Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday Follows Wednesday #5

Wednesday Comics #5 – Overall rating: 4 whiskers.

Hi, everybody. Thanks for checking in and or checking again with my weekly WEDNESDAY COMICS review. I appreciate it more than you can know. One quick thing before we start.

I’m still not quite getting this whole “I’m not paying 4 bucks for a newspaper!” argument. I’ve said I get the whole money-is-tight thing but past that there’s a connotation here that WEDNESDAY COMICS is as temporary and transient as a real newspaper. To that I say: really? Would I pay 4 bucks for USA TODAY? Nope. THE NEW YORK TIMES? Nope. TOLEDO BLADE? You’d have to pay ME. What I’d pay 4 bucks for is a keeper – a publication with 15 different stories by some of the top names and talents in comics and meant to be a lasting testament to the power and concept of a great tradition, namely Sunday Comics. Which just happens to be printed on newsprint. THAT’S what I’ll be paying 4 bucks for – and I do.

I give that argument only 1 whisker. Pretty weak and – dare I say it? – cheap as newsprint.

Back to the Reviewcave!

BATMAN4 ½ whiskers. Deep in the bowels of the earth Batman ponders the problem and Alfred offers opinions. With moody coloring that fits the submerged grotto of Batman’s deep thoughts Azzarello opines on Bruce’s thought patterns and psychological problems – which he passes to Alfred for the zinger. Alfred zingers, when done right, can be worth all the gold in a pimp’s choppers. Taking a bit off here ‘cause it doesn’t do much to advance the story, though it does open the door a bit on the detective.

KAMANDI5 whiskers. Gorillas galore as Kamandi struggles supremely against a tide of tufted titans. It’s the mark of a good DC artist to draw monkeys marvelously and Ryan Sook proves his mettle on that score this week. And again this strip clocks in with a perfect score. Do you blame me? Interesting plot and dialogue. Check. Fantastic art. Check. Understanding of the medium and project. Check. THIS is the strip that should have gone out to the world, not “Superman.” This is the strip that “gets it.” Lay them stinkin’ paws on me, oh Baaku! I don’t ever want to get free from “Kamandi”!

SUPERMAN3 ½ whiskers. Kal flashes back to his life on Krypton and its untimely demise. Here’s what I’m trying to do this week – I’m trying to put myself in the mind of Arcudi and ask myself what I’m attempting with this strip. I’m asking because, frankly, it seems to be just a tour of Superman’s world and really, nothing much else. Is it because this is the strip that’s in USA TODAY, the one being shown to “normal” people? Are there some editorial parameters because of that? I think it looks great this week, no problems there; this is a beautiful Krypton. But for those of us who already know the character, and that’s pretty much everyone, eh? We might like a little, y’know, ACTION. There was a kind of promise made in Week 1 – let’s see that promise kept. Let’s see what the Man of Steel can DO, not what he CAN’T do.

DEADMAN3 ½ whiskers. Deadman tries to take matters into his own hands but he has a devil of a time with backstabbers. There’s something kind of interesting going on here if you think about it: Deadman, who’s dead, goes to a place where he’s alive and must fight as someone who’s alive but is seemingly killed – and I’m guessing will be dead again. That makes me interested to know what happens next. I love the colors in this strip; they really make this sucker pop. Also dig Boston’s dialogue and thought processes. It slows down a bit this week at first but that last bloody burst of a panel makes up for it.

GREEN LANTERN3 whiskers. The difference between Hal Jordan and rival Joe Dillon is illustrated. Okay, what’s being said this week is important to laying the foundation and characterization of our leads and I applaud that – but – we’re almost halfway through the run of the strip and Green Lantern himself is again nowhere to be enjoyed. Maybe that’s impatience on my part, I acknowledge that, but again I’m also thinking of the potential of Busiek’s story to hook people onto GL and his ongoing adventures. At this point I’m saying, “Well, this is some interesting astronaut rivalry stuff,” but as an ode to a magic ring slinging hotdogin’ man-without-fear super-hero – it’s falling a bit flat. Art rocks as usual as does the dialogue. What book is that from?

METAMORPHO5 whiskers. Rex wanders into an insidious attack and shows everyone what he’s made of. Now this, this is a perfect installment. It’s got everything: progression of story, action, danger, characterization, humor and wee bit of duck a l’orange. Gaiman knocks it out of the long-lost temple by showing us exactly what Metamorpho can do and how he reacts to situations. Toss in his rival/friend Element Girl and Simon Stagg’s wonky way of exploring archaeological sites and you’ve got a recipe for success. “What is a human life balanced against a perfectly cooked omelette,” indeed!

