various teams that have appeared in the comics over the last few years, and suffers from Sean Galloway's ungainly art, which makes this a lot harder to scan that it should be, as well as some murky, unflattering color. Galloway seems to be trying to give us a TV-show style that evokes the recently ended CN series, but instead evokes Spectacular Spider-Man more, to my eyes anyway. His is a style that works much better in pinups and single-page illustrations rather than trying to tell a story- the figures and linework are much too stylized, loose and chaotic, and everything comes across as incoherent. For what it's worth, #3 was an improvement on that score. The story itself is again nothing special, just a way to showcase the featured team as they battle a previously-inept menace who is suddenly a serious threat. Stop me if you've heard that one before. Too late, I'm done! C+

STRANGE ADVENTURES gives us Paul Pope's Flash Gordon-style take on Adam Strange, and it's flat out brilliant. Even though this alien invasion is yet again not the freshest plot out there, Pope is so good that he can tweak it and provide nuance and subtlety in just about every panel. I would subscribe to any newspaper that featured comics pages like this. A+

SUPERGIRL's rampaging super-cat and super-dog story is pure fluff, but the chief appeal is (as is so often the case) Amanda Connor's likable art, which elevates it by default. A-

Dan Didio scripts the METAL MEN installment, and it's like he was working from a script-o-matic program in this by-the-numbers account of a bank robbery thwarted by the robots. The bank guard illogically, of course, turns on them after they apprehend the criminal, and of course he grabs the kid that just happened to be close by that we got to meet in a panel or two. I mean, geez- has Didio even read any DC comics before he got his current job? I've read a ton of Metal Men stories since I was a preschooler, and except for the old Harris/Sekowsky short run at the end of the original series that had them as fugitives from justice, I have yet to recall seeing an instance of the Metal Men being feared and shunned by meatbags a la Marvel's mutants. Old pro Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and relative newcomer Kevin Nowlan impress with the former's dynamic layouts and figure drawings, and the latter's assured inks. Beginning to detect a trend here? B+

Ben Caldwell's WONDER WOMAN is just a mess, an explosion of chaotic, crowded layouts (honestly, did he get paid by the panel?) and loosey-goosey figure drawings, colored in mottled pinks, greens, and purples, definitely not helped by the newsprint it's printed on. Apparently, this is set early in Wondy's career, as she is threatened by weird dreams and vague menaces which of course will turn out to be a real threat later, bet on it. That's not a bad premise for a WW story, but the execution is haphazard, to say the least. C

SGT. ROCK's main attraction is the art, by the great Joe Kubert. Otherwise, it's pretty much a standard issue DC war story, the sort that you could pick up on any given week for about 30 years back in the day when DC still did war comics. Not that that's a bad thing. B+

IRIS WEST/THE FLASH takes another standard-issue early-60's type plot, dresses it up in dynamic, modern-style art, and while it's certainly not bad it's just not all that good either. It's just there. C+

CATWOMAN/THE DEMON takes a pretty good idea- Selina steals an artifact from Jason Blood- and runs with it, soon finding herself (unsurprisingly) in trouble of the supernatural sort. Very good so far, again unsurprising given that it's Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze bringing it to us. A

HAWKMAN so far is a showcase for Kyle Baker, and he makes the most of it- he's flexing muscles here he hasn't flexed in some time now, well since The Truth anyway. Hawky defies the laws of physics as he breaks into a in-flight jet plane, seeking to apprehend what appears to be terrorists on board, but as so often is the case, they're more than they appear to be! A fun return to the kinda savage old Fox/Kubert days, bad science and all. A-

And that's a quick and dirty look at Wednesday Comics as of issue #3. Honestly, I've been harsh on the scripts, and not so much on the art, and that's probably not fair. Most of the stories are still getting their legs under them, and the art has been outstanding from the get-go. Maybe they'll transcend their mostly derivative and uninspired beginnings. I hope so. I don't know what DC really hopes to accomplish with this experiment, and I really doubt they'll accomplish it anyway...but if they set out to give us a super-size art showcase that appeals mostly to presumably discerning comics geeks, then mission accomplished. As an intro for the uninitiated to the Amazing World of DC Comics as they now exist, well, let's just say that these uninitiated are in for a bit of a surprise.

No comments: