Well, as an exercise in form, you absolutely cannot fault it. Wednesday Comics is a beautiful, beautiful object – inventive in its design, charming in its aesthetic, and even if the paper used makes it irritatingly disposable for something that cost $3.99, it can’t be denied that there’s something inherently fun about reading comics in this format (unless you’re trying to do so on a crowded tube carriage).
Sadly, where the whole thing makes a shaky rather than spectacular start is in its failure to fully exploit the form with which it’s experimenting. Too many of the strips contained within feel simply like blown-up versions of regular-sized comics pages – and, worse, too many of the writers involved seem to think that being asked to do a one-page strip means you simply throw out the first page of a regular-length comic. If the “done-in-one-issue” format is becoming a harder-to-achieve beast in modern comics, then Wednesday Comics shows a “done-in-one-page” job to be even further beyond most writers’ imaginations. It’s particularly annoying when you consider that each page is, essentially, equivalent to four pages of your average monthly issue. Only Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman – and, to a lesser extent, the twin strips of Kerschl and Fletcher’s Flash page – really seeks to exploit this, while at the opposite end of the scale, Kyle Baker only grants us five panels for his Hawkman (and if you divide the cost of the issue evenly by page, it means you’re paying about five cents per panel).
Still, Neil Gaiman shows a more assured grasp of the one-page format with a very Casanova-esque Metamorpho, while Paul Pope admirably eschews any sort of introduction by throwing the reader straight into the middle of Adam Strange‘s setup; a stark contrast to the entire half-page given over to rattling through various past Teen Titans lineups. The more frustrating strips, such as the flagship Batman and Superman pages, are the ones that make you feel you should be turning the page – rather than waiting a week – for the next instalment.
Really, though, aside from some fun moments in the retro likes of Supergirl and Flash (indeed, it’s the strips that share a fun, nostalgic, continuity-free Silver Age-esque feel that appeal the most), the stories in general do little to jump off the page. What’s clear is that Wednesday Comics is, first and foremost, a showcase for its artists – and they’re almost universally superb. Lee Bermejo’s expansive imagery almost makes the briskness and low panel count of the Superman story feel worthwhile, while Joe Quinones conjures up a lovely, ’50s-esque feel for Green Lantern, and Pope is just terrific. Sterling work in the main from the colourists, too – particularly whoever took the decision to give the Iris West section of the Flash page Benday dots, enhancing the “romance comic” feel. Not everything works, mind – the sort-of-Manga style of the Titans page is a little too abstract, while Joe Kubert’s page would have looked fine “ordinary” sized, but feels like it’s been blown up to a size it can’t really sustain.
On the whole, though, despite a disappointing start to most of the stories themselves – and little in the way of “hook” factor – I find myself thinking strangely favourably of this. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for a gimmick – but I want to own these things, and I especially want to support anything that involves the main publishers being experimental, taking risks, and – perhaps most notably – putting out anthology books. At the moment it’s a curious experiment rather than an immediate success, but there’s potential here for it to become something special.