Oct 15, 2017

Ranking the Wednesday Comics

So a while back, my girlfriend gave me this for a special occasion.

Originally published in 2010, Wednesday Comics was a true DC Comics art project and was the brainchild of Mark Chiarello. Attempting to recapture the magic of early 20th century newspaper comics such as Little Nemo in Slumberland and Krazy Kat, it was published in newspaper format and came out weekly. This hardcover edition is oversized and on glossy paper, and is gorgeous.

There are 14 features in Wednesday Comics, and while many reviews of the material have come out since, I haven't really run into any reviews that have ranked these 14 features. So you know what? Let's spend the next few minutes...

Ranking the Wednesday Comics
by Duy

There are only 12 pages in each Wednesday Comics feature, and thus not a lot of room for exploration in terms of plot or story. There's a lot to be done in terms of characterization though. But at the end of the day, this is still a book that celebrates the art of comics, and so my judgments will by its very nature be based on how much each story maximizes the artistic potential of these oversized pages.

15. Teen Titans by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway

Even if Galloway's art worked for me without the usual black outlines, Teen Titans would be dead last because Eddie Berganza is Eddie Berganza and he shouldn't make any list.

But props to Galloway, who worked on Spectacular Spider-Man, still the best version of Spider-Man outside of the comics.

14. Batman by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

This mystery by the 100 Bullets team never really comes together, especially when you consider that Batman's probably unethical attraction to dangerous women is played upon and never addressed head on. Still, good mood-setting stuff from Risso.

13. Demon/Catwoman by Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze

This should really be called "The Demon, featuring Catwoman," since Selina Kyle spends most of the story under the spell of Morgaine Le Fay. Etrigan the Demon is really the hero here, but what I find most fun about it is that the entire story starts off with Selina going on a date with his alter ego Jason Blood, just to case his house for possible things to steal.

12. Green Lantern by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones

Serviceable story with fun art. Nothing to really write home about, I think, but it's pretty much the benchmark of what these things should be like, at the least.

11. Superman by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo

The Superman arc is a fun one where Superman is forced to doubt himself and he has to go to Smallville to find his motivation again.

Points off for this, and I know it's personal preference, because Lee Bermejo's art just isn't the kind I think of when I think of these big newspaper-style comics. There's room for experimentation, of course, but something about it just didn't seem to fit.

10. Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell

Talk about experimentation in Wednesday Comics, and this is it. Caldwell goes the exact opposite route of most everyone else and packs as many panels as possible in his strip, instead of going for money shots. Unfortunately, this led to some confusing panel flow and made it tough to read at points.

9. Supergirl by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner

With Streaky the Supercat and Krypto the Superdog going frantic and wreaking havoc on the city, Supergirl has to find out what's going on. With a twist ending that will put a smile on your face, it's easily the most fun of the strips.

8. Deadman by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck

Deadman wants to help out a beautiful woman, and then gets sucked into Hell! Dave Bullock's art is a visual treat.

7. The Flash by Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher

Kerschl and Fletcher really play with the form here and for the most part cut each installment into two strips: The Flash and someone else, like Iris West. Narratives intertwine, and the story involves time travel and therefore multiple versions of The Flash. It can get confusing, but the playfulness is worth it.

6. Sgt. Rock by Adam Kubert and Joe Kubert

This Sgt. Rock story isn't as good as Joe Kubert's in DC Legacies, but it's Adam's first turn scripting, so we'll let that part off the hook. This is one of Joe's last works, and it's as good as ever. The scratchiness and the mood are perfect for wartime-era comics. Just like Kubert's art always was.

5. Metal Men by Dan Didio and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

My favorite artist in the entire book is Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, so this was always gonna rank fairly high. The story is nothing really to write home about, with its most ostensibly impactful moments lacking much oomph. But the art has Garcia-Lopez at his draftsman's best, with his big trick of characters breaking out of panels to emphasize power and momentum being used multiple times. I actually thought he was holding back. I'd like to have seen more.

4. Metamorpho by Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred

This type of fun sci-fi stuff isn't the kind of thing Gaiman is known for, but it's one of the most experimental comics in the entire collection. Metamorpho the Element Man has to go to The Antarctic to dig up some treasure. Allred's art is drop-dead gorgeous, and the two of them take risks with the form. There are two pairs of installments that form a polyptych, or a continuing picture, which is something I'm surprised I've never seen actual newspaper artists do. There's also a sequence where Metamorpho and Element Woman go through each element in the Periodic Table, which doesn't sound like it should be a fun read, but it is.

3. Strange Adventures, Featuring Adam Strange, by Paul Pope and Jose Villarubia

Not counting Jonni Future, a genderbent analogue of Adam Strange, this is my favorite version of DC's premiere spaceman. Paul Pope's art really shouldn't grab me as it goes against so many of my usual tastes, but I love it. He has so much quirkiness and so much momentum that it's a pleasure to look at.

His reinvention of Adam Strange is also something of interest. Traditionally, Adam Strange is an Earthman who gets taken to the scientifically advanced planet Rann via a Zeta Beam, where he becomes their superhero and falls in love with Princess Alanna. Pope turns Rann, into a wartorn planet, and Alanna into a Dejah Thoris–type warrior woman. But the biggest change he makes is the idea that the Zeta Beam translates you from your Earth self into your Rann self. So whereas in the regular DC Universe, Adam Strange is a superhero on Rann but normal on Earth only because he's surrounded by other superheroes on Earth, in the Popeverse, he's a superhero on Rann and a tired old man on Earth. This twist leads to the resolution of the conflict, but also raises questions. What would Alanna be like on Earth? And if they were on Earth, would they still be in love?

It's a really interesting take on the character that may not be sustainable in the regular DC Universe, but I'd love to see it explored more.

2. Hawkman by Kyle Baker

Kyle Baker is more known for being a humor cartoonist, so seeing him draw this way was a revelation. I've always liked the look and visual of Hawkman, so this was perfect. I really would like a more substantial Hawkman run from Baker or an artist with a similar tone. Plus, he really won me over with that dinosaur.

1. Kamandi by Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook

Pretty much all of the Wednesday Comics are well drawn, but Ryan Sook's rendition of the Last Boy on Earth is evocative of a specific classic newspaper strip: Hal Foster's Prince Valiant. The prose style also allows him and Gibbons to develop the story more than the other strips did. It even includes a romance, as we're introduced to Orora, possibly The Last Girl on Earth. With the beautiful art, the callback to a classic strip, and more development than the other strips, it's hard not to make Kamandi the top Wednesday Comic.

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