Splash Page: Wednesday Comics Week Nine

Sun, September 6th, 2009 at 11:35am PDT

Comic Books
Timothy Callahan, Columnist/Reviewer
9

FLASH FACT: YOUR MIND IS BLOWN

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" #9, in which "The Flash" shows everyone else how this game is played!

Story continues below

Chad Nevett: Let me kick things off by saying, right here, right now, "The Flash" is the best strip this week and if you disagree with me, you are wrong. I'm willing to go out on a limb with that sort of bold statement, if only because it gets people talking. And because I happen to think that. So, Tim, are you with me or are you wrong?

Tim Callahan: Not only was "The Flash" the best strip of the week, by far, but it's also the best strip of any week. And old faithful "Kamandi" stumbled this week with some unusually sketchy art by Ryan Sook. Looks a bit rushed, or at least inked more quickly than usual, doesn't it?

CN: I hadn't really noticed that on my first read, but looking back, it does look sketchier -- and I like it. The leaders of the tigers look haggard and beat-down, the world looks destroyed, the art doesn't look bad by any means. It looks better in my opinion. I actually wish that Sook used this altered style from the get-go since it suits the environment and characters of "Kamandi" more than his more polished, clean style. I can understand why you wouldn't think it looks as good and, from an objective perspective where you're looking at the art itself, it doesn't. However, put into context, it works quite nicely.

That raises a good question: will we begin to see the art in strips take a step down as we get close to the end and the deadlines begin catching up with these guys more and more. In a recent interview with Esther Inglis-Arkell at 4th Letter, Mark Chiarello discussed how he actually fired one artist and almost fired another for lateness issues before deadlines were resolved, and that indicates that deadlines were a big problem at times, so will we see it in the final issues?

TC: I hope not, because as an art project, this thing doesn't need any sloppy art at the end.

But you know what's not sloppy? "The Flash." It's an explosion of comic strip pastiches -- from "Peanuts" to "Modesty Blaise" to "Blondie" -- yet still telling the Grodd/Barry Allen/Iris West story. What a genius strip this is -- and has been since the beginning. But it's a complete high wire act. Do you think Kerschl's going to be able to pull off the finale? While most of the other strips this week started to rush toward the finish, "The Flash" just seems to get crazier.

CN: I was wondering the same thing. It seems to be spiraling out of control, in a good way, but, man, this is going to be a difficult landing to stick. Kerschl and Fletcher have been doing great so far, so I'm confident in their abilities to bring it on home... I have no idea how. I have absolutely no idea how they will finish this story. Then again, I've had no idea where they've been going the entire time, this strip being a constant string of surprises. That said, I do worry a little about a rushed deus ex machina conclusion to this strip and, oddly, this week's sublime, brilliant strip is what brought on these sudden concerns. Is that strange? Shouldn't we be focusing on how damn good this week's "Flash" page was, not worrying about what the next three weeks will bring? There's something wrong with us, isn't there, Tim?

TC: Well, we're like protective parents, concerned that our son's ambition -- which we are ever so proud of -- might not leave him in the best place, a few years down the road. Except, in this case, we have nothing to do with "The Flash," so we can't even be considered blood relatives, or even friends of the family. We're like creepy old guys who still go to high school baseball games because we used to play Little League and now we're cheering a little bit too loud from the bleachers.

Except with comics.

If that means something's wrong with us, than so be it!

(There's probably something wrong with us.)

But this week's "Flash" does deserve a close look, so let's set aside our hopes and fears about tomorrow, and talk about what's going on right now. We love this week's installment of "The Flash," but how does it even make sense? What is your take on the comic book pastiches and how they fit into the story?

CN: Each seems to relate to Barry going through his memories of Iris, hitting those big moments like meeting her, proposing to her, marrying her... Since the beginning, "The Flash" has been a strip that's referenced/alluded to the Sunday comics by having the story take place over two different (yet related) strips, both told in different styles. The story to this point has been filtered through comics strips, so, of course, Barry's memories would be, too. Although, here, it's done in a far more direct way than before where the allusion was more subtle (use of Benday dots), relating to Barry's experiences with whatever Grodd is doing. Or, since the Flash can vibrate through different dimensions and times -- perhaps, here, those dimensions and times are represented by comics strips? That's my theory... what about you?

