Welcome back to our weekly miniseries covering DC Comics’ broadsheet Wednesday Comics. Please visit our Wednesday Comics Topics page for past installments, interviews with some of the creators behind the project, and some geeky notes on what’s going on.
This week we play catch-up with the events in issues 6-8.
The best strips continue to be Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures; and Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook’s Kamandi.
Click here for a LARGE Full page of Paul Pope's Strange Adventures, courtesy DC Comics!Pope’s strip has taken some of the Adam Strange mythos and turned it on its ear; in his retelling, Adam Strange may actually be an old man in 1957 who dreams he is a man of two worlds. (This is also a nod to the character’s origins as Strange first appeared in Showcase Comics #17 in 1958.) In the current three-issue span, Strange is aided in his dreams by Doctor Fate while his far-away love Alanna convinces the Northern Rock people to save Ranagar at her side.
Not enough can be said about Pope’s artwork: It is spidery, otherworldly and gorgeous, a perfect foil to a sci-fi yarn filtered through the lens of magic realism. The past three issues have showcased Pope — and the character of Adam Strange — at his best, making a compelling case for DC to keep these underpinnings going forward. In Pope’s hands, Strange has become more than just an Edgar Rice Burroughs clone; he’s a vulnerable man in an inhuman environment.
Kamandi continues to be visually dazzling, and one of the treats of playing catch-up was that I got to lay all the pages out side by side and read them in order. Fact: Sook’s art keeps getting better and better with each passing week, and his pages are worth the price of admission alone. Highlights include his sweep of the broken Tiger Army on the battlefield; the closeup of the Lion Commander; and the small details crammed into each backgrounds of Kamandi’s post-Disaster Earth. This is great stuff.
Elsewhere, Batman is figuring out that Luna Glass isn’t what she appears to be, while her ne’er do-well hubby gets knocked off. In Superman, a surprisingly dull Big Blue finally wakes up to the fact that his head is being messed with (only took eight issues, mind you…) and Lee Bermejo gets to draw some great knock-down battle scenes. It’s a pity the strip is as slow as Superman’s thinking, however.
Metamorpho has been hit or miss: Mike Allred’s art has been fun, but I’m starting to think Neil Gaiman is too cute. Most every week we’ve had some gimmick — a board game here, the Table of the Elements there — and too little straight-ahead storytelling. Week #7 stood out in that respect; Gaiman finally gave the whole strip over to the action, and gave manservant Java some of the best lines to boot.
Over in Deadman, the also not-real-quick-on-the-uptake Boston Brand is about to find out he’s backed the wrong horse, but Dave Bullock and Vin Heuck’s artwork has remained magnetic. Green Lantern has some of the warmest artwork, courtesy of Joe Quinones, but the story has sagged a bit in the middle. Issue #8 finally sees Hal in combat with the giant prawn thingy that has captured his old flight school buddy, and it’s a welcome bit of action.
Supergirl remains the funniest and cutest strip — all per Amanda Conner’s intent — but I’m not sure I’d want to eat that bread in Doctor Mid-Nite’s fridge. And the Kubert’s Sgt. Rock strip continues to be a stark and beautiful small-room set piece.
Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher have, as promised, folded the Iris West strip into the regular Flash tale, and the whole strip is taking off. Issue #8 finds Barry Allen — and all those Flashes — in serious trouble despite seemingly having defeated Gorilla Grodd. Issue #6 also contains the most overt wink yet at Prince Valiant, with a riff on Hal Foster’s strip via Gorilla City.
Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman has been hit or miss for me, but #8’s installment is uncluttered and gorgeous, with Diana making a deal with the Devil in order to save her friends. It’s a lovely piece of work and a great example of what Caldwell is capable of when he doesn’t try to cram his page with so many panels. Overleaf, the Metal Men are staring down one of their most fearsome foes in Chemo. Despite the fact that this is the same character DC used to wipe a city off the map in Infinite Crisis, in Dan Didio and Jose Garcia-Lopez’s hands, the big Palooka seems almost cuddly. One thing that is unexplained so far: in issue #8, the baddie says that Chemo will “go nuclear” but Chemo himself isn’t radioactive. (Infinite Crisis readers will remember that the radiation in ruined Bludhaven came from Captain Atom’s ruptured shell.)
The Demon and Teen Titans strips haven’t really captured my attention. In the latter’s case, I’ve found the coloring erratic and thus hard to read. In the former’s, I’m finding Walt Simonson’s story a bit slow, and Brian Stelfreeze’s art unusually clunky.
But when it comes to Kyle Baker’s Hawkman strip, we have a winner. This is one of Baker’s best-drawn strips since his days on the much-loved Shadow book with Andy Helfer. My only quibble has been with the colouring; some of his lines seem too thin for newsprint, and are thus washing out. Still, this current arc, with Hawkman and a plane-load of passengers crashing on Dinosaur Island, is a keeper.
GEEK NOTES: In WC#7, Bullock includes a shout-out to Deadman’s very first appearance on the cover of Strange Adventures, with an homage to Carmine Infantino and George Roussos’ cover…Some readers were probably a bit baffled by that whole “romance language” thing being tossed around in Metamorpho. If it makes you feel any better, so was Gaiman; he had sent out pleas for Latin-translation aid earlier this year in his Twitter feed to make sure he got it right. For those of you still in the dark, my (very, very rusty) Latin translates Algon’s words as: “It is too late. I shall reach the star before you. I survived the mountain of fire. For I am the true Element Man.”… In WC#6, despite the fact that the sun is coming up in Kansas, the grandfather clock in the Superman strip reads 8 am. Farm folks know that sun’s up a wee bit earlier than that in the summer… Old-school Wonder Woman pal Etta Candy made a bow in WC#6. Etta was a stalwart of the WW cast in the 1940s.