Sunday, July 19, 2009

How Appropriate, You Fight Like a Cow

Right, so how come the new version of The Secret of Monkey Island, which after all only has some tarted-up graphics and a voice track, requires a 3ghz processor and 3gb of disk space? What the heck?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

(Tell Me Why) I Don't Like Wednesdays

Wednesday Comics then. It's a pretty clear attempt by DC Comics to reach out to a wider market by presenting their product in a more widely-recognisable format, that of the Sunday newspaper comics section. It's also the first weekly adventure anthology ever, if you believe DC's absurd hype. Certainly the first weekly adventure anthology released every Wednesday, anyway. Now, the accepted wisdom is that the US comics-buying public doesn't like anthology titles, but the accepted wisdom was also that the US comics-buying public didn't like weekly titles either, and yet DC have had some success over the past couple of years with stuff like 52 and Countdown (although those were tied into their annual big event stories, and were not standalone projects), so I can see why they're trying the anthology approach here. However, I can't see it working, not in the current format.

First off, despite the "normal" appearance, this is still being sold through Diamond's distribution monopoly, and, as far as I can tell, is only being sold through comic shops. As a result, the intended audience becomes a little murky. The format seems to be aimed at people who once read comics, but haven't in a while, or who don't read superhero comics, but do read the humour strips in the Sunday papers, but then, once again, it's only being sold through the specialist shops those people will never, ever, visit. All the new formats in the world will do no good if you're stuck with such an exclusive distribution method, and it may even be counter-productive to try anything new because the audience served by that method may by now be trained so that they don't want anything different.

Distribution is one thing, crucial to the success of the project, but the contents are just as important, and are just as bungled. The storytelling is abysmal, okay on its own grounds but completely wrong for a one-page-a-week format, with acres of wasted space, a distinct lack of actual things happening, and a disturbing tendency toward limp "cliffhangers". DC have assembled a group of writers and artists here who often excel in the usual twenty-two pages of a monthly US comic, but seem to have no idea whatsoever how to pace a single page of storytelling; they seem to be writing with an eye to a full story, but have neglected how the single page reads. A lot of these creators are really good, and should be able to figure out how to tell a one-page story, but none of them have managed it (although Paul Pope comes very close); Neil Gaiman and Dave Gibbons should have an idea, at least, from their experience in the UK weeklies, but even they stumble, as if they, like the audience, have been conditioned to not understand how single page storytelling works. There are about fourteen billion webcomic creators out there, all of whom could do a better job than this A-list collection of writers and artists has managed.

There's also the small matter of all the stories being bog-standard DC superhero tales. Now I know that superheroes are the bread and butter of the US industry, but again it makes me wonder who this is for; if you're picking this up because you like Calvin and Hobbes, and you just happened to walk down the wrong alley and stumbled upon a comic shop, this collection is not going to draw you in, unless the stories are sufficiently gripping, which, due to the unsatisfying storytelling is not the case. But then, of course, if DC dropped the "household name" characters and the famous creators, the existing superhero comics fans would ignore the title, and since it won't be selling to anyone else, those fans have to be placated. The whole thing is so incredibly pointless and inane.

All in all, Wednesday Comics strikes me as a bit of a folly. It does look very good, apart from the almost-offensively grotesque art in the Superman story, and there is something undeniably pleasing about the broadsheet newsprint format, but it all comes across as a bit of an art object, and because barely any of the stories inside work at all, I can't see any point in getting the second issue. I can understand and appreciate the idea behind the book, but it's been handled about as poorly as it possibly could.

Well, maybe not. If Marvel had done it, it would likely have been even worse.

(Had this review been published at Comics Bulletin, I would have given it two bullets out of five. That's mainly for the good art throughout, and the Paul Pope story.)