Monday, October 5, 2009

Zuda Week: October Reviews part 1

Yesterday, Zuda Comics posted the newest batch of competitors on their website, which was awful nice of them considering this is Zuda Week here at The Vault. What a handy coincidence, right? So today and tomorrow we'll be offering mini-reviews of then new series currently being featured so that when you finally queue up to vote, you'll have all the information you need to make an informed decision. Today's offerings: A Polar Nightmare, Blitz, Doc Monster, Evil Ain't Easy and Fly Me From The Moon. Let's get to it!

A Polar Nightmare
Amancay Nicolas Nahuelpan Bustamante

First up is A Polar Nightmare, with art and writing from Amancay Nicolas Nahuelpan Bustamante, aka annb. Done in a fairly stark black and white style with just hints of color thrown in here and there for emphasis, A Polar Nightmare tells the story of two kids who journey to the North Pole to protest a lack of decent Christmas presents. When they find Santa, however, they discover he's some sort of flabby, demonic A-hole who passes judgment on kids through sinister doggerel.

The art is the best part -- it's strong, bold and oddly reminiscent of some of Todd McFarlane's early work on Spawn; the evil Santa could easily be Clown and the kids look like kinda like McFarlane kids as well. The writing, however, doesn't keep up with the art (another McFarlane hallmark!) and I have to say the basic premise doesn't do much for me either. Okay, so Santa is kind of evil instead of good. And? While the pages shown here set the tone pretty well, they don't really tell us what the story is about; as I've said before, a concept is not a story. Stronger writing, both in terms of plot and text, might make this viable, but I have the feeling this dark Santa thing has been done before and done better.

My Grade: Despite some nice art at the start, the best I can give this is a C-.

Ted Dawson

Blitz is an interesting departure from the standard Zuda style, if such a thing could be said to exist, deviating from established fan-favorite genres like zombie horror into a more cartoony world where a semi-cuddly alien runs into a scruffy dish-washer while trying to find his missing mother. Readers will still find it somewhat familiar, though, as the writing and design of the strip both seem strongly influenced by Jeff Smith's groundbreaking epic Bone.

Of course, you could do a lot worse than emulating Bone, and Dawson does have some nice moments. I enjoyed the sequence where the unnamed Bone-like alien tricks the bad guy into releasing the title character Blitz by forcing him to count on the fingers of both hands. But in general, though the characters seemed to have some promise and the art was fluid and competent, this apple seemed to fall a little too close to the tree to really stand out. The danger in doing something like this is that people who recognize the influence will automatically compare it to the original. And by those standards, any series going up against Bone is likely to come out on the short end of things.

My Grade: The talent is there, but some more refinement might help differentiate this. I was also a little confused by the layout at one point, which is hard to do considering the whole thing is just two rows of square panels. B-.

Doc Monster
David Flora

Doc Monster brings us back to the world of the 1950's, where we meet a G-man named Clay who has been assigned to a strapping, pipe smoking scientist known by the code name Doc Monster. Just why he has been assigned to this otherwise benign looking fellow soon becomes clear: when a flying saucer filled with bug-like aliens suddenly erupts from the ground, Doc flies into the air to combat it. Looks like there's more going on here than meets the eye.

Creator David Flora renders the story in a pulpy style which, when overlaid by a subtle coloring job, almost appears to be painted. It perfectly suits the retro tone of the story, as does the dialogue and even the choice of fonts. There are a couple hiccups with placement of narrative captions, but other than that, Doc Monster provides a fun, fast paced glimpse at an old fashioned superhero adventure. If that's your kind of thing, then this is a strip for you.

My Grade: A highly enjoyable, professional effort. A-.

Evil Ain't Easy
Seth Wolfshorndl

Evil Ain't Easy is the work of cartoonist Seth Wolfshorndl and is essentially a comedic riff on supervillain tropes. Dr. Nimbus is a mad scientist who bears more than a passing resemblance to a talking thumb; armed with his Destructo Ray and the ability to create henchmen by animating the dead, he sets out to conquer the world. Or so he claims; in reality, he seems too caught up in every day evils like trying to pay the rent to get very far on his master plan.

Wolfshorndl also plays a bit with the format; the eight page sample is less of a story and more of a series of (sometimes) related gags, some of which take up only a single page. The horizontal layout of the Zuda viewer only emphasizes the feeling that you're reading a collection of Sunday comic strips rather than a unified piece. Unfortunately, some of the jokes, while mildly amusing, are just that: mild. This may be a function of the pacing, as the art serves the premise well; but trusting more in the art to build the gags rather than using occasionally stiff dialogue might lead to better punchlines. There's some promise here, but I'm not sure it will garner enough votes to see it fulfilled, which is too bad; this strip has some charm and I enjoyed it, just not as much as I wanted to.

My Grade: It's better than, say, Garfield. B-.

Fly Me From The Moon
Gabriel Bautista

No, this isn't a sci-fi Frank Sinatra bio, but you might be forgiven for thinking it was based on the name. Indeed, Fly Me From The Moon almost seems like the result of a bet or a college writing exercise; you know, everyone is given a weird, punny title and then you have to build a story around it.

Well, the finished product isn't quite that bad. In fact, it's pretty okay. The story, as far as I can make out, is about a guy who sells his business in order to escape a political coup and then takes a space ship to the moon to rescue his wife from the insurgents. I say "as far as I can make out" because just what is going on isn't entirely clear. Half of that is intentional, as the characters speak in mysterious terms about shadowy operations, and half of it is the result of just confusing writing and art. The art is actually pretty good, as far as linework is concerned, but the pulpy coloring job is so pulpy that at times it washes out the images, making them muddy and difficult to follow. The end result is a series that tries to jam so much style and so much substance into eight pages that it ends up overwhelming the story and the reader.

My Grade: I really wanted to like this, but... I kinda didn't. C+.

Bookmark and Share


Scott! Thanks for such a great review of Doc Monster! This is a really tough month's competition as there are several great stories in the mix. I'm flattered to be included...especially in my favorite month, no less!

I'll be checking back to read more reviews!

-Dave flora