Welcome back to our weekly miniseries covering DC Comics’ broadsheet Wednesday Comics. Each week, we’ll be doing recaps of the strips and offering dorky little notes on what the heck is going on. Issues one and two have been reviewed, so let’s get right into this week’s issue, which spotlights Deadman.
Dave Bullock and Vinton Heuck’s Deadman strip has thrown up some top-notch art right from the start, but this week Bullock pulls out the stops with a poster-sized image of Boston Brand spinning through a Kirby-crackled Time-Tunnel. There’s not much story in this one, but there is a proper cliffhanger this week with Deadman finding himself to be (seemingly) mortal and in danger from a nasty looking axe. It’s stylish stuff.
It’s also one of two poster pages in Wednesday Comics this week, with Mike Allred giving Neil Gaiman’s Metamorpho the treatment by way of Jack Cole. In a Plastic Man-esque maneuver, Rex Mason winds himself through a deserted temple with some Spartan masks and ruined statuary. As an aside, this particular strip is a great primer on how comic strips can work: If you pull back and see it as a single image, you’ll note that there are three sets of the strip’s characters occupying the same space. Allred, of course, (as Carmine Infantino did with The Flash), uses repetition to convey movement of his characters through the space of the plane, setting up a paradox that we’re smart enough to reconcile by omitting certain information. This trick isn’t new — the Bayreux Tapestry famously uses it to tell the story of the Norman Conquest — but it’s always fun to see well-done contemporary examples.
The best strip of the week remains Dave Gibbons’ and Ryan Sook’s Kamandi. It’s the best-drawn, and one of a very few to really exploit the possibilities of the format. This week’s image of Kamandi soaring skyward to Dr. Canus’ dirigible is right out of the Burne Hogarth playbook, and just as dynamic as the master’s. Sook’s coloring is also, if not the best, then among the best in the entire book to date.
Best single panel has to be Kyle Baker’s Hawkman in a standoff with the Makkorthite, which channels Murphy Anderson and Torchwood in a 6” x 4” space. I wish Baker’s coloring was a bit more dynamic, however: His most stylish panel is the blood-red shot of Hawkman’s mace and boots in silhouette, showing what he’s capable of. Yet, the rest of the strip seems very washed out. This is too bad, because Baker’s art is A-one.
Similar coloring problems have bedeviled both Brian Stelfreeze and Walt Simonson’s Demon strip; and Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway’s Teen Titans. This week, to my relief, the former pops off the page, while the latter is now readable. Unfortunately, neither strip is really grabbing my attention so far.
The same cannot be said about Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s Batman. This trip ain’t all-ages, but it is fantastic and claustrophobic. Even better, these guys are taking a genre convention that become a cliché — the grift — and turning it into a seething storyline. No wonder it’s on the front page.
The same is true of Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones’ great Green Lantern storyline, which is another candidate for best-colored and certainly up there for most winning art. Quinones is a major talent, with a gift for expressive, recognizable faces and a great sense of motion. He’d win some prize for adorability hadn’t Amanda Conner already locked that up with her Supergirl strip. Supergirl’s storyline doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but who cares when it’s this gleeful?
Her cousin’s in deeper trouble: The Superman strip is not good. Joe Quesada’s famously crude joke about the character has never seemed more justified, and Barbara Ciardo’s coloring is ineffective on the newsprint format. Another A-lister, Wonder Woman, needs help badly. Ben Caldwell is talented, but his strip is a jumble, and not fun to read. I applaud DC for trying something new with Wonder Woman; I just wish I could make heads or tails of it, but Calwell’s lines and text are so cluttered that it’s a headache.
Then, of course, there’s Paul Pope. I love him. I expect many others hate him. But Strange Adventures is out and out the nuttiest strip of all, seamlessly marrying the nostalgia that Kamandi is mining with a gonzo futurism. This is great stuff.
Next week: Flash and Flash (huh?) have to return from the future to fix the past and save Iris in the present; The Metal Men have to disarm a gunman (and who IS that guy in the trenchcoat?); and Sgt. Rock is running out of time while Easy Co. runs into the partisans. Say cheese, Sarge.
GEEK-STER EGGS: How many times can you find DC creators’ names “hidden” in Wednesday Comics? Last week, Quinones gave David Mazucchelli his own bakery (and told you how to pronounce his name…) while this week Gaiman and Allred answer a letter from a young Mr. Paul Levitz. Conner does ’em one better: The post office truck Streaky and Krypto rip into has the ID number “Y1K35.”Coming soon to Wednesday Comics Thursdays: More than Analysis...