Columnist/reviewer Timothy Callahan and reviewer/CSBG blogger Chad Nevett formerly discussed comics every week in a column called "The Splash Page" for the now-temporarily-inoperative Sequart.org website. To celebrate the twelve weeks of "Wednesday Comics," they're bringing their signature comic book chit-chat style to COMIC BOOK RESOURCES. Join them each week as they discuss the unfolding drama of DC's experiment in oversized weekly comics.
This week: "Wednesday Comics" #6 -- the best issue yet!
Chad Nevett: Halfway through the book and we're back to just Tim and myself this week. Now, I reviewed this issue earlier this week on CBR, so why not begin there, Tim. Did you agree with my assessment of #6?
Timothy Callahan: I do. You say, "the quality remains high, if not higher than when it began," and that's exactly how I felt when I read issue #6. After being a little bit grumpy last week about the overall lack of imagination in many of the strips, I read this issue with a grin on my face. That might tell you how shallow I really am, because all it really took to make me love this issue was some explosions, a little bit of Aquaman, and a giant chemical monster tearing the roof off the sucka.
For all my talk about sophisticated narrative and experimentation, all I want to see is BIG, DRAMATIC EVENTS I guess. Especially in "Wednesday Comics," when size does indeed matter.
And how about that "Flash" strip? I never even considered that Kerschl and the gang might veer away from the "Iris West" half of the page and throw some "Gorilla Grodd" images at us, and what a genius move that was! I so narrowly assumed that the "Flash"/"Iris West" combo would continue for all twelve issues, and I'm glad that these guys had the imagination to mix it up, and to do it with an art and writing style that's completely different than what they've done on the other strips so far. Bravo to them.
But "Strange Adventures" was great this week too, with Paul Pope throwing a complete twist onto the Adam Strange character by showing that he's actually a grizzled old explorer on Earth. He's not a blonde hunk of a Silver Age man when he's on his home planet, and Pope throws in some metaphysical questions about who is the real Adam Strange -- the aging explorer or the space action hero? That's a twist I didn't expect either.
And, seriously, Chemo? That's really all I needed to make "Metal Men" something I want to read. I am that simple.
CN: Absolutely. I don't know when during my reading of this week's issue that it hit me, but I realized that nearly every strip really brought its A-game this week. As I said in my review, it's like everyone realized that this would be an issue that the online world would focus on to judge the project and everyone rose to the occasion. Now, there continue to be a couple of clunkers, but even they seemed a little better this week. The general level of quality rose across the board in a way that makes me think that Mark Chiarello may have purposefully told people to keep this week in mind. It can't be a coincidence... can it?
Or, maybe, the pages have begun adding up and we're just growing accustomed to the plots. I was listening to the latest "Wait, What?" podcast by Jeff Lester and Graeme McMillan from the Savage Critics as they discussed the series and Jeff talked about saving up issues because he could tell certain strips would work best read in chunks. Is that an influence here? Is it that strips that we previously found mediocre aren't better, we're just used to them? One strip we've been unafraid to throw in that category is "Demon/Catwoman," but this week, I was strangely engaged with that strip -- but the quality doesn't seem all that different, so it must be that I've read five pages previously and the plot is finally kicking into gear after the build-up. Some strips obviously went the extra mile to be better this week, but is our enjoyment based exclusively on this week or have the number of pages for each story finally begun aiding them?
TC: Here's how I think it works. It's not that Chiarello prepped the gang for a big Week Six push, and it's not that we've reached a critical mass of previous pages and thus more engaged than ever. It's that this issue has a rhythm to it that was missing from the previous issues, and the rhythm goes like this...if you can imagine the average reader (i.e. us) flipping through this sucker page by page: "Batman," window-kick, smash, Baam! Yes! "Kamandi," escape-kick, pow, Fire! Awesome! "Superman," BOOM! Finally! "Deadman," snap, crack, pop! Mystery! "Green Lantern," okay, still kind of lame, but it looks pretty and we're riding high after the sound effects of the first four strips. "Metamorpho," snakes! Ladders! Snakes AND Ladders! Plus, Latin! Back on track. "Teen Titans," let's be honest, we all read that so quickly at this point that it doesn't even slow us down anymore. "Strange Adventures," facial hair! Machu Picchu! Zen! "Supergirl," Aquaman! Clam Phone! "Metal Men," CHEMO! "Wonder Woman," Etta Candy! Vertical reading fun! "Sgt. Rock," rescue, and, as with "Teen Titans," such a fast read that it can't slow us down. "Flash" and "Gorilla Grodd!" Zany!
So by this point, we're primed for "Demon and Catwoman," not because of previous issues, but because this issue has been so much fun up until that point, and even a decent installment of the Simonson/Stelfreeze strip works because of our newly cheerful temperament. And then Kyle Baker ends it all with a big "Ka-Boom!"
