Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Zuda Reviews part 1

Hide the kids and save your Grandma, because it's time for some November Zuda reviews. Yes, it's another month and that means that Zuda Comics has posted another batch of ten new titles for your reading -- and voting -- pleasure. Last month the winner was Pluck. Who will win this month? And who should you vote for? Luckily, I am here to help you form an opinion. Don't worry, you can thank me later.

Big Ups: A Space Adventure
Christina Boyce

Big Ups is a cute little strip that follows the adventures of what appears to be a martian teletubby as he battles space worms on a desert planet. Written and drawn by Christina Boyce, a.k.a. fence, the strip has a certain rough-hewn charm to it, right down to the apparently hand-made word balloons and lettering. In an age where computers and robots seem to polish every comic submission to a fine, sterilized sameness, Big Ups stands out as being authentic.

Having said that, it didn't entirely succeed for me, in part because of the pacing; the end in particular seemed to be a little abrupt and probably could have used a bit more of a cliffhanger or tease to draw us in to future stories. As it is, I wouldn't mind reading more of this, but I'm not sure it's a compelling enough read to get anyone to spend the effort to vote for it.

My Grade: I'll give it a B, though a part of me feels like it should probably get a B-. But I kind of liked it.

Brother of Bronze Hammer
Andrew Alexander

Brother of Bronze Hammer features some very idiosyncratic art from Alexander, a sort of Manga-meets-Mignola vibe done in sketches (with erase lines still left visible) overlaid by a sort of sepia-toned ambiance. The result is something visually different, which meshes well with the premise of Goldilocks and the Three Bears retold as some sort of post-apocalyptic revenge fable set in Mos Eisley.

At least, that's what the premise seems to be for the first few pages; I'm not sure it can maintain a whole story, though, and I suspect that the sudden appearance of a new character int he last panel is an indication of things to come, possibly other fairy tales woven in. Which is fine I suppose. The only problem I had with the story, other than a couple bits of slightly stilted writing, was the fact that I wasn't sure I really liked the protagonist that much. Maybe it is the grim-faced character design, but I found myself routing for the three bears at the end. And that's not necessarily a good sign.

My Grade: I liked the art more than I expected, but the story less. Something about this felt like it was trying a little too hard. B-.

Children of the Sewer
Benito Gallego

Fans of classic comic storytelling can rejoice, because amid all the post-modern manga cartoons often featured on Zuda, Benito Gallego has crafted a story with art straight out of the 70's. Children of the Sewer, which follows a serial killer as he hunts his prey and then is unexpectedly waylaid by weirdoes who live in a secret sewer city, is drawn with strong, obvious and expertly executed influence from master artist John Buscema. The influence, which Gallego indicated in his comments was intentional, is apparent right from the first page, as Buscema-style figures dominate the story. Indeed, the face on the final panel of page 5, part of which was used here as the story's thumbnail, is almost indistinguishable from Buscema's work itself.

The only part of this that was a letdown for me was the story. It's actually written pretty well, and though some readers were thrown by the use of yellow lettering in some of the captions, that didn't bother me. What bothered me was the fact that the main character is a serial killer. I'm just not interested in reading about this character, nor about the sewer dudes who themselves seem just one step removed from murder. Fans of dark horror or crime may get into this, but it left me wishing that Gallego had chosen a different subject for his Buscema homage.

My Grade: The execution of this forces me to give it an A-. But for personal pleasure, I can't give it more than a B, and that's entirely because I love John Buscema.

In Maps & Legends
Niki Smith and Michael Jasper

Yesterday I mentioned that some stories just grab you right from the front page with their thumbnail and title. For me, In Maps & Legends was the one that jumped out at me the most before reading; I love maps and the title along with the little picture of the main character looking off into space piqued my interest. So half of the battle had already been won.

The other half, though, is still undecided. I liked the first few pages well enough, and I enjoyed the main character, her voiceover and the mysterious maps she was drawing on her walls without seeming to know why. All that was cool. I wasn't as big a fan of the running subplot along the bottom, especially when it finally intersected with the main story and introduced some d-bag named Jeremy into the tale. For some reason, the transition was a little jarring -- the panels where Jeremy comes in to the room to talk to Kat just seemed disjointed. Page 6 in particular was a bit hard for me to follow as it didn't flow from one panel to the next well, and it also didn't flow well into page 7. I also was a bit underwhelmed by the sudden appearance of mystery man and his weird landscape on the last page, though this is more because of character design and lettering choices than because of the storytelling decisions.

If this criticism seems a bit specific and picky compared to the other reviews, it's probably because I wanted to like this more than the others. And I did like it mostly, which made the letdowns even bigger. There's potential here, but I would like to see it cleaned up a little if it goes forward.

My Grades: The first five pages of the main story get an A- from me. The rest, not so much; final grade is only a B-. But hopefully this will improve as the story goes along.

Little Earth People
Christopher Lewis and Joe Pekar

And then there's this. Let's start off with the good part: the art in this is very nicely rendered; it's got almost a painterly quality that is somehow mixed with what almost looks like Mad Magazine style drawing. Not that the characters become caricatures, but they easily could and somehow this works for the story.

On the downside, I couldn't figure out what was going on with this story. The first four pages set up the unusual main character, a boy who can't see his own body; this segues into a segment that shows some of his dreams which border on virtual reality and may or may not be real in some sense. So far, so good. But then the story takes a 900 degree turn when the door opens on the last page and instead of the character we're expecting to see based on the set-up, there's... a random talking ferret wearing some priest's robes from the set of Dune or something. In other words, say what?

For me, this was too all over the place. The story seemed to be going one way and abruptly ended with a complete non-sequitor. The individual segments were okay, but when put together they just left me scratching my head. I think there's something interesting here, but the way it was structured made me leery about reading any more of this.

My Grade: Started off okay, but the unearned switcheroo at the end wasn't a cliffhanger so much as a nuclear meltdown. C.

Tomorrow: Part two of our November reviews! Model Student! Molly and the Amazing Door Tree! Peabody & D'Gorath! Slam McKraken! Witch Phase! Be there, home slices!

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Scott! great work on the reviews man! you always seem to be able to cut to the heart of what buggs me about some of the submissions. and so graciously! ha!

please tell me where the panel of the week comes from! I am working on a zuda submission that is uh, similar?

For anyone else interested, the nun with a gun can be found in Combat Kelly and his Deadly Dozen #7, which is actually a really interesting story. That series has some weird stuff in it.

I'm actually a little embarrassed for some of the contestants this month. A few comments that I chose to reject rather than publish were.... a little less than nice, and extremely immature. They just don't GET it. Yes, being in the competition is nice, but this is not a therapy session for your self-esteem issues. People don't have to like your work, and they do not need your permission to have an opinion. To read such negative comments over reviews that, while harsh, actually discuss what someone didn't like... and then to read how the contestants basically live off praise (honestly, how immature do you have to be to write something like that?)... it's extremely discouraging.

We've had some pretty bad months with some egotistical mad men, but this one, I think, takes the cake.

They are children.