Review: Wednesday Comics #3

Wednesday

Last week’s Wednesday Comics was the first to really disappoint.  The premise of the project should suggest that the creators compress their stories as much as possible, at least in general – when all’s said and done, they only really have 15 pages to finish the story.  While some creators have risen to the challenge, like Caldwell on Wonder Woman or Pope on Strange Adventures, some strips that started out strong have begun to peter off already.

There is still the seeds of genius that were strongly evident in the first two issues, but there are too many non-starters here.  The flaws remain relatively unfixed, with the weakest pages among the first two issues showing little improvement.  Not all is bleak, of course – a project with this many gifted creators is bound to have some astonishing moments – but I am not sure that a book facing all the challenges that Wednesday Comics faces can afford to have many more issues like this one: Not bad, but not quite worth the trouble.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Wednesday Comics #2

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #2

Wed2

Though Wednesday Comics #2 didn’t do much to improve over the flaws of the first one, and certainly won’t change any minds about the project as a whole, it also kept all the charm, wit and creative energy of the first issue, and even improved upon some of the slower stories.  The keyword with Wednesday Comics is variety, and you get a lot of it.

Busiek’s Green Lantern is a wonderfully retro The New Frontier-style sci-fi adventure, while Pope’s Strange Adventures is classic pulp action.  Flash reads like a bizarre blend of romance and super-hero stories, while Baker’s Hawkman offers a dark, fascinating look at a frequently muddled character.  As with the first issue, not every story is a hit, and the two biggest offenders from #1 (Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.) remain relatively weak, though both show at least some signs of improvement over the previous issue.

Meanwhile, the creators are making full use of the space, sometimes in interesting ways.  The Gaiman/Allred Metamorpho is essentially one enormous panel while Caldwell’s surreal Wonder Woman features roughly fifty panels on its only page.  

The format is definitely bringing out the best in many of these artists, most of whom have admirably risen to the challenge.  The less-glossy pages and creases that come from the folding were a worry to some people when it came to the quality of the art, but rest-assured, this is rarely the case.  Only Caldwell’s Wonder Woman and the Arcudi/Bermejo Superman seem to have been hampered by the fact, each of them a little too dark for their own good.  Despite that, however, both pages remain well-crafted and interesting.

Wednesday Comics is too scattershot to appeal to everyone, but those who try it out will find a selection of interesting stories by star creators that hearken back to the early days of comics and the traditional stories without being lazy or condescending.  Everyone involved seems to be having far too much fun to either.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #1

Wednesd

Wednesday Comics is here!  While DC often struggles to stay relevant in the fact of a vastly more trendy Marvel Comics, it’s had a few successes in recent years.  One such success was their year-long event, 52, a weekly with an absolute powerhouse of a writing team that managed to gain both critical and fan acclaim – no small feat for an event comic largely lacking Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.  After that, of course, DC felt the urge to repeat their success story with the watered down Countdown and then again with Busiek’s Trinity.  Still, three years in and the weekly format, once a fresh revival, had begun to seem stale.

That all changed with the announcement of their next weekly, Wednesday Comics, a 12 week long project, packaged as a newspaper, in which superstar creative teams would be given continuity-free reins on a vasty supply of DC characters to tell their stories… one page each week.  There were a lot of risks, obviously, but the announcement of the creative teams was where they had it: Gaiman, Busiek, Allred, Azzarello, Risso, Gibbons, Pope, Baker and many more, all getting involved in the project.

So, with all that expectations, how does the issue stack up?

Very well.  Very well, indeed.

It’s tough to review due to the grab bag nature of the book – Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, for example, is gorgeous and surreal, while Kubert’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. on the very next page is about as bland as can be.   I toyed briefly with the idea of reviewing each story, but the simple fact is this: these stories stand together or fall together, but the strength of an Azzarello/Risso Batman doesn’t necessarily offset the slow start of the Berganza/Galloway Teen Titans.  You buy one, you get ’em all.

And, as a collection, it works.  This, this is traditional super-hero comics done right.  For those yearning for a set of simple, gorgeous stories, Wednesday Comics delivers.  Not every story will be a hit, but #1 offers a number of strong starts and relatively few missteps.  I eagerly await seeing where it will go.

As a note, however, the stand-outs of the issue for me were Batman, Kamandi, Supergirl, Metal Men, and The Demon/Catwoman, with Superman and Wonder Woman having okay starts but gorgeous art.  The only pages I didn’t really appreciate at all were Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., so the bulk of the issue was, for me, a hit.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary

Read/RANT

Bruce Castle Archives: Thor Visionaries Walt Simonson

SPOILERS!!!

