What a fun book this is -- fifteen comics presented in broadsheet format with focused stories and brilliant art, told in twelve one-page installments. It was a great experiment and one that paid off. Wednesday Comics reminds us that most DC superheroes are inherently exciting, and if you showcase them with accessible stories and high-quality art, they can be enjoyed by virtually anyone.
There is no one way the comics within Wednesday Comics succeed. Some are serious; others are ironic. Some emulate a classic feel; others adopt modern techniques. Some are complicated; others are simple. Every storytelling style seems to be encompassed among these comics, but ultimately they all find focus on a single character or a tightly-knit team. In doing so, they demonstrate the means to aesthetic success in the medium. These should function as a reference for all comic creators.
The art is the most prominent aspect of this book. The broadsheet format allows the artists to draw large, elaborate pictures, and it also forces them to pay attention to the details of their work. Almost any story here could serve as an example of this artistic care, but the Superman section is one of the stand-out portions in this regard, presenting highly-detailed images with muted colors against a varying background tone that reflects the hero's state of mind. On the other end of the spectrum is “The Flash,” which makes use of bold lines and a brightly colored main character that stands out against a frequently dark background, often printed with clearly visible Ben-Day dots. Somewhere in-between lies “Strange Adventures,” which takes an updated approach to the style of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon with heavy use of Golden Age science fiction imagery. The most impressive aspect of all of this is the artists’ obvious devotion to the pictures on the page. Each story’s quality is upheld with a consistency unmatched by the majority of today’s comics. Readers will be hard-pressed to find a single panel that could be deemed uninspired.
This consistency is retained by the writers, who focus tightly enough on their characters that there is rarely a point at which the events on the page feel unimportant. This is true whether they are trying to recreate or parody the less-serious comics of old or to tell a story that is rewarding in its own right. Even Jimmy Palmiotti’s kid-oriented story of Supergirl chasing the Streaky/Krypto super-cat/cuper-dog duo around the globe (and, eventually, into space) manages to come across as heartfelt and genuinely funny. Others take a more sober route, as in Superman’s loss of his sense of belonging. Whether the writers are using this format to play with conventions of the past or to present a modern story in a new way, they all demonstrate the determination to tell the best stories they can. The variety in Wednesday Comics is as great as the collection’s quality.
One of the most memorable of the stories contained in Wednesday Comics is Neil Gaiman’s “Metamorpho: The Element Man,” a loving parody of Metamorpho and of classic sci-fi adventure tales in general. In it, Gaiman portrays Metamorpho’s boss’s daughter, Sapphire Stagg, as a jewel-hungry young woman and their Neanderthal servant, Java, as hopelessly desperate to fit in with society. The writer (unsurprisingly) breaks the walls of storytelling on almost every page, reaching the height of the comic when Metamorpho and Element Girl embark upon a two-page journey through the periodic table of elements – incorporating each element’s abbreviation into the dialogue. There is hardly a dull page in this collection.
Writer/artist Paul Pope rocks "Strange Adventures."
Other highlights include the pun-filled “Metal-Men,” the Planet of the Apes-inspired “Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth,” and a cowboy-heroics-laced “Green Lantern.” Ranging from nostalgic to playful, these comics always strive first to do what every comic should do: entertain. With each story’s unique combination of writing and art styles, they succeed.
The world of comics might be a better place if DC’s creators adopted these approaches more broadly to their stories. Too often they get caught up in trying to create events that are as big as they can imagine and that tie in to as many titles as possible. If their stories were smaller in both length and scope, they would be much more accessible, as they are here. Whether you’re looking for a something light-hearted, serious, funny, or exciting, Wednesday Comics has it. This has to be one of the most enjoyable collections of the year.