Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 07/08/09

Another Wednesday means another edition of the Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews and, quite literally, reviews of "Wednesday Comics" in the form of DC's new weekly newspaper comic. I actually only picked up two comics this week, the afforementioned Wednesday Comics and Green Lantern #43.

Wednesday Comics was a tough sell for me as I just couldn't look past the use of the newspaper format and how much I disliked it. Green Lantern was a slow paced look at just who Black Hand was, but ended strong and has me pumped for Blackest Night.

Hit the jump for the full reviews!

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy

First things first, Bruce Wayne, his corpse or anything related to that cover does not occur in this issue. It is about as cheap a cover as DC could possibly put on the book. Thankfully, the actual issue is excellent and, cover shenanigans aside, everyone should walk away happy with this purchase.

With that out of the way, I think we should clarify what this issue is about. It's not a Green Lantern comic, despite the title of the book. This is basically Black Hand #1. The issue highlights the early days of Black Hand as a child, his life growing up, recaps how he got his powers, which was also shown in Secret Origin, and ends the issue by ushering us into Blackest Night with a bang.

The first and most immediate thing to mention is the artwork of new series artists, Doug Mahnke. I'm a huge fan of Mahnke's art and this is easily some of his best work. It's dark and moody, as befits a story about the birth of the first Black Lantern, but is clean and detailed at the same time. A real treat after some muddled art from Tan's fill-in arc on Agent Orange.

As for the content of this issue, I'm torn. On one hand, I did enjoy the issue a great deal and it really ramped up a notch in the closing pages. On the other hand, though, the first 15 pages or so are, well, basically filler if you ask me. It's just recapping things we already know about Black Hand and events from the past. It has Johns's unique twist on the recap through Black Hand's eyes and I feel it was important to flesh out Black Hand at this time, but I just felt like I was watching a rerun of something I've already seen with some voice overs.

However, I also believe the majority of the people picking up this issue, especially those that are merely jumping on for Blackest Night, will greatly appreciate the background information on Black Hand. I'm probably a bit clouded on the topic since I just spent a great deal of time researching and rereading for the Blackest Night primer we've been running all week.

All this brings us to the present day section of the book, which featured the splashpage full of names teased on DC's The Source blog. The way I read this section was that the "voice" speaking to Black Hand was listing off various deaths that have occured, such as Martian Manhunter's, Ted Kord's, Vic Sage, etc. It didn't read as a who's who list of guaranteed Black Lanterns as many people immediately speculated on forums around the internet. The "voice" continued by listing off the people that have also come back from the dead, such as Flash, Superman and Hal Jordan, before telling Hand that he "wants them all" back, implying the mystery big bad is someone that controls the land of the dead, lending some weight to the Nekron theory that's been floating around for a while.

The issue ended in a chilling and distrubing manner as Black Hand, at the behest of the "voice", slaughters his family, sits down at the dinner table and promptly blows his own brains out. Scar shows up, coughs up a black ring and Hand is reborn as the emdodiment of the Black Lantern Corps. Scar even compares him to Parallax, Ion and the newest emotion entity, the Predator, of the Star Sapphires and the embodiment of love. This appears to be the same Predator from an older Green Lantern story that possessed Carol Ferris when she was a Star Sapphire.

It's curious how Scar worded this section as it sounded like she was saying Black Hand was the actual embodiment of death; not that he was possessed by something, but I may be reading too much into it at this point. Furthermore, the black ring repaired Black Hand's head, brains and all, and he was in full control of his mental faculties (or as much as he was before), laying to rest the possibility of Black Lanterns being actual zombies or mindless husks.

Verdict - Must Read. While I didn't get as much out of this issue as I'd hope, it is still a very good issue that tells you everything you could ever want to know about Black Hand while simultaneously kicking off Blackest Night with a literal bang.

Various Writers and Artists

I'm torn. I want to like Wednesday Comics, I really do, but I just can't bring myself to heap praises upon it like many of my peers. A lot of people seem to be caught up with the format and how much they liked what little was given and fail to really tell you that this is just an anthology book with, for the most part, standard comics on bigger pages.

And therein lies my biggest problem with Wednesday Comics - it's a standard, out of continuity anthology comic with Silver Age throwbacks. The creators are the only draw to the book as the format is a mere novelty. There's nothing unique here that could not have been achieved in a standard comic book. Sure, we have some bigger panels or more story on one page, but are you honestly telling me that a Karl Kerschl or Paul Pope or Eduardo Risso couldn't recreate the exact same style and format for a standard sized comic book? Do you think the stories from any creator would be worse because they didn't have bigger pages to work with?