It really is all about the sound effects and the rhythm of the strips. This was what we needed back in issue #3, and we're finally getting it nearly across the board.
And how much of a relief was it to see those dorky aliens blast the Kent family home and give us something to look at besides sad sack Superman?
CN: Yeah, but you just know that he's going to talk about how blowing up the house hurt his feelings next week...
In all seriousness, I hadn't considered the points you've made and I think you're right. This issue was more brisk, full of more excitement, and had me just excited about the issue in a way that I hadn't been since the first week. Regular readers of the column know that you and I have never wavered in our support and enthusiasm for this comic, so they'll know how big a compliment that is. I mean, this issue has the best Aquaman I've ever seen. I'm willing to say that without any qualifier -- Aquaman as the workaholic, kind of a dick executive that you hate. Brilliant! Pure brilliance. And, the economy of how Supergirl is used is also excellent. There's even a big action moment with the whale leaving and splashing everyone.
And how about Ben Caldwell switching to a vertical page layout? I think that made the strip work better and works better with the small panels. Moving down the long page is a much more fluid way of reading this style of strip and I'm wondering what took him so long to come up with this. The cameo from Etta Candy was nice, but that simple format change somehow made this week's strip more readable. Anyone who's been skipping over it should check it out this week and give it another shot.
TC: It is more readable, and its because it divides the strip into digestible chunks. I don't necessarily prefer this layout, but it makes it more pleasant. Caldwell's earlier layouts were ambitious as hell, though, and I love that about them. (Even though I had a hard time staying focused as I read the previous installments. But who doesn't love a challenge? I mean, besides cowards?)
If Superman whines about the house, I'm officially done with that strip. It will go in the let's-just-skim-it-and-move-on "Teen Titans" category.
Speaking of "Teen Titans," though -- and we all realize the Jaime Reyes Spanish was more than a bit much, a kind of Bumblebee Man non-parody -- when I gave the first three issues of "Wednesday Comics" to an artist friend of mine, he immediately commented upon how much he loved the "Teen Titans" art. Yes, I did buy an extra copy of each issue of "Wednesday Comics" just to spread the love, and yes he did compliment Sean Galloway's art. I like Sean Galloway's art in other contexts, but I don't think it looks good at all next to the other stuff in "Wednesday Comics," and the coloring is far too drab for the inking style. It needs to glow. And instead, it just fades away.
But an artist who has otherwise impeccable taste finds the Galloway art to be wonderful, so maybe I'm not giving it a chance because the story's been so insipid. What do you think?
CN: I agree with you (and our readers are shocked at that admission) and your complaint is a similar problem I had and continue to have with Caldwell's art. In both strips, the coloring fades away and they lack the visual oomph they would otherwise have. The Caldwell problem improved a week or two back when the printing was corrected/changed, but it still doesn't jump off the page the way it's obviously meant to. As for Galloway, I think his style and work is good for some. It's not to my taste and I honestly don't think it would stand up next to this crop of artists in almost any context let alone one that handicaps it by printing concerns and format issues. And, of course, a horribly lackluster story that can't help but drag the art down. Galloway brings a different flavor to the book no doubt -- but does that help the book in any way? It seems like adjustments were made to help Caldwell that haven't been made to help Galloway yet. I will say that his storytelling has improved over the weeks, but not by much. That's a big area where Galloway comes up short compared to every other artist working on "Wednesday Comics." He is, by far, the worst storyteller, preferring odd poses and background-less panels that look amateurish sandwiched between Mike Allred and Paul Pope, two guys that pack their pages with details. I don't know why your artist friend likes his work here, because I really don't.
TC: He simply must be wrong. That's the only possible answer. Because it's not like we're wrong. That would be ridiculous.
Okay, we didn't get to go very deeply into any particular strip this week -- though we keep circling back to why we don't like "Teen Titans" -- and yet we need to wrap this up anyway. Life calls, comics need to be read, and I need to hop a plane to the big city. So let's do our Top 5 and leave the rest of the talking points for next week.
Top 5 for "Wednesday Comics," issue #6:
1. The Flash
3. Strange Adventures
5. Metal Men
Special thanks to Chemo, for giving "Metal Men" the boost it needed to go from our critical drubbing last week to a surprise Top 5 finish!
CN: Have fun, sir. My Top 5:
2. The Flash
3. Strange Adventures
TC: All right, "Wednesday Comics," let's keep this awesomeness going!
Timothy Callahan writes "When Words Collide" for CBR each Monday, reviews comics each and every week, and maintains the Geniusboy Firemelon blog while he's supposed to be working on further book projects. He also knows that the images in this week's column don't much relate to the discussion, but he's in San Diego right now, and he can't hear your complaints from all the way over there.
Chad Nevett writes his "Random Thoughts" and "Reread Reviews" for COMICS SHOULD BE GOOD, reviews as many comics as Tim, and contributes to the GraphiContent blog while not reading Joe Casey or Jim Starlin comics.