wednesday-comics

BY AARON BLOCK

Authors: Various

DC Comics, 2009

Best ebook deal: not available

Editor’s Note: Due to the number of authors and artists who contribute to this series, there is no ratings table for this work. Aaron has said it deserves a 10 in the Entertainment category, however.

Before I review Wednesday Comics, DC’s new weekly series, I’d like to say a few words about its conceptual predecessor, Solo. Like Wednesday Comics, Solo was the pet project of DC’s art director, Mark Chiarello, a gifted painter in his own right who conceived of the bi-monthly series as a celebration of the industry’s diverse artistic talent. The concept was simple enough – released on a bi-monthly schedule, each 48-page issue would be a showcase for a single artist, who would then fill those pages with short stories, sometimes written by the artist, other times written by friends/collaborators.

I loved it, and treasured even those issues with art I didn’t particularly care for. And though it won three Eisner Awards in 2006, Solo was cancelled after only twelve issues, due to poor sales. Considering the talent on display: Darwyn Cooke, Paul Pope, Brendan McCarthy, and Tim Sale among others, speaks volumes about the average comic fan’s distaste for the anthology format.

Which brings us back to Wednesday Comics, another anthology series that’s attracted top-level talent, but this time with a built-in twelve issue terminus. Once bitten, twice shy, I suppose.

Fifteen writer/artist teams get one page each per issue, making it something of a slow burn. Readers already antsy with the glacial pacing of many mainstream comics might balk at the prospect of sticking around for three months for the resolution of fifteen short, out-of-continuity stories. But each issue covers nearly every genre – superhero punch-ups, war, science-fiction, supernatural/horror, comedy, mystery, even romance. A Western would’ve been a nice touch, and DC has plenty of iconic Western characters for a creative team to toy with. Fingers crossed for next time.

Anyone with a particular graphic storytelling itch should be satisfied by what they find within. And at 14” x 20”, Wednesday Comics is decidedly bigger than the average 7.5” x 11”, giving the creators room to experiment with layout and pacing and inviting the reader to pour over the art, even after the bits of story have been digested. A few reviewers stated that they wanted to wallpaper their offices in Wednesday Comics pages, the art is that compelling. Not a bad idea, but at $3.99 per issue not exactly practical, either.

Much of the attention the series has earned is due to the talent involved. Brian Azzarello, Kurt Busiek, Kyle Baker, Dave Gibbons, Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, Paul Pope, and Joe Kubert are just a handful of the writers and artists contributing to the series, crafting stories that feature some of DC’s biggest properties (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) and some lesser-known fan and creator favorites (Kamandi, the Metal Men, Adam Strange). And while the big names will cast a larger net for prospective readers (Gaiman loyalists alone might comprise a bigger audience than Solo ever had) hopefully some reliable but under-used talents like Karl Kerschl, Brian Stelfreeze, and Lee Bermejo will find new fans, and new respect.

The first issue delivers on the hype; one or two of the stories get a shaky start, but the others deliver promising beginnings, even if plot and character are a big scant so far. If it doesn’t catch on, at least we’ll have the next three months to ooh and ahh together. But if it finds a solid readership (and given DC’s big promotional push the past few weeks, the prognosis is better than when Solo #1 politely snuck into stores) then Wednesday Comics might be the kind of game-changer the industry has been frantically grasping for.

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