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Hot Ink — Wednesday Comics, Green Lantern, President Evil

READ ALL ABOUT IT RIGHT HERE – Wednesday Comics #1

For those of you unfamiliar with newsprint, it was an analog medium of information distribution. Imagine, if you will, that instead of bringing up the New York Times or the Boston Globe on your laptop’s web browser, or your Kindle, or your iPhone, you instead walked down to your local street corner and flipped a nice shiny buffalo nickel to the nearest street urchin. And as he tipped his flat cap, he reached down with his fingerless-gloved hand and gave you in return, an account of local and world events (although none that happened less than twelve hours ago) printed on light, inexpensive paper. Then you would unfold it, carefully because it wasn’t bound together, and read it while taking a trolley car to the office where you designed text placards for the silent film industry.

Apparently at some point in time, long, long ago, comics were actually printed in these “newsed-papers” as well. Some days they even got an entire page. Which is no small feat considering that, just like the fabled dinosaurs and wooly mammoths of yore were much larger than the animals of our age, newsprint pages dwarfed the pages of the books you and I are familiar with. And now, in an effort to drum up nostalgia while providing a sampling of some of the best writers and artists the field has to offer, DC has launched “Wednesday Comics.”The first weekly edition kicks off with fifteen stories this week, ranging from DC’s most famous heroes to those with a little bit less instant name recognition. Seeing the variety of artwork laid out larger than life, or at least larger than you’re used to, is impressive. The range of artwork includes the more traditional-to-the-character looks of Batman, Kamandi, Sgt. Rock and Demon/Catwoman, the hyper-realism of Superman, a new and yet classic pulp look to Adam Strange, an adaptation of Supergirl that pushes the limits of dewey-eyed adorability right up to the breaking point without going too far, and two fresh and welcome takes on Wonder Woman and Hawkman.

One word of warning, though. If you’re the type of comics reader who can get a little frustrated with only moving along an issue at a time, “Wednesday Comics”‘ page per story gives you the equivalent of about two normal comics pages worth of story, at most. So if that’s you, this is going to be the ultimate tease, a sampler plate of storytelling where you take a bite, only start to get a taste of what you’ve digested, and then get forced to move on and repeat that fourteen more times. Many of the stories do give the impression that they’ll be quite good once they’re completed. Which does actually raise the question of how DC’s going to collect these once they’re all done. I’d like to know if it means I’m going to have to start shopping for a bookcase with taller shelves.

BRING OUT YOUR DEAD FOR – Green Lantern #43.

Nothing quite says “this is going to be a big deal, so pay attention” like ending your big comic event by going directly into the teaser for the next big event you’re planning. Which is what Geoff Johns and DC did at the end of the Sinestro Corps arc to start getting readers excited for “Blackest Night.” And then they proceeded to spend the next year and a half getting ready for that event on both “Green Lantern” titles. So expectations for this one have got to be unbelievably high at this point. Considering that everything going on since the end of the Sinestro Corps War has been building up to this, it’s difficult draw a line that labels one issue as the prologue to Blackest Night and labels the issues beforehand as having nothing to do with it. On the other hand, it’s fairly simple to design a graphic that reads “Prologue: Blackest Night,” and have it printed on the cover of your comic book. And that’s exactly what DC did for Green Lantern #43.

A four page sequence in the latest issue of “Green Lantern” carries a long list of the deceased of the DC universe, some recent, some not so recent. And it’s refreshing to be reminded that sometimes when they kill these characters off they actually do stay dead for more than a few years. Of course, they’re telling us this because they’re about to bring a bunch of them back. Although to be fair, they’re bringing them back wrong and exploring that. And it’s good to know that there are consequences to raising the dead more dire than the occasional wrath of a devoted fanbase.

Even better, the issue actually starts to address the fact that death in the DC universe is about as severe and permanent a problem as being sent to jail in Monopoly, with the implication that this is going to be a point of contention for the rest of the event. Is “Blackest Night” going to change how death is handled for characters for one of comics’ major publishers? No, no of course it isn’t. But it may be enough that they’re going give us an interesting look into the ramifications of a universe where death only lasts if you’re not interesting enough to bring back.

APPROVAL RATING NOT SO HIGH FOR – President Evil #1.

There’s a comic released this week that features Barack Obama leading a rebuilding effort in the aftermath of an alien invasion, and yet somehow a convincing argument can be made that it’s not the craziest Obama book available for purchase this week. The book with that honor would seem to be “President Evil,” which sees President Obama confronted with a ravenous zombie horde.

Obama comics have become a genre unto themselves. Whereas for the past several years every other new comic series involved zombies in some way, now they all feature the President. And so in that regard this book is an appropriate passing of the torch from one expression of zeitgeist to another. Although admittedly having the new zeitgeist simply be expressed by telling stories about the man we’re all excited by and placing our hopes upon is the laziest expression of our collective consciousness I’ve ever seen. It’s as if the economic crisis not only stripped away all our money but then went on to wipe out our vast metaphor reserves at the same time. But then again the subgenre of Obama comics is growing at such an unprecedented rate that I fully expect it to achieve its deconstructionist peak and give us the Watchmen equivalent of Obama graphic novels before he leaves office. And I’ll admit I’m looking forward to that.

As for President Evil, well, honestly it’s disappointing. The cover art depicts, in a parody of the film poster for Army of Darkness, a chainsaw wielding Barack Obama protecting Michelle Obama from a zombie FDR, a zombie George Washington, a zombie Nixon, and a zombie Lincoln. The following do not appear in issue 1 of President Evil: a zombie FDR, a zombie George Washington, a zombie Nixon, a zombie Lincoln, a chainsaw of any kind. Only one zombified former President appears in the issue at all, and rather than fight him the protagonists simply let him wander off. To say that this wa
s a let down is an understatement.

The series promises a horde of zombies led by “200 years worth of undead presidents”, and if the series really wanted to make a strong impression off the bat you’d think they’d include at least one. It’s not unusual to have a cover differ significantly from the interior, but it’s particularly notable in this case. While the cover art is in a dark, somewhat realistic style that gives a more horror-tinged atmosphere, the book itself is done in a bright manga style with much more of an action feel. The zombies in it aren’t particularly frightening or dangerous to the heroes, and as far as the first issue is concerned they could have been swapped out for robots, aliens, or really any of your standard B-movie swarm opponents and it wouldn’t have made all that much of a difference. There are better crafted Obama comics out there if you need one.

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