This all leads me to another issue with the comic - the price. It was $3.99 for this "newspaper". I have no problem paying $3.99 for a comic, as evidenced by my purchasing of dozens of overpriced comics every month. However, there's an intrinsic value I get from each purchase that I just do not get from this one. The stories are great, the art is beautiful, but it feels like I was sold a cheap bootleg/shakey cam copy of a comic that could have looked ten times better in the standard comic book format instead of being printed on newsprint and folded over three or four times.

Add in the fact I know this will be reprinted in a better format than what I'm purchasing and I'm already feeling cheated. The format should serve a purpose. It should not be a gimmick or detriment to the final product and I feel that putting it in this newspaper style, while mainstream news worthy and commendable in its own right, was the wrong call for something that amounts to a normal comic book on bigger pages for all but the rare few comics.

One final complaint about the format is that I found it entirely unwieldly. For one thing, I couldn't read it on the ride home nor was it easy to unfold and take a look inside before purchasing - my cramped shop just doesn't have any room for people to be standing around with these newspapers unfolded and taking a look. Even at home, I almost felt like I had to be standing up to properly read the thing without it getting all bent up.

Ignoring the formatting of the issue and my general displeasure with it, many of these comics are actually quite good. While there's the odd clunker, like the Wonder Woman story, which featured way too many panels that were arranged terribly and word balloons crammed into tiny spaces, the majority of these were enjoyable - just not unique enough to justify the newspaper format. The Flash one was one of my favourites and Kerschl did a fantastic job, as always, on the art, but, again, nothing that could not have simply been repeated in a standard comic.

My only complaint about Wednesday Comics, from a story standpoint, was that almost every comic was "identical". No, they all don't fight the same villain and not all were the exact same style or narration, but just about all of them amounted to a "this is the hero, here's a demonstration of his powers, here's the threat, to be continued". If this was a long running comic that had some stories already in progress, a few similar stories beginning at the same time wouldn't be a big deal. With all 15 stories beginning at the same time and just about every one of them featuring the same basic plot, it's an odd feeling of deja vu as we you turn the pages and begin reading each story.

Verdict - Check It. Does it bother you that this is just an overpriced comic book in newspaper format? If no, this is probably a must read for you. Does it bother you that this "comic" won't physically stand the test of time and that a "proper", cheaper oversized trade is inevitable? If yes, this is probably an avoid it for you. Personally, while I don't hate the stories told and I do think the art looks fantastic for just about every single one of these pages, the format simply acts as too much of a barrier for me for what amounted to a basic series of out of continuity anthology tales from top creators. I'll be waiting for the trade on this one where I'll be able to enjoy it in a much easier to handle manner.

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Andrenn said...

You and me are trade waiting on Wednesday comics together Kirk, but hey glad the stories sound good.

Steven said...

You know, Wednesday Comics is 12 weekly issues on newsprint for 3.99 or about 48 bucks. That would mean a trade that is on newsprint for around the same, or multiple trades on higher quality paper. Whatever the case, it is going to be expensive.

James said...

Jesus, the entire point of Wednesday comics is to see these artists work in a larger format. There's absolutely no way the Wonder Woman, Strange Adventures, Hawkman, or the Deadman strip would've worked in a smaller format. There's no way the second half of the Strange Adventures has the impact it does if it's shrunk to fit on a "normal" comic book page(s).

mq1986 said...

I think price-wise the cost of Wednesday Comics is fair considering the number, variety, and quality of stories and art that is included. There are plenty of less worthy comics that are priced $3.99 and are still bought on a monthly basis. Personally, I really enjoyed the stories and I thought the art was dazzling, to say the least.

I think my favorite part of Wednesday Comics is the endearing factor of its share-ability. It's plenty fun to open up the thing and let other people read beside you or over your shoulder.

But in any case, DC might have a pretty strong hit on its hands; Wednesday Comics was nearly sold out at the store near my house. Good for you, DC.

brandon said...

For me, the Wednesday Comics is just too much of a cash investment.

I did enjoy some of the stories a lot, like Flash, Metamorphio, Kamandi and (god help me) Metal Men.

I was a little confused why not all of them left the reader hanging, like Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. You have to want people to keep coming back to see what happens next, right?

Nathan Aaron said...

Actually while you're right, a lot of what was told in earlier Green Lantern issues was retread in this latest issue; I thought it was a really good prologue. Total set up for the leader of the entire Black Lanterns. So it makes sense, and really explained a lot more about Black Hand that I DIDN'T previously know (as I've never read Green Lantern until this newest reboot.) I'm REALLY curious to see if poor Scar has to "vomit" up each and every Black Lantern ring. LOL That was just nasty.