Is it just me, or is everyone kind of going Thor crazy right now? He finally got his own team in VS System in the new set (Billy, please have them make more Asgardians in the next Marvel set!). If you follow heroclix at all, it was recently announced that he will be the theme of the next marvel expansion coming out next year. Also, he currently has his own series as well as some one-shots written by Matt Fraction in the comics. It has also been announced that Thor will have his big screen debut in Iron Man 2 as well as his own movie supposedly coming out in 2010. So I think it’s safe to say that the God of Thunder is getting some good treatment right now. So I thought I’d take a moment to delve into the big guy’s past.

If you are any kind of a Thor fan, the name Walt Simonson should be at least a little familiar to you. His run, along with Stan Lee’s and Jack Kirby’s, is considered the definitive Thor run by many Thor fans. So I finally tracked down the out of print first trade. This collection contains issues 337-348.

In the first few pages of the first issue, we see a mysterious figure hitting an anvil with something luminous and see the ominous words…DOOM! No, not the doctor, but something sinister indeed. The rest of the issue has Thor investigating something that turns out to be a new character. That’s right, Beta Ray Bill. This fearsome new creature defeats Thor due to the thunder God reverting to his human form. Beta Ray Bill then picks up Thor’s hammer in staff form, smacks it against the surface and gains Thor’s power. The creature is then summoned to Asgard leaving Dr. Donald Blake left below. Pretty crazy first issue!

This matter is brought to Odin and it is decided that Thor and Beta Ray Bill shall enter mortal combat! The two clash and trade mighty blows. Beta Ray Bill is the victor! But instead of killing Thor, he saves his life. I should also mention that some interesting side stories involving Loki and Baldur are also taking place during these issues.

Beta Ray Bill’s intentions are revealed to be very noble. He is from an alien race that is being attacked by foreign invaders and he is his people’s super soldier. He needs Thor’s power to aid his people. So Odin has Sif complete an adventurous task to have another hammer forged, the Storm Breaker!

Thor and Sif set course for their new friend’s home. Together the three of them vanquish the opposing forces. When the three arrive back at Asgard, Odin has a surprise for Beta Ray Bill. The alien is a super soldier as I mentioned earlier, his appearance is a twisted and altered version of his original self. So Odin bestows in Bill the power to revert back into his normal form much like Thor could change into Dr. Donald Blake. The price, Thor is Dr. Donald Blake no longer! Beta Ray Bill, along with Sif, leave Asgard in the hopes of completely freeing Bill’s people.

Thor then returns to Midgard and assumes a new identity. Lorelei also travels to Midgard with sinister intentions. Thor battles a fierce creature and has an uneasy victory.

Thor is challenged by an old Viking seeking Valhalla. Baldur goes on a quest of his own. The creature from the previous issue returns.

Thor and the old Viking engage the fierce creature in a very heart wrenching battle. This issue was very well done! Lorelei in her secret identity begins dating Thor in his secret identity. Baldur deals with more troubles.

We next get a great Baldur issue. He is tired, fat, and is tortured by his old demons. Yet he still has the will to deal with all the new demons he faces including Loki and the fierce Malekith.

This review is getting pretty long so I’ll just say the next few issues are very mysterious and in some ways terrifying. They deal with the sinister Malekith, but his motives are unknown. All we know is that he desires an artifact but for what purpose we aren’t sure. It then all becomes clear when Malekith is at last slain, but before he dies he succeeds and paves the way for Surtur! He is destruction incarnate. This was the mysterious figure that we have been seeing briefly over the last twelve issues.

Recently with Thor’s current series I’ve heard some people say that this is the best Thor they’ve ever read. Now, I may take some flak for this, but I haven’t been enjoying this new series at all. I haven’t been a Thor fan long, but I read the first three issues of the new series and I nearly despised those issues. I have a friend who has been a Thor fan for over twenty years and even he thinks that this current stuff is some of the worst Thor he has ever read. Walt Simonson’s run however, is the Thor stuff he loves the most.

I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is only the first volume in a five volume run. This reminds me of Brubaker’s current Captain America run in that you can tell that Walt Simonson had read every Thor comic at least twice and was picking the parts he liked best and put them in his story. He also gave these classic characters new twists and also created some new ones. That, along with the Watchmen-like trick, only instead of a clock getting bloodier, we see the satanic Surtur get closer and closer to his wicked goal, this comic came out before Watchmen by the way. This also reminds me of Brubaker’s Cap because you can tell Walt Simonson has a goal that he has already planned out years before he executes them. We get the perfect blend of action and mythology that is essential to a great Thor comic.

Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, this trade is out of print. However, if any of this sounds interesting, I heard that they will be reprinting this trade soon so hopefully it will be easily accessible sometime in the near future. I hope there is an Omnibus of Walt Simonson’s run someday as well. Maybe when the movie comes out.

4 stars out of 4