You might buy it on Wednesday (or more likely, here in the UK, on Thursday), but the perfect time to read Wednesday Comics is a Sunday morning. Unfold the comic to it’s full tabloid dimensions, lay it out on the floor and prop yourself up on your elbows to read it. Bang; instant nostalgia for some bygone age of childhood. Except it’s most likely a faux nostalgia. You’ve probably never read a tabloid comic before. Or if you have, it’s possibly in the way I did; copies of the tabloid Topper bought at some Cub Scout jumble sale and devoured eagerly by my 8 year old self.
The whole point of Wednesday Comics is the unique formatting and style. The comic sized pamphlet folds out, again and again, to full tabloid size. Wednesday Comics, in case you didn’t know, is BIG. Each page is 20″ x 14″ and each one of it’s 15 strips takes up one of it’s huge pages. Even the paper stock is a nostalgic choice; newsprint like it used to be (except without the inky fingers of the past). As a nostalgic reminder of comics past, Wednesday Comics is a triumphant success.
And once you settle down on the floor to immerse yourself in a nostalgic fug, what of the actual comic within this delicious format?
(Paul Pope’s intricate artwork for his Adam Strange adventure and some gorgeous colour choices really capture the essence of just how cool Wednesday Comics is.)
The good news is that the whole thing looks absolutely gorgeous. There’s not a strip in the 15 that isn’t visually arresting and interesting. The artists really seem to revel in the bigger page size and whether it’s Eduardo Risso’s Batman, Ryan Sook’s Kamandi, Joe Quinone’s Green Lantern, Mike Allred’s Metamorpho, Joe Kubert’s Sgt Rock, Kyle Baker’s Hawkman or any of the others it’s pretty much all beautifully drawn, visually distinctive stuff. The highlight in the art has to be Paul Pope’s amazing Strange Adventures, with it’s retro colouring and stylised Pope artwork. But in truth, every strip in here has something going for it artwise. It’s very probably worth it just for the art alone. Which is fortunate. Because now we have the bad news…..
but first some more of that lovely artwork….
(Kyle Baker’s Hawkman from Wednesday Comics.)
(Ryan Sook’s art from the Dave Gibbon’s written Kamandi, From Wednesday Comics.)
The bad news? The writing. Not that the quality of writing isn’t good. It certainly is. The majority of the strips are well written introductions to their stories. But that’s the point: too many of the strips completely miss the point of the single page storyline. Instead of telling a micro story on each page, they read just like the first two pages of a normal 22 page comic.
Take the lead-off strip as an example: Batman by Azzarello and Russo. 15 panels of artwork. 11 speech bubbles or captions. This would work in a normal comic, where you have time and space to slowly develop your story. But not here, not with a single page per week – this isn’t the time for minimalist storytelling.
And it happens again and again through this first issue, with just too little going on in each strip so that it all becomes just a very pretty exercise in art and design work. Yes, there are exceptions; Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman is dense enough to make it more than just a quick read and his artwork matches his writing, resisting the urge to pack the page with huge panels and resulting in something approximating a satisfying story. Likewise Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher’s split page Flash / Iris West strip is visually lovely but just dense enough to make it more than an all too quick read.
(Flash by Kerschl and Fletcher from Wednesday Comics.)
Of course, some of the blame has to be lain at the artist’s feet as well. It seems the urge to really play with the huge pages just got too much for most of them. Chief amongst the culprits are Joe Kubert (9 panels of Sgt Rock) and Kyle Baker (a 5 panel Hawkman tale). Whilst both gentlemen’s artwork is just lovely as you may expect, there’s a big part of me that really wants just a little more from a big page of comics than this. Maybe next issue will see a little more content to go with the big pages?
Wednesday Comics is an absolute masterpiece of art and design. It’s a triumph of originality and beauty. It’s just something I pretty much guarantee you’ll love, enveloped in it’s waves of faux nostalgia. And that’s even with the problems with the writing and the failure to make the most of the single page storyline format. Because the failings of the individual stories don’t manage to spoil what will probably be my superhero comic event of the year.
Wednesday Comics is a weekly series running to 12 issues across July, August and September.