Friday, December 11, 2009

December Zuda Reviews part 2

Welcome back. I know for the last 24 hours you've been pacing around your den, chewing on your fingernails as you anticipated the second batch of this month's Zuda reviews. Well, the wait is over, so put down that bottle of gin you've been nursing and settle in, because we have five new comics to look at and there's no more time to waste. First up: a little something I like to call One Hit Knock Out.

One Hit Knock Out
Maximo Lorenzo

One Hit Knock Out, the brainchild of Maximo Lorenzo, does a pretty good job of living up to its name, as these first eight pages do a number on the competition. After the lackluster batch of entries we reviewed on day one, One Hit Knock Out comes as a refreshing change of pace thanks to being drawn and written with both competence and charm.

The story, which is about a kid who is entrusted by his grandfather to watch over a special glove imbued with unknown powers, is done in a manga style that suits the lighter tone of the story nicely. It's not perfect, but it is fun enough to leave me wanting to read more, which is something I definitely couldn't say about many of the entrants yesterday. About the only real negative for me was the odd choice of thumbnail to represent the title; this little headshot is about the most awkwardly rendered panel in the whole comic and thus doesn't do the rest of it justice.

My Grade: This is the leader in the clubhouse and gets a solid B+ from me.

Alfredo Rodríguez & Gabriel Rodríguez

SubSeulo is a well drawn and fast paced action story from the brothers Rodriguez. Or maybe they're cousins. Or father and son, I don't know. The point is, though, that the art for this entry is particularly nice, especially in comparison with some of the slightly subpar artistic entries that have slipped into the competition in the last couple weeks.

The story is also solid, but suffers some from being a bit too fast paced. It's no exaggeration to say that I read this entry at least twice as fast as any of the others and, by no coincidence, the impression it made on me was correspondingly more fleeting, to the point where I had already forgotten the content by the time I tabbed over to write this review. There's certainly some promise in this tale of a guy whose sister gets abducted by some dude from Mortal Kombat, but I'd like to see it fleshed out a bit more before I can get committed enough to care.

My Grades: Nothing bad here to say; nothing too memorable either, though. It's worth at least a B for competence.

The House Always Wins
Josh Hechinger & John Bivens

Though the last two months have been filled with action and fantasy stories, Zuda has been pretty well known since its inception for its horror titles, which frequently do well in the competition. That bodes well for The House Always Wins, which is a solid if diffuse entry in that genre.

John Bivens provides some effectively moody artwork here, but the story feels a bit constrained by the space limitations; with just eight pages to work with, we basically get a guy eaten by his television set and then some kind of "Ghost Hunter" type crew of investigators show up to see what happened. I'm not entirely sure what the title has to do with the story, but I suspect if we have another twenty or thirty pages to unfold the tale, we'd find that this team investigates evil houses that kill people. I'm not sure the slightly annoying/cliched team of investigators is interesting enough to maintain that offbeat premise, but it wouldn't kill me if this moved on. That honor I will apparently leave to my doorjamb.

My Grades: The mood is good, but I wish it were a little more focused; I also got confused by the action in a couple places. B-.

Unseen Tribe
Luciano Vecchio

I'm really not sure what to think about Unseen Tribe other than that it makes me feel very old. The comic, which is sort of a combination of the Teen Titans cartoon and Power Rangers, features a bunch of wise-cracking teens wearing garish pants who flirt and fight their way through a horde of dog-faced attackers in order to, I dunno, save the world. Or buy tickets to New Moon, one or the other.

The art is good in a very stylized, manga-inspired way and the writing holds up as well. Whether or not you'll enjoy this, though, probably depends entirely on your demographic. Personally, I'm now at that stage in life where I am no longer interested in kid-centric pop culture, so for the most part I just wanted to tell these punks to get a job. But that's just me being crotