BATMAN LOVES DOGS
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" #10, in which Batman punches dogs in the face and Hawkman taunts an extinct creature.
Chad Nevett: We've hit double digits and was it just me or was this week's offering a little bland? Even the strips I normally like didn't wow me, mired in 'getting the story done' territory, which is, oddly, somewhat boring and dragging them down. "The Flash" and "Strange Adventures" were good but not great... and they were the best of the bunch. Did you get the same impression? I'm tempted to call this the weakest issue of the series so far.
Tim Callahan: "The Flash" hit me pretty hard this week -- the combination of the high-wire technical wizardry of the strip coupled with the romantic power of Barry Allen's quest for Iris, well, it's just far-and-away the best thing in this issue. "Strange Adventures" was good as well, but with "Kamandi" continuing to look a bit rushed (panel two looks barely like Ryan Sook's art at all), and with the other stories just undergoing routine plot maneuvers, this issue did feel a bit bland. I liked "Batman" and I liked "Supergirl" but overall this was a weak installment of "Wednesday Comics." I did laugh out loud at the "Hawkman" scene where he taunts the T-Rex about not being able to touch his nose, but I'm easily amused by juvenile dinosaur-related humor. And it was pretty funny.
That Hawkman, what a scamp!
CN: This was actually the first "Supergirl" strip that didn't wow me. It felt a bit too forced with Supergirl talking through every little piece of plot, something she hasn't done until this point. I got the impression that Jimmy Palmiotti couldn't figure out another way to communicate the necessary information without being heavy-handed. Amanda Conner's art was as good as always, but it was tedious to read. "The Flash" did impress me with the two parallel lead-ins that converge on the same panel. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my dissatisfaction with the rest of the issue brought my impression of it down a bit. I don't think I liked it as much as you did, but it's better than the mere "good" I gave it above.
To show how weird my mindset was reading this issue, by the time I got to "Metal Men," I immediately thought that the lower left corner panel where people are fleeing was not so much them fleeing the danger but them fleeing the bad comic they're in. I couldn't blame them, either... "Hawkman" made me laugh, too.
TC: Do you think it's commentary fatigue that's causing us to feel a bit underwhelmed this week? With barely any surprises over the course of this series, other than how good "The Flash" has been, we may just have hit a wall in thinking and talking about "Wednesday Comics." I don't know, though. I still look forward to this series each week, and because we're commenting on it, I end up reading it at least twice, appreciating the good stuff even more than I might have otherwise. Or maybe that is the problem, because there just wasn't a whole lot of goodness to savor this week, so as we were reading (or rereading) it, we couldn't help but feel, "yeah, not much here this week, is there?"
But as I flip back through this week's issue, it's not so noticeably different than previous material in this series, and some of the less interesting stuff is better than it has been. "Kamandi" isn't as tightly rendered as before, but "Batman" is the same quality we've been seeing. Same thing with "Superman," "Deadman," "Metal Men," "Teen Titans," and "Wonder Woman," for good or bad. "Green Lantern" at least promises a space showdown for next week, and "Metamorpho" ditched its Periodic funk for cosmic self-parody, which I'm all for. Sgt. Rock throttled a Nazi. Catwoman threw a sword through Morgan Le Fay's throat.
In terms of style and substance, this week's overall contents were at least as good as many of the issues that have come before. So because there's no A+ material this week, this issue seems like a letdown, even though the C+ material from previous weeks gets kicked up into the B- range?
Yeah, who the hell wants to read a whole bunch of B- stuff? Bring on the A-pluses! The good old days of elderly Adam Strange and Barry Allen's race through the funny pages!
CN: I can't discount commentary fatigue, but if there was content good enough to get us excited, we'd be excited. I didn't sit down to this issue in a bad mood or not ready to be excited, the issue took care of that. I do agree that the mediocre/bad strips were about as good as they've always been, maybe a little bit better, but this issue just lacked that one strip that stands out. Actually, it lacks that three or four strips that stand out, which is what we've been used to. Damn right, I want A+ material. A B- is better than a C+, but not by much.
I didn't like "Metamorpho" as much as you did. It seemed like the story had been coasting along and then suddenly kicked into high gear, cramming a lot of plot and explanation into a small space. That's not something I'm normally against, but it's weird, inconsistent pacing. Also, a good 3/4s of the jokes just aren't funny. "Deadman" ended this week in a way where I'm wondering what's left for the final two chapters to show us. Bad guy is dead, girls are saved, go Deadman. It read like it could be the final chapter of the story and I'd have no complaints, especially since I don't need to see Deadman journey back to the real world, I assume he can handle that just fine.
"Batman" has haunted me a bit the past few days. Maybe it's him beating up some dogs with such passion. The Batman will beat up anyone or anything. I can get behind that idea.
TC: That's true. Send a squad of lethal bunnies at Batman and he'd bust out the same killer fighting moves. He's Batman. He eats bestial minions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (And that Mrs. Glass lady -- just a heads up -- is kind of skanky. I don't think Bruce Wayne should spend much more time with her. She's a bad influence, what with the killer puppies and the bad attitude and all.)
I didn't necessarily like the "Metamorpho" strip, I'm just in favor of its turn toward silliness and away from some kind of attempt at stylistic invention. I love stylistic invention, don't get me wrong, but this strip has failed on that end, so getting back to the absurdity of the Element Family seems like a better choice. And I don't mind the B-movie plot exposition, because it's part of the goofy charm of "Metamorpho."
Here's a question for you, to change topics all of a sudden: After 10 weeks, has any strip justified its larger page size? If so, which one(s) and why? (This is the essay response portion of "The Splash Page.")
CN: "The Flash" built up week after week with its use of comic strips to the past two weeks, which used the larger page very well. It needed that space, I think; first, for the use of comic strips, which ties into the format of "Wednesday Comics" and, second, just because that concept needs more space. Do I even need to point how "Wonder Woman" has used the larger page size? It's the most obvious example of a strip that's experimented with form as a result of the larger page size. Not everything works there, but Ben Caldwell has tried to work with the format in new and interesting ways each week.
I'm torn over a few strips like "Metamorpho" and "Hawkman," which use the format at times to their advantage, but not consistently. Paul Pope has done some interesting things in "Strange Adventures," but I'm not sure enough that justifies the larger page size. "Kamandi" needs the larger page size, I think, because of its style. It needs that extra space for narration. "Batman" has received some comments that it doesn't really use the larger page, but Eduardo Risso's layouts have really taken advantage of that, as has Brian Azzarello's writing, which is paced out at each page/strip acting as its own little story unit very well.
On the other side, most of the rest of the strips have used the larger page size to just work in more panels, but not in an inventive or new way. They look like regular comics pages that just happen to be bigger -- "Sgt. Rock" especially falls into this category. As much as I like "Supergirl," most of those pages could just be transitioned to being two regular comics pages without many changes. On "Deadman," Dave Bullock does some interesting layouts, but not many of them use the full page in a way that demands the large page, I don't think. This week, for example, could have been spread over two pages or had panels made smaller.
When I think about it, the number of strips that have really worked with the different page size on a consistent basis is small.
TC: I think you're right, but I also think that I wouldn't want to read very many of these strips if they were printed normal size and reformatted or reconfigured for the regular comic book page. So the format only adds value, in my estimation. But that also makes it seem like there's little here that's worth reading besides the novelty value, and maybe that's true as well. The style is the substance here, after all, and at the larger size, the style is more readily apparent because (a) it's bigger, and (b) it's a break from the norm, and so everything is automatically more visually interesting -- even Kubert's Rock pages -- than it would be if drawn for a normal page size.
I'd say there are ten failures in "Wednesday Comics" -- when it comes to taking advantage of the larger pages -- and only five successes. "Kamandi," "Batman," "The Flash," "Hawkman," and "Strange Adventures." I wouldn't even call "Wonder Woman" a success at this point, though it has been one of my favorites in recent weeks, because the story still hasn't come together yet, and the larger page size experimentation hasn't helped the narrative.
Do you think any of the strips have been actually hurt by the larger page size. Anything that would have worked much better with a Manga-style pacing of the quickly turning pages?
CN: Oddly enough, "Wonder Woman" seems a prime candidate. I agree with you that it's failed and that's because Caldwell's experiments with form don't match the subject matter. The strip is a quick-moving action piece driven, at times, by dream logic, not exactly a prime candidate for layouts with dozens of tiny panels. Princess Diana has her first experience with the World of Men and has to gather seven sacred objects... how is that not a 200-page manga-esque graphic novel? "Deadman," too, would benefit from that sort of format, I think.
I'm not sure I would call "Hawkman" or "Kamandi" successes, at least when it comes to form. I'm not sure I would call them failures yet, either. They're both on the bubble with me and I'll make my judgment on them once the series is over, I think.
I believe we're in Top 5 territory now, so here's mine:
1. The Flash
2. Strange Adventures
5. Vacant as nothing else was of Top 5 quality this week
TC: Top 5 time for me:
1. The Flash
2. Strange Adventures
5. Green Lantern, because of Quinones's art, but I also probably could stick with just a Top 4. (I won't though, because I'm not insensitive and hateful.)
Will your insensitivity and hatefulness get the best of me next week? Probably, but readers will have to tune in seven days from now to find out. And in 14 days: the finale!!!
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.