ROUGHLY THE SIZE OF A SMALL CHILD and containing a similar amount of energy, Wednesday Comics offers some of the best action-adventure stories of the past few years. Provided you can find a big enough chair to settle into, and provided your arms don't instantly tire from cracking its 18"-by-12" hardcover, the stuff inside will remind you why you started reading comics in the first place.
Wednesday Comics collects all 12 issues of DC Comics' bold experiment at huge, full-page comic strips—made by a slew of talented creators and originally printed on newsprint, the individual installments of Wednesday Comics landed in comic shops every week for three months in 2009. Now combined, the weekly endeavor is frankly a beast (and even more frankly, a total pain in the ass to carry around). But the book's size is also what makes it work: Within its massive pages, Wednesday Comics allows its contributors and readers to have an extraordinary amount of fun.
The best strips here, like the format they're in, bear an air of retro cool: Dave Gibbons and Ryan Sook's Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth! features Gibbons' Prince Valiant-inspired narration scattered through Sook's dramatic tableaus, following a teenage boy in the post-apocalypse as he paddles through a flooded New York and battles with mutant apes, tigers, and lions in the ruins of Washington, DC. Speaking of villainous apes (can there be too many of them? I think not), the always-amazing Paul Pope contributes an Adam Strange tale that has the hero transporting himself via extraterrestrial "zeta-patterns" and teaming up with a warrior-princess hottie to regain control of the planet Rann. These stories are pulpy, smart, and earnest, but honestly they could suck and it'd still be a delight to see Pope and Sook's artwork, big and clear and beautiful.
Admittedly, a few stories here do suck: Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway's Teen Titans tale looks fantastic but is fantastically boring; more disappointingly, Ben Caldwell's beautifully colored Wonder Woman is rendered illegible thanks to postage-stamp sized panels, jumbled text, and bewildering layouts.
Wednesday Comics is an experiment though, and every experiment is bound to have its failures—luckily, the majority of stuff here is well worth a read. Besides the Kamandi and Adam Strange business, there's Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred's cool, clever tale starring Metamorpho, the Element Man (dude was "given awesome element powers by the Eye of Ra!"); an adorable to the nth power Supergirl written by the fun Power Girl team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner (it costars Krypto the Superdog and Streaky the Supercat!); a striking, moody Batman mystery by 100 Bullets' Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso; and Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher's mind-bending time-travel story starring the Flash. (Like the best stuff in Wednesday Comics, the Flash story works so well in this giant format that it's impossible to imagine it being told any other way.)
Fun adventures aside though, it's Wednesday Comics itself—as an experiment, as an idea, as one giant goddamn comic book—that's the coolest thing here. As comics are increasingly shrunk down to be easier read (and sold) on iPads and iPhones, it's a rare experience to be overwhelmed by panels, colors, words, and sound effects—to have one's entire field of vision dominated by pop art of the most enjoyable sort. Wednesday Comics is a great collection, sure, but it's also an experience—one that, hopefully, DC will soon offer us again.