Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Follows Wednesday #7

Wednesday Comics #7 – Overall rating: 4 ½ whiskers.

Wow, #7 already. This’ll be done before we know it – but in a good way.

Going to try something a bit different here in the second half. Going to read it while holding it, like a newspaper, instead of laid out flat. Will that make a difference? Will “Teen Titans” suddenly become my favorite WEDNESDAY COMICS strip? Let’s find out together, shall we?

Oh, and btw: I find I’m referencing past issues more now than I have before. Oh sure, that’s most likely that my memory’s shot to hell but I like to think its because I’m enjoying the reads so much that I want to get the whole picture…or it could just be that my memory’s shot to hell.

Anyway – turbines to power, batteries to speed, the Caped Crusader’s up first!

BATMAN5 whiskers. Batman interrogates a suspect while his real prey becomes Number One with a bullet. This week’s strip has everything: Plot development, characterization, intrigue, mood, and of course…eye injury. Where’s Wertham when we need him??? Regardless, look for Batman at his best – threatening a goon for information – and fantastic coloring job that segues from a cool night high over Gotham to the hot streets below. Just follow the falling cig – and make those damn dogs stop staring at me!

KAMANDI5 whiskers. Kamandi, Dr. Canus and the human girl come upon a scene of great horror. Loved that opening panel of post-apocalyptical grandeur, which then moves us to a more intimate scene of our heroes attempting to communicate with the girl. Each character present is full of personality, which is a tribute to Gibbons’ writing and Sook’s art. After lingering on a beautiful portrait of the girl we’re then brought to a true view of devastation and Sook once again pulls out a few nice touches, such as the wailing tiger, kneeling over their dead comrade. Moving stuff, wonderful strip, as always. I’m sad to leave it and move on…

SUPERMAN5 whiskers. The Man of Steel’s beaten within an inch of his life but he can only think of his loved ones. Listen, you’re going to think I’m crazy by giving this week’s “Superman” a perfect clipping but hear me out: The story’s moving ahead and there’s a definite sense of danger and trauma in action. The art’s lovely – you can FEEL those punches in your bones – and the characterization is pure Superman. Despite the heavy beating he’s only concerned for Ma and Pa. The mystery of the aliens expands, too. Why are they more powerful? And can they read his mind? I loved it. This is what the strip should’ve been all along.

DEADMAN5 whiskers. Deadman listens to the chilling story of the lost souls he’s discovered. Okay, this is getting weird. FOUR perfect ratings in a row? I must be insane – or really digging my WEDNESDAY COMICS. So, we learn the set-up behind Boston’s latest troubles and it’s perfectly bone-chilling. I’m reminded here a bit of “Poltergeist” when we’re told that there’s an unseen demon on “the other side” that holds souls in a grip of terror and from their final journey – always a terrifying thought. I’m glad for the wonderful layout of the page as it perfectly conveys everything it needs to in what amounts to a single, large image. I also dig Deadman’s cool, or what appears to be cool…now let’s see him kick some demon booty!

GREEN LANTERN5 whiskers. Green Lantern encounters his friend-turned-monster but learns he may get more than he’s bargained for. Okay, I’m insane, I guess, but dammit, this is good stuff. From Busiek’s terse but oh-so succinct opening caption he throws us into some honest-to-Oa GL ring-slingin’ action. It was everything I wanted. Hal’s creepy as he oozes through the wall – ala Alan Scott! – and blazes into the studio. Great characterization – he’s a man of action but wants innocents to be safe – and great art – Quinones’ take on GL’s power shields is simple and effective – and the cliffhanger wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in some sudoku is exciting. Kudos all around. This really deserves those clippings, folks.