And I thought Wednesday comics was a blast! Yeah, the Wonder Woman and Teen Titans (talk about some BAD art!) left me cold, but the others were great! I just kept smiling at this crazy big format as I'd turn a page! It was a lot of fun, and it's definitely no more of a gimmick than variant covers. Those things have been around forever, and fans are still stupid enough to pick them up, spending an extra $2.99-$3.99 for a COVER! When the fans learn, the gimmicks will end. Until then... but I really like this. I mean, it is a tad pricey, but at least it's only 12 issues (and not 52) so I'm all in for the entire run!

Sebastian said...

Kirk and James give differing opinions on how the creators handle the format. Personally, I was hoping that the talent would be more adventurous with the medium but I don't pick up my copy until tomorrow, so I don't know right now. It won't be the end of the world, but for $3.99, I would hope the creators took advantage of the very awesome, very unique opportunity they are given. Still, foreseeing Countdown-levels of suck, I am picking up the series for the long run.

As for a "trade", I can't imagine that Pope story being crammed into a regular comic. There's too much detail going on to work with smaller trade-publication. However, it would be pretty sweet to see it released as a Treasury sized thingy. I have some of the old Marvel ones and they look pretty nifty on my wall. I don't know how many complete stories you could fit in one, or how it would be arranged, but the format would definitely be more long-lasting without losing the appeal of the oversize pages.

brandon said...

With regards to GL I thought it was unique that the event kicks off with the bad guy's origin. I'm not sure it is essential reading but it was a comprehensive read as they weaved Hand's life through the GL timeline pretty nicely.

One question though: when did the Guardians get retconned so that they didnt die in Emerald Twilight? Scar states how old she is and how she's been through all of the GL events.

Plus, female Guardians didnt show up until the latter half of Kyle's run, no?

Daringd said...

I really enjoyed it. I did have 2 issues however
1 It is impossible to read in bed
2. The Wonder Woman story was awful

Besides thet great stuff

Kirk Warren said...

@James - Like I said, most of the problems I had with had nothing to do with content, but more with the format. There were very few of these strips that actually required the larger page sizes and none that I saw that could not have been reworked for a standard comic size. Even the ones you mention could have easily been reworked by what are essentially the best artists in the business to work ina similar manner in a normal comic.

Content wise, it was a good 'comic', but very few actually appealed to me (Flash, GL, Batman, couple others). None were outright bad, but nothign screamed 'must read' either, which left most of the reason to pick this up in the future hinging on the price and format, which both turned me off. Maybe I'm too old fashioned (or not enough since its a throwback to the older days) to appreciate a newsprint comic.

@mq1986 - Price wise, I wouldn't mind paying $3.99 for a weekly comic, but I plan didn't like the newspaper format. Couldnt sit down and read properly without bending or struggling to get it folded out properly, low quality paper for a $3.99 comic and the online previews end up looking a million times better to me, which is just wrong (check out The Flash at The Source froma w hile back for an example of how much cleaner and sharper it could have looked and will look in an eventual trade).

@Nathan Aaron - oh, it's definitely better than a cheap variant or other gimmicks and the stories were good (some will love, most will enjoy all of them), but I just found the format did not work for me and few stories really stood out as even making use of the larger format to any noticeable degree, so it came down to talking about how this format reads and looks for my review and I didnt enjoy it, so will be trade waiting this one. DC deserves a lot of credit for taking the chance on this though and I wish I had made it clearer that it is a unique venture and commendable on their part.

@Sebastion - It's not so much that we differ on opinions as there are certain stories that make great use of the format, but, to me, I don't think they required the format or that they could not be easily adapted to the standard size or even an oversized comic format. Even the stories, while some are Silver Age throwbacks, are all your standard comic, just abridged for a one page story. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, why the change in format?

@brandon - Agreed. GL wasn't essential reading, but does fill out a lot of the main bad guys origin and acts as a nice prologue to BN.

RE: Guardians deaths, I dont think they retconned their deaths away. It was more they simply put their lifeforces into Kyle's ring and when he brought the corps back, his ring simply released the Guardians' essences back into the universe. Comic book science, they didn't die, technically.

brandon said...

I had assumed my Wonder Woman just had a problem printing because the dialogue was almost unreadable. I'm starting to think that was not the case based on all the negative vibe it seems to be giving off.

hooligantuesday said...

"furthermore, the black ring repaired Black Hand's head, brains and all, and he was in full control of his mental faculties (or as much as he was before), laying to rest the possibility of Black Lanterns being actual zombies or mindless husks."

How exactly? Atrocitious is still capable of forming plans and full sentances as king pimp of the Red Lantern Corps, that doesn't stop his crew from being all argleblargle ragey.