TC: My theory is that you're right, although the more honest answer is probably that Kerschl and company wanted to play with the form of Sunday Comics since this whole project is designed as a pastiche anyway. Still, the dimension-hopping (and time travel) are a big part of this "Flash" story, and why not show it via classic comics? It makes the geeks swoon.

What else was going on with this week's issue? Let's see... "Metamorpho" was kind of annoying, with just more of the same as last week. (And yet another half of a two-page spread like weeks two and three -- it's interesting that Gaiman and Allred are designing this with a collected edition in mind, but that's missing the point of this project, don't you think?) "Batman" looked great. "Superman" went out of its way to explain the obvious. I wasn't too impressed with all that much this week. Besides "The Flash," that is. You?

CN: As always, I enjoyed "Supergirl," although this week's strip was one of those 'move the plot forward' ones that aren't nearly as entertaining -- except for Amanda Conner's depiction of Streaky licking herself. "Hawkman" ended with a truly fantastic panel of Hawkman running at a T-Rex, ready to cause some damage. But, you're right, this week did feel minor aside from "The Flash." It's like every strip except for "The Flash" used this week as a chance to move towards the end of the story, setting up the final three weeks. It makes sense to do so, but it's a little jolting to see so many stories do it at the same time. We're not used to reading 15 stories at the same time, at the same pace, so it's an interesting experiment in storytelling juxtaposition as we see similar structures popping up here. As a result, I think we're beginning to see one of the big writerly elements of "Wednesday Comics" when, up to this point, the focus was on the art. This makes me wonder if we've been missing out on the chance to compare how each writer has approached this storytelling experiment. You've noted that Gaiman seems to be writing with the collection in mind, while Kerschl and Fletcher have drawn upon comic strips for inspiration in a very obvious, direct fashion -- while Azzarello and Gibbons have done so in a more subtle fashion, imitating one specific style of strip. But, for all the different approaches in specific storytelling, it's interesting to see that the broad structures are all very similar. And, yes, I have no idea where I was going with all of this...

TC: Seeing the stories all (or almost all) do the same basic turn towards the finale this week really pointed to the artifice of this kind of storytelling. It's like watching an episode of serialized television, when you look up and realize it's ten-to-the-hour and the plot will be wrapped up neatly in just a few minutes. With "Wednesday Comics," though, the writers only have 12 pages total to play with, so by page 9, they have to kickstart Act III or there won't be much Act III to speak of. Azzarello's not doing that. Neither is Kerschl. Neither is Gibbons. They've been doing their own kind of pacing all along. But the rest of the gang is turning toward the home stretch in obvious fashion. Not that I'm condemning that. Stories tend to fall into comfortable structures. That's what people like to read.

What if "The Flash" doesn't come to a satisfying close though? Or "Batman"? In a project like this, does the plot really even matter in the end?

CN: Ask me again when we reach week twelve. It's just so hard to guess that sort of thing now. My instinct is to say that the plot itself doesn't matter a great deal, but who knows. It all depends on the ending itself and how (un)satisfying it is. Why not conclude things now with the Top 5?

1. The Flash

2. Batman

3. Strange Adventures

4. Hawkman

5. Supergirl

TC: Week Twelve is only a few short weeks away, so we won't have to wait long to answer the age old question: "What was the point of 'Wednesday Comics,' the art or the stories?"

My Top 5 this week"

1. The Flash

2. Batman

3. Strange Adventures

4. Hawkman

5. Wonder Woman

"Kamandi" slips from the Top 5! We have the exact same Top 4! What will next week bring?

Timothy Callahan writes "When Words Collide" for CBR each Monday, reviews comics each and every week, and sort of maintains the Geniusboy Firemelon blog (which he would update more frequently if the audience demanded it) while he's supposed to be working on further book projects. He likes comics, 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.

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TAGS:  wednesday comics, batman, flash, hawkman, karl kerschl

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