Deadman from Wednesday Comics #2Welcome to our own little miniseries: For the next twelve weeks, give or take, we’ll be covering DC Comics’ ambitious anthology broadsheet project with recaps, our opinions and invariably geeky asides. We’d also love to hear from you on what you think of the project and what you’d like to see this column cover. First, stop over and check out our colleague David Pepose’s recap of issue one and then sit back, pour a cuppa joe and unfold that newspaper.
Batman (Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso) leads off each week, and it’s easy to see why: Azzarello is at the top of his game, spinning a deceptively simple tale of lust and death. Risso’s moody, stark visuals are a perfect foil, plunging Bruce Wayne into the arms of a mysterious blonde in what has to be a record low number of panels. It’s noir, and it’s nasty. It’s also pretty great.
The two best strips, however, are found inside the fold: Those would be Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook’s brilliant riff on Prince Valiant with Kamandi; and Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones’ “New Frontier” Green Lantern.
Sook and Gibbons’ Kamandi is the most complete newspaper-style strip of the entire anthology. Yes, it’s a direct channeling of both Hal Foster and Chicago artist Gary Gianni (who is doing current duty on the good Prince) but the duo is doing some mining because it clearly works. Sook’s layouts and stunning horizontal panels are right out of the Foster/John Cullen Murphy playbook, and they make this tale of a post- apocalyptic wasteland populated by talking animals seem downright vintage. Gibbons wisely keeps up the trope by placing the dialogue in the narrative, and his touch is almost ethereal. If nothing else, this strip is proof that those old newspaper guys knew what they were doing.
By contrast, Quinones and Busiek’s Green Lantern is aggressively modern, with rounded forms and gleeful colouring that makes the needle-nosed Hal Jordan pop off the page. Quinones’ characters are pleasingly lumpy and rumpled, and his clever little touches — like the wilting ficus in a shabby TV studio and the pointy helmets on his Russian “jetmen” — are the closest thing I’ve seen yet to a Pixar movie on paper. (No offense meant to Mark Waid’s Boom Studios.)
Other strips are still finding their feet: John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo’s Superman feels, well, wimpy. This is considering despite Bermejo’s muscle-bound artwork, Arcudi’s clipped dialogue and the moody colouring. Deadman (by Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck) hasn’t hit its stride despite some fine (and Darwyn Cooke-esque) visual flourishes this time out. And Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred’s Metamorpho looks glorious, but is off to a bit of a plodding start, with a too-cute-by half mock “ad” running across the bottom of this week’s issue.
There are several strips that are just good, clean fun: Who could fail to be charmed by Amanda Conner’s darling Supergirl? The Brooklyn Bombshell may be the best at drawing faces in comics at the moment, specializing as she does in mugs that are perplexed, flummoxed, and embarrassed. And who doesn’t love Jose-Garcia Lopez and Kevin Knowlan’s Metal Men? (Hint: Possibly not the guy with the trenchcoat and hat, seen in silhouette in weeks one and two…) How about Karl Kerschl and Brendan Fletcher’s Flash, which offers up a loopy riff on Mary Worth and Judge Parker each week with the strip-in-a-strip that is Iris West?
And, invariably, there a couple of strips that are ill-served by the format as well: Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway’s Teen Titans might be enjoyable, but the colouring is so light that it’s difficult to read; to these eyes, it seems washed-out. (The same problem afflicted Paul Pope’s wild Strange Adventures strip last week, but it seems to have been fixed this week.) And, Ben Caldwell’s intricate Wonder Woman is just too busy and murky. Maybe younger eyes can make heads or tales of it, but I cannot. Colouring also drags down Walt Simonson and Brian Stelfreeze’s The Demon and Catwoman, drowning Stelfreeze’s sharp spot blacks in unflattering purple.
But then there’s the simple, clean stuff that just plain knocks your socks off. That would be the one-two closing punch of the Kuberts’ Sgt. Rock and Kyle Baker’s Hawkman. Both are mannered, stylish, and deceptively simple. And both would be worth the price of the Sunday paper by themselves. Note to dying newspapers: You could do far worse than serializing this stuff.
Geek Notes: Eagle-eyed readers will note that Adam Strange is on “Ragathann,” reflecting the post Final Crisis amalgam of Rann and Thanagar. Of course, Hawkman’s having none of that, noting in his own strip that he comes from Thanagar. So there!