Kirk Warren said...

@hooligantuesday - True enough I suppose. However, I imagine the point of other Black Lantern choices was for pyschological advantages as well as the strengths of those fallen heroes and villains. Hopefully they arent just mindless 'braaaaiiinsss' types of zombies and be similar to how Black hand was shown here.

Nathan Aaron said...

OH WORD! And speaking of gimmicks, Marvel is determined to kill the industry 1990's style, all over again! (Sorry, sorta part of my gimmicks rant, but not really a review. I just read this and went GAH!)

"Marvel Introduces Groundbreaking Foilogram Covers on ULTIMATE COMICS

Marvel is pleased to unveil the special variant covers to Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1, Ultimate Comics Avengers #1 and Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1 utilizing the brand-new Foilogram cover treatment! Part foil, part hologram, these reflective covers will jump at you from shelves! Watch as Spider-Man’s webbing catches the light! Examine the intricate technology of Tony Stark! And, yes, that’s Captain America’s shield shining back at you!

“This is Marvel doing the nineties right,” explained David Gabriel, Marvel Comics Senior Vice President of Sales & Circulation. “We’re taking two of the most popular cover treatments of all time—foil and holograms—to create an all new kind of cover, as a ‘thank-you’ to fans who’ve been demanding this kind of variant! Retailers and fans don’t need to worry. We’re only doing this on a limited basis. You won’t see one on Ms Marvel #46 or Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #4. We’re using them to mark very special occasions…such as the launch of Ultimate Comics line.”

As the Ultimate Comics line launches with Marvel’s top characters and top creators, you can’t miss the star-studded Ultimate Comics Avengers #1, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #1 and Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1, now with Foilogram Variant Covers! Fans, speak to your retailers now about how to secure one of these variant covers!"

Kirk Warren said...

@Nathan - I just read the news on that as well and posted about to Twitter asking where my red lantern ring was. My rage cannot be contained.

Max said...

What about Gaiman's Metamorpho story? Any good, or simply lacklustre?

Sebastian said...

Kirk, (awesome creators aside) a good chunk of Wednesday Comics' appeal is the novelty of it. It catches the eye, it's something new. It's pretty gimmicky, but it might actually sell pretty damn well thanks to the format. I'm not complaining, though. I'm sure I will read my copy with the dumbest grin imaginable. Still, it would be really really cool if they worked with it better. I read an interview with Allred talking about the changes and challenges of working with the oversized format. There is still eleven weeks to go. If they don't warm to it by Week 12, here's hoping for Round Two. :)

Oh, boy, just read Green Lantern #43. THIS IS NUTS. Loved it!

Brenden said...

Hi Kirk,

Thank you so much for the kind words. Glad you're enjoying our "Flash" story in Wednesday comics.

Allow me to say for the record that what we're attempting wouldn't be possible, or desirable for that matter, in a standard sized North American comic book. Karl's art is simply too large and would lose a tremendous amount of detail and Rob's letters would be far too small to read if reduced to that size. Pages are drawn at 17X22 and already scaled down to 14X20 for WED COMICS. (Here are some pages in progress on Karl's desk. Compare paper to size of Macbook )

As we progress through the story, fill the page with more dialogue and play with composition you'll note how "The Flash" could never be printed 6.625x10.25. This was always the plan. Start conservative. Mess things up a lot. End with a BANG!

Just as Rob chooses font size relative to final print size, Dave is choosing his colours with the knowledge that the delivery medium will be newsprint. "Flash" was never meant to appear as vivid and boldly naked as it does in the raw JPG format found in web previews. I can't speak for every team involved with the project, but that's how we're operating. The final printed result is the ultimate goal.

I pray that if and when Mark gets all his ducks in a row and is able to sort out a collection, it ends up on a very matte, dull page like newsprint, close to the actual size it's being published now. I'm not quite sure how our story will read, all at once, page to page (as opposed to the week-to-week format it's been crafted to take advantage of) but I'm sure it'll be a fun collection, nonetheless!

In the meantime, what you're getting for your $4 in every issue of WED COMICS is the equivalent of 15 gorgeous, large canvases slathered with some of the best comic art you'll ever see, as grand and as breathtaking as you're ever bound to see it. This should be supported. DC is taking a big risk here and we should stand behind it, every one of us. If we don't, the collection that you're waiting for may very well never materialize. Just look at Mark's "Solo" book!

I'm off to the studio now to sort out Page #9 with Karl. We're having a bugger of a time cracking this one, and you'll see why, when it hits the stands in Sept. This is one page that could never be printed in a standard comic! ;)

All the best,


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