TEEN TITANS1 ½ whiskers. The Titans watch a rescue attempt. I’m trying to find something in this strip to like. Maybe I’m trying too hard. I realize this week that one of my problems with it is that there is no single “voice” to it, as exemplified by the introduction here of one of the SMASH people’s narration. Last week it was the villain. And I still don’t know or care who anybody is. I’d like to know what makes these Titans a team, who they look up to and who they can’t stand. Why are they heroes? Why do they fight? What does this particular mission mean to them and to the world? Why is the dialogue so clumsy? And did Robin just cop a feel? Yikes.

STRANGE ADVENTURES4 whiskers. Alanna makes her way into the desert and ponders her next move without Adam. I get that this is the continuation or sequel to Alanna’s little adventure last week but I can foresee Pope falling into the same situation as “Green Lantern”: lack of hero. I really like what I’m being shown here, especially the guide to Rann’s flora, but I’m hoping Alanna’s words in the last panel set up Adam’s return engagement next week. Also, what’s with the psychedelic baseball at top, front and center? I’m guessing it represents the zeta beam energy or Adam himself but, it really just sticks out like a…psychedelic baseball. Not one of Pope’s better graphic decisions.

SUPERGIRL3 ½ whiskers. Streaky gets his mouse but Supergirl and Krypto end up with the whole ball of yarn. I’ve grown to like this strip but am I the only one who’s beginning to feel that a humor strip involving a passenger jet in mortal danger is a bit…disturbing? That got hammered home with this installment when I saw the inside of the plane and its creaming passengers and LITTLE KID IN TROUBLE. Maybe it’s not the wisest of choices for comedy these days. Otherwise, yeah, it’s still cute with nice little touches of wit and I’m still glad for any exposure for the Super Pets but at the end of the day the laughs kind of wear thin when you step back and observe the whole picture. Love the blasé look on Streaky’s face in the title panel, btw.

METAL MEN5 whiskers. The Metal watch in wonder as their creator faces his teacher. Love it. LOVE it. Somewhere Earnest Thesiger is looking down – or up! – and getting a chuckle out of this. Maybe even with a shot of gin, his only weakness. And Bela, too, God bless the old Count. DiDio rolls out an interesting new adversary but not exactly for the Metal Men: for their creator, Will Magnus. It’s a cool set-up here – Magnus has advanced robotics to nth degree but almost refuses his creations to function as they were built. Will’s teacher has a beef with him over intellectual properties and dismisses the Metal Men as “amusement park attractions.” Good stuff. Wait. “Experiments with toxic waste”? Could this be a lead-in to a Chemo appearance? Zowie! Point one percent of a whisker off for a really, really dumb title, Dan.

WONDER WOMAN1 ½ whiskers. Diana gains an item. I feel pretty much the same about the strip this week as I have the preceeding weeks. It just makes me tired to even look at it. Nice to see The Cheetah and the tiara show up. That's something I guess. Looks like she'll be gaining pieces of her famous outfit bit by bit through dreams or something. Sort of looked like she had the eagle breastplate this time too but the coloring was so impenetrable I wasn't sure.

SGT. ROCK AND EASY CO.3 whiskers. Rock looks death in the face and gets crowned instead. Well, I’m at an impasse this week, folks. The beautiful Kubert art grinds its wheels pushing up against the brick wall that the story’s become. Ive looked the other way for a four weeks but this isn’t really going places. Here’s what we know in five weeks: Rock is being interrogated by Nazis and Easy Co.’s on some kind of a mission. I like the set-up, I like art, I like the tension and I like the potential – but I don’t dig the anticipation anymore. Kuberts: bring me back home, pappy and puppy. Tell me more about why I should be getting my feet dirty slogging away next to Rock and the boys.

FLASH COMICS4 ½ whiskers. Grodd goes fishing for “the Big One” and Barry tosses away the golden ring. It’s a testament to Kerschl and Fletcher that they’re making this trip work the fine way it does. I mean, where else can you get apes drooling over quantum mechanics and the soapiest of soap operas all in one good-looking package? Their super-heroic instincts are good and their balancing it with the domestic troubles of costumed crimebusters makes for an enjoyable evening with the Allens. Hey, have you realized that “Wednesday Comics” has three strips with apes? That’s worth 4 bucks alone.

THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN4 ½ whiskers. Etrigan uncovers his enemy’s lair and bids her come forth! The grandeur of this strip just increased fourfold and its magic draws me in. And though Selina’s but a footnote this week I wonder at her place in the scheme of the story – what is special role will she play in the drama? She’s here in this tale for a reason. That’s the bit of intrigue that keeps me perky for this strip; that and the combo of Simonson’s sonorous speeches and Stelfreeze’s stunning stretches of sights. But, umm, guys? A bit too dark this time around; that third panel needs its moment to shine.

HAWKMAN4 whiskers. Hawkman lends wings to a wingless bird and pulls up with all his might. It’s quite interesting to weigh this installment against the “Supergirl” strip this week; two crashing jetplanes, two different moods. Action-wise I think Baker is firing on all cylinders – I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hawkman do something like that with his gear before. That was pretty cool. Art-wise I appreciate the lack of CGI but those dark, damp colors have got to go. I think it takes an edge off the tense situation. Regardless this strip made me get back up on my feet and holler again. Yeah!

Nice to be able to end on high-note this time. Of course, this next little gentleman could put a downer on things…

Mr. Wednesday Wanty – wants to know why, overall, “Wednesday Comics” is getting to be pretty gloomy with its coloring. Look at this edition; at least half its strips look like there’s suddenly a run on vibrantly colored inks. Maybe our dear old newspaper’s on the skids and the budget’s being slashed? Hold the presses! Send out for more color, DC!


Kurt Busiek said...

>> I’m also thinking of the potential of Busiek’s story to hook people onto GL and his ongoing adventures.>>

I'm not. "Let's make this a gateway story to get people to buy other comics" was never part of the WEDNESDAY COMICS assignment -- if it was, Kamandi and Metamorpho wouldn't even be in there. I figure DC's got enough promotion going on with GREEN LANTERN anyway; the WEDNESDAY COMICS strip doesn't need to be part of it.

Sorry that it evidently disappoints some readers. We're telling a character adventure rooted in the traditions of Sunday comis -- much like TERRY AND THE PIRATES wasn't wall-to-wall pirate fighting, ON STAGE wasn't wall-to-wall acting or STEVE CANYON didn't have hitting and piloting every week, it never struck me that a Sunday-comics Green Lantern story should be an action extravaganza. It's an adventure story, so there'll be action to it, but it's also a period piece and a character story, and I'm working with an artist who's freakin' fantastic at the period stuff with real people, so we built a story that would take advantage of those strengths.

>> Art rocks as usual as does the dialogue. What book is that from? >>

If you mean the story about the Texas Rangers, it's in many books -- it's an apocryphal tale attributed to Texas Ranger Bill McDonald. It didn't happen that way, but it was widely reported that way, and the "One riot, one Ranger" quote is immortalized on a statue of a Texas Ranger at one of Dallas's airports.


Jim Beard said...

Kurt, I appreciate your comments. Its my own hope that WC could act as an entry point for these characters and if I'm coming off as acting like DC said it, I regreat that. Pure and simple, there's not enough Green Lantern in costume and action for my tastes. I'm probably hoping in vain that "reg'lar" people somewhere will find WC and get into the characters. Yeah, silly, I know :)

The Little Woman loves this strip. She gives me the fisheye whenever I grouse about the lack of the green and black costume :) I'm glad to hear of the comparison to Caniff and Co. That helps a lot.

And thank you for the Texas Rangers explanation. Almost seemed like the Lone Ranger's story for a moment there.

I do like the strip overall. And have said so. You've effectively conveyed the period.


Kurt Busiek said...

>> Pure and simple, there's not enough Green Lantern in costume and action for my tastes.>>

Well, once we get back to the "present" next week, he'll be in the suit and on the go until partway through Chapter 12, so maybe you'll enjoy the strip more and your wife will get annoyed with it.

But you'll also get to see where all the set-up's leading, so I hope it works for both of you.


Jim Beard said...

I have all faith that it will.

I actually like that The Little Woman and I dig it for different reasons. She probably COULD do without GL ;) She's funny that way.

But we both love WEDNESDAY COMICS as a whole. That's been the best part. Something fun to share.

Thanks again, Kurt.


alxjhnsn said...

I just want to know why Mercury isn't red.

alxjhnsn said...

All I want to know is why Mercury isn't red.