METAMORPHO5 whiskers. The expedition gets down and dirty and runs into an old adversary. This is getting weird. Really, really, REALLY weird. Six strips, all with perfect clippings. BUT THEY WARRANT IT! My gosh, I laughed out loud at this week’s “Metamorpho”! The humor – “They had antimatter beams in Atlantis? Who knew?” “Java. He knew. That is me.” I mean, who knew that Gaiman had such a knack for clever quips? Pile that on top of a rapidly moving plot and the full intro to a dastardly evil Element Man and in the words of one of my readers, “Gaiman’s channeling his inner Haney.” And we reap the benefits. This is definitely now one of my most favorite strips. Bravo! Now, anybody able to translate Latin?

TEEN TITANS3 whiskers. The Titans dope out the situation and fly off to save a friend. You knew it had to end at some point, didn’t you? Yeah, and what better place to end the five whiskers streak than with “Teen Titans”? Okay, it DID rate its highest ever score yet and here’s why: It explained itself. The reader gets a better idea of who these characters are and what they’re up against and a sense of being a team is definitely imparted. I liked Robin’s inner dialogue and it was cool to see Superman and Batman. What I didn’t grok is the strange nod to current continuity concerning Dr. Light – seems out of place in this “kiddie” strip – and the somewhat annoying on-again-off-again use of contractions. Either Robin uses them or he doesn’t. Sounds weird when he doesn’t; too formal, too stiff. Awkward. Starfire can get away with it, though – but she should really stop ending sentences with a preposition. Regardless, a step up from previous weeks but it still harshed my perfect rating mellow.

STRANGE ADVENTURES4 ½ whiskers. Adam dreams of Fate and some of his prayers are answered. Okay, this strip just took a left turn into looney land – but WHAT a turn. Dr. Fate, fellow JSA fans. Dr. freakin’ Fate! Who would have seen Dr. Fate visiting? That’s truly inspired, especially the great observation that they’re both archaeologists, but as cool and wonderful as the dream sequence is it’s screwed by that garish red coloring job, in my opinion. Pope’s still firing on all cylinders in what’s happening but in an urge to impart and other-worldly feeling in the art he obscures his JSA visitor and lessens his impact. Again, it’s a wonderfully wonky wrinkle in the story and I dig it the most but man is this strip hard to look at. Oh, well. Adam’s got what he needs to ride the Zeta beam and that’s all that matters. Stranger days ahead!

SUPERGIRL3 ½ whiskers. Aquaman reads Supergirl the riot act. You know, this strip’s come a long way since its beginning seven weeks ago. Look at how dense it this week with panels and exposition. That’s a good thing, I think, if it actually advances the story. This installment – ehhh, not so much. It’s cute, in a way, and it’s lovingly drawn and the dialogue’s crisp but I think it’s inherently flawed. This is pretty unfair treatment of Aquaman, everybody’s doormat, and what I hoped last week was just a funny intro to him turns into an almost relentless jerk portrayal. Then, Supergirl’s status as a, well, blonde, is played up, also at the character’s expense. I’m intrigued by what’s wrong with Streaky and Krypto but the humor can fall flat when the characters are subject to put-downs. It’s a shame, ‘cause it’s drawn to humorous perfection and Palmiotti and Conner’s hearts are in the right place – but a mean-spirited core is starting to show. Prove me wrong, guys. Please.

METAL MEN5 whiskers. The Metal Men meet Chemo and find out the hard way just how corrosive he is. Here’s what I like about this week’s strip: it takes the conventions of comics – heroics, villainy, bravado in the face of danger, action and pathos – and rolls it all out with obvious love for the material. One can tell DiDio and Garcia-Lopez LOVE these characters. There’s no ground-breaking story here, no medium-busting message, just simple, straightforward comic book adventure. I find it interesting to compare this strip with Berganza’s “Teen Titans,” both by editors yet seemingly irreconcilable with each other in their construction and deployment. We know who the Metal Men are, we know their situation and we now know who the villains are and what they’re capable of. It’s not a lot to ask for, but “Metal Men” provides it in a deceptively-simple fashion. More, more.

