THE GOOD, THE GREEN, AND THE DINOSAURS
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" #7 -- the goodness continues!
Tim Callahan: Last week, we gushed about the greatness of "Wednesday Comics." After the initial honeymoon period, and then the vague disappointment of the unimaginative strips, we were delighted to see issue #6 explode with the onomatopoeia of excitement and the dickery of Aquaman.
But does issue #7 live up to this new standard of excellence or have we drifted back down to unimaginative territory? What say you?
Chad Nevett: I rather enjoyed this week's issue as it seemed to build on the imagination of last week's issue in many cases. Batman interrogates the criminal, Supergirl asks Aquaman for help, Adam Strange gets help in a dream finding his zeta beam map... A lot of the ideas that we liked last week get followed up on this week. I'm sure you liked Chemo melting that annoying Tin robot -- I know I did, because he's so damn annoying. I think the "Metal Men" strip is one of those rare instances where I hope the giant evil robot wins because I just don't like the heroes. Seeing Tin get hit with some chemicals is just what I needed. "Wonder Woman" continues to use the vertical layout, which I enjoyed a lot last week. And, "The Flash" took things a little further by having the two halves of the strip actually overlap with an extra tier of panels each, mixing things up once again. No, I would say that this was a great issue just like last week.
I'm not sure it follows along the same lines exactly in that one of things you enjoyed was the constant forward momentum and movement. This issue seemed a little slower in that regard, but that didn't bother me. "Metamorpho," for example, is very text heavy and full of panels, but that's refreshing after not having... well, much text or panels for many weeks. It's like last week introduced these cool ideas through visuals and action, and this week explores them in words a bit more -- which suits me just fine.
TC: I liked this issue a lot too, but I did something different this week, not for any good reason: I read it out of order! I know, it's shocking.
Maybe you've been reading the strips out of order the whole time, but I've been reading it from front-to-back from Week One, mostly because it seems like the optimal way to read it, with the strong "Batman" kicking things off and the even stronger "Hawkman" to anticipate at the end. But this week I skipped around, jumping from "Batman" to whatever caught my eye next -- which ended up being "The Flash" and then skipping back to "Metal Men" to see what kind of toxic hell Chemo unleashed, and then skipping over to "Strange Adventures" and then "Hawkman."
And how about that "Hawkman," eh? Dinosaur Island! Those two words immediately improve any comic strip. Come on, Eddie Berganza, let's get the Titans on that island, too! What are you waiting for?
But what do you think about the skipping around? After last week's constant forward momentum pace from story to story, do you think it matters how these stories are read -- in what order? Is there an optimal sequence to best appreciate these strips this week, and is it different from the sequence presented in the issue? Will these strips have different meanings if read in a different order? Do these questions matter at all?
CN: I always read the issue front-to-back. Partly because, as you said, that seems the way you're supposed to. A big reason why is because that's the order I'm used to reading them in. It's only been seven weeks, but my experience of "Wednesday Comics" is that where "Kamandi" comes after "Batman" and before "Superman," while "Supergirl" comes after "Strange Adventures" and before "Metal Men." When I finish a strip, I expect a specific strip right after. It's like a television line-up where you're used to watching the same four shows on a certain night in a specific order and it's always weird when the order is changed or one episode is a rerun... it doesn't feel right. I'm not sure reading the strips out of order would feel right for me -- I also think I'd be much more inclined to skip the strips that I don't enjoy as much, something I've been trying to not do.
That said, I don't think the order actually matters in each issue. The order that the strips are in right now was determined by the order they were placed in the first issue and may not reflect the 'best' order in which to read them in week seven. But, hey, this is the order I'm used to and I am a creature of routine, so I'm sticking by it.
Did you find that your skipping around produced a vastly different effect or was it really the same thing? Were you more inclined to avoid the bad strips, delaying them until the end?
TC: I think it made the lesser strips more tolerable. I didn't mind "Teen Titans" when I read it after all the good stuff -- maybe because I wasn't impatient to get to the quality and I could let it do what it wanted to do, or maybe because I'm finally getting used to the strip -- but I don't think it changed anything else. I'm interested to see how some of the strips read in sequence when they're finished -- will "Wonder Woman" make complete sense when all twelve installments are read in order, as I suspect it will? Will "Metamorpho" be better paced as a 12-parter when you can actually read 12 parts back-to-back? Yes, I would think so.
What about the highlights this week? "Strange Adventures" was wonderful, I thought, with one of my all-time favorite characters, Dr. Fate, pops into Adam Strange's dream. I love how Pope drew Fate's costume as a collection of ornate weirdness. Just fabulous looking stuff.
What did you love this week?
CN: The same strips I love every week. You're dead on with "Strange Aventures." I loved Dr. Fate mentioning that he's an archaeologist as well, giving the two characters a unique connection that's not exploited much. Supergirl assuming Aquaman can talk to any animals -- and how could she not when he can talk to seals, which are mammals? Really, what makes seals or whales that different from cats and dogs? I mean, they all fit into the order mammalia, which means they have more in common than whales and seals have with shrimp and tuna. Somehow, the simple fact that cats and dogs don't live in water is all that stops Aquaman from communicating with them makes me laugh. What a doofus. He's a total goof. Is it any wonder that people can't take him seriously? Wonderfully entertaining, though.
"Hawkman" left me a bit underwhelmed. This was a set-up strip and a bit of a filler, really just making sure next issue when we get to see what Dinosaur Island is like, we knew it was coming. It wasn't bad, but it was rather empty. The little girl chasing the tiny dino was cute.
Something I really liked was how Azzarello and Risso used a more vertical layout to divide their strip in two, giving us two different scenes, something which they hadn't done before. It works very well and shows that they're always trying new things in "Batman." It's like we got two pages of a comic story in one single page. And the visual storytelling there continues to be stellar. I think that this is the perfect lead-off strip -- and should have been the strip that got put in USA Today, not "Superman," which is still awful. What was DC thinking? I ask myself that every week. "Superman" isn't good enough to be in "Wednesday Comics" and it's the strip they use to appeal to a mass audience? Why not the noir-ish Batman strip that may appeal to everyone that saw "The Dark Knight"? Only a little off-topic in my own personal ranty zone...
TC: I'm fine with "Superman" as long as those funky looking aliens are around. They spice things up. It's still one of the weaker strips in the comic, but at least it's not all mopey anymore. Though Superman does seem extra-weak still. Maybe he's just having a bad day (and we have to suffer through it for three months).
"Batman" is very good -- and this is one of the best installments so far. The parallel plot lines on a single page? Nicely done.
I liked "Metamorpho" a lot this week. It's definitely my favorite installment since the very first one, and the addition of the ancient element man immediately makes the strip more interesting. Plus, it's full of comedy and Latin. Two of my favorite things, even if I don't remember any of my high school Latin anymore. Still, now we know what Gaiman was Tweeting about last month, when he was looking for the proper Latin translations of various phrases. And because this strip hasn't been one of the Top 5 for the past few weeks, I haven't been paying attention to it closely, but Mike Allred always draws stuff that's worth reading, and it's nice to see that the story is starting to head, well, somewhere.
"Kamandi" continues to be the best-looking thing in "Wednesday Comics," and to paraphrase what Douglas Wolk said over at the Savage Critics, I'd pay $3.99 a week for any comic that had Sook's "Kamandi" in it, so the rest of the stuff in here is just gravy. Often delicious gravy, though.
CN: I like "Kamandi" fine enough, but still find the storytelling technique limited, though it does give more room for Sook's art... I'm torn a little. Conflicted. I will say that I disagree with Wolk in that I wouldn't pay $3.99 (or, $4.45 Canadian...) for Sook's "Kamandi," but Wolk disagreed with me about the vertical "Wonder Woman" layout, so we'll call it even.
I also dug "Metamorpho" with its plot advancing ways and ancient Element Man introduction. Or, how about Java's comments throughout? This is what the first week of the strip suggested it would be like and it only took five weeks of so-so mediocrity to get back to that really entertaining place -- I did enjoy the snakes and ladders game last week, so maybe only four weeks.
One strip we haven't discussed much... or, at all, in a long while is "Green Lantern," which is in every issue, yet always escapes our notice. Why is that? I assume we both read it each week... so what gives?
TC: Joe Quinones is a superstar-in-waiting, as I keep saying. This is a gorgeous comic, and Kurt Busiek's story isn't living up to Quinones's potential. You know what I kept thinking this week? "At least Green Lantern is doing more than a lame Buzz Aldrin riff, but, man, I would love to see Grant Morrison steal Quinones away from Busiek and do a giant project with him. Quinones should do Multiversity! How great would that be???" And, so, as you can tell, my mind wasn't really focused on the (thin) Busiek "Green Lantern" story this week.
I don't know if I've established this in our previous discussions (here or elsewhere) but I always think in terms of creators instead of characters. I don't buy comics because of who is featured in the issues, but because of who is featured on the issues -- the creative team. But I make an exception for the Legion of Super-Heroes and for the Hal Jordan Green Lantern. I'm not particularly a sci-fi person, or anything like that, but I love the Legion and I love Hal Jordan almost no matter who is working on the comics (although that doesn't make "Emerald Dawn II" any more readable). So I'm biased toward liking ANY Hal Jordan Green Lantern story, and yet I still find this "Wednesday Comics" strip to be excessively uninteresting. It's not about anything other than some generic test pilot/astronaut stuff that we've seen a million times in movies and Hal's relationship with this one dude.
With Quinones bringing the awesome on the art, I just want more. I want crazy space police stuff. I want something special.
What do you think about it?
CN: I mostly agree with your assessment minus the inexplicable Hal Jordan love. It's good looking, but not overly entertaining. I don't quite love Quinones's art as much as you nor do I think his style would jive with Morrison's writing (but I'm more than willing to be proven wrong there). But, it is a nice looking strip and I never feel bad for reading it. It falls in with those other nice looking strips with writing that leaves me cold of which there are a few. And that's okay, because there are 15 strips and when only half (at most) fall into the mediocre/bad category, that's defying the odds.
And, with that, I do believe that it's Top 5 time! Oh how I love Top 5 time!
1. Strange Adventures
4. The Flash
TC: My Top 5, in very particular order:
1. Strange Adventures
2. The Flash
I loved "Batman" this week and it didn't even make my Top 5. Strong stuff from "Wednesday Comics" #7. Bring on number eight!
Timothy Callahan writes "When Words Collide" for CBR each Monday, reviews comics each and every week, and sort of maintains the Geniusboy Firemelon blog while he's supposed to be working on further book projects. He likes comic books, mostly.
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 blogging incessantly about the "Avengers" comics of Brian Michael Bendis.