WONDER WOMAN3 whiskers. Diana flies in the face of her adversary, the Cheetah, and makes a play for the Sword. Oops, something just happened here that caught me off guard: Caldwell intrigued me. Suddenly, and this could be just me, things got a mite interesting. I felt as if there was a clear definition of the enemy this week and of the battle. I felt as if Etta shown through as a viable character, and a funny one to boot. In fact, the humor this week was nice, and I actually smiled in a few places. Overall, its still a jumble of graphics that doesn’t lend itself to clarity of storytelling and how Diana got herself into this situation is unclear, but I’ll give Caldwell props for the coloring this week – and this line: “Oblivion is the fate of all those who stand on the wrong side of history…” That’s a lovely line. Made me stop and ponder it. Okay, let’s see where we go from here, then. Baby steps.

SGT. ROCK AND EASY CO.4 ½ whiskers. Rock’s free and Easy Co. plays a game of “Hot Potato.” This may be, for me, the most interesting installment of the strip – as late as it’s appearing. Rock is actually Rock now and not a punching bag. The ease with which he slips into command mode is comforting to see. One wants to trust Gustav but when one considers the situation, said trust is difficult to scrape together. The knife goes into Rock’s hand but it could just as easily slide between his ribs. And the potato bit with Easy Co. was great. In five easy panels the horrors of war are clearly illustrated – everything may possibly be an attack. In the rain a potato becomes a grenade and your life flashes before your eyes. This strip’s taking some heat for moving so slowly – and I’ve laid on some of that heat myself – but if you spend a little bit of time with this week’s page I think you’ll be rewarded with a particular genius at play.

FLASH COMICS4 whiskers. Everything explodes in Flash’s face and Barry follows his nose. Cool stuff this week. A juxtaposition of both strips, Barry’s and Iris’, and it creates a weird confluence of intense Super hero science fiction and Stephen King romance. And that’s only scraping the surface here. Fletcher’s art has never looked better and if there’s an award somewhere for drawing evil monkey waiters than he needs to get at least two or three of them. Brrr. The story’s in overdrive now and though Kerschl’s still skirting losing us all in wackiness he knows how to entertain us, too. I was worried that Iris’ story would be buried in the all the dimensional gewgaws but she’s keeping her head above water admirably. Oh, and nice nod to the Flash TV series, guys!

THE DEMON AND CATWOMAN5 whiskers. Morgaine gets the better of Etrigan but Selina regains her true form. Good, great, wonderful! Everything’s heating up nicely here and I’m loving every frame of it this week. Morgaine’s deliciously evil in her wicked and salacious ways – rrowrrr! – and I really felt bad for poor Jason. But as he descends into his troubles Selina’s on the rise and – watch out, Morgaine! Wow! Simonson and Stelfreeze put the Cat back in the scene and make one eager for the next installment. That’s a good feeling. A little scary, a little sexy; its all good.

HAWKMAN3 ½ whiskers. Hawkman gets all Jurassic. See, I’ve got a problem – I’m in a love/hate relationship with this strip. On one hand, Baker’s got the feeling down pat here, all nice and rugged and manly. Hawkman as he should be. And I totally dig Dinosaur Island. That’s just cool. But on the other hand the coloring is getting way out of hand and actually made it difficult to enjoy this otherwise-enjoyable installment. Why does it look like everything’s being bathed in the light from a nuclear blast? I feel like I’m looking at a negative image or something…and the heavy use, again, of CGI doesn’t help. Hawkman himself still looks great but why the jokey giant glasses on the realistically drawn little girl? I mean, why go for caricature in the midst of computer-generated bits of reality? Maybe I’m just not understanding something here, but I’ll just hope that the ultimate coolness of Hawkman on Dinosaur Island outshines the art problems.

Wow. Eight strips out of fifteen with perfect ratings this week means the highest overall whiskers a single issue of WEDNESDAY COMICS hasn’t gotten from me yet. Congrats, DC! Keep ‘em flying!

Mr. Wednesday Wanty – wants to thank everyone who chimed in on their picks for strips in a possible sequel to this project – which leads him to his Big Want: more WEDNESDAY COMICS!!!


Robert R. said...

I thought having Dr. Fate on a dream quest was an inspired touch on Paul Pope's part. Really harks backs to the H.P. Lovecraft influence on the character.

Jim Beard said...

Oh, I'm right there with you on that one, Robert, which is why it was doubly frustrating for me to see him all but obscured by that coloring.

Interesting that it seems to be Kent Nelson but in Hector Hall's costume. I wonder if Pope knows - or cares - about the differences?

Bgztl a/k/a Jack Holt said...

Once again, I do think you're underestimating Wonder Woman. (see my comments to # 6)

But I agree about the use of Dr. fAte. I think the inclusions of the original Dr. Fate was brilliant and indicative of Paul Pope's understanding of Adam Strange as an explorer.

Note that Dr. Fate states very clearly that he is an archaeologist like Adam Strange -- an explorer of other cultures - **other** worlds!! I think both the Hector Hall and Kent Nelson versions of Doctor Fate epitomized this approach. They looked outward at the larger world, not inward at the inner life of human beings. In that exploration they found wonder, horror, and triumph -- among other things --like Adam Strange.

And perhaps like every explorer.

I've often said that if Doctor Fate had been revived in the Silver Age as an active title by Julius Schwartz like Flash, Hawkman, or Green Lantern, he might look very much like an earthbound Adam Strange. And apparently I wasn't the only guy to think so!!

To me, Pope is drawing a contrast with the comics' approach of Steve Gerber (who did a brilliant psycho-analytical version of Doctor Fate) and other comics writers who write about the internal life of characters. Pope's version of Adam Strange is like John Carter and Conan the Barbarian. Larger than Life.

Bgztl a/k/a Jack Holt said...

My comments on Wonder Woman in general:

Hey Jim.

Nice reviews.

I've enjoyed your comments but I think you are a litttle harsh on Wonder Woman.

It's an obvious homage to Little Nemo so the panels move much like those of the Little Nemo in Slumberland series. It's different from comics books I grant you, but it's almost like reading ina dialect. You have to try to adapt. Once you do, like with Twain's Huck Finn, the story can be very rewarding.

I've enjoyed how the strip has disconnected WW from her world War II origin almost entirely but somehow salvaged the mythical elements of her story. The quest for seven Amazonian objects in her dreams (which manifest themselves in physical form) is an interesting and innovative approach to Wonder Woman.

Have you noticed that Steve Trevor and the "world of men" is nowhere in sight?? Not even George Perez's re-vamp has been so daring. Marston had an pro-women agenda but was still recounting an essentially paternalistic -- or is that sadistic -- philosophy for what women are in society. Perez was more balanced and worked in a lot of ancient mythology, but Wonder Woman was still balnacing herself against "Man's World". Here, Diana is the savior of the entire human race.

Nice change of pace.

A second thing I've noticed is that deconstructed storylines bother me much less in this format. I wonder why?


Jim Beard said...

Hey, Jack. Thanks muchly for the comments. They're certainly appreciated.

I don't feel I'm being too harsh on WW; I feel I'm being critical, which I believe is different.

I get the supposed homage to Little Nemo but cannot agree that it works as such. A much better Nemo loveletter can be found, I believe, in the LITTLE LIT "IT WAS A DARK AND SILLY NIGHT..." collection by William Joyce. Easy and fun to follow, unlike Caldwell's WW.

I guess in the end that I personally aren't looking for "daring" - I'd be happy with a WW project I can simply enjoy. I've said it before but I think Caldwell's version would have been served well by being its own graphic novel of special Elseworlds miniseries - among all the other iconic version of established DC characters in WC, it sticks out, and not in a good way to me. Of course "daring" is not a bad thing, per se, but I wish I could find a "reg'lar" WW to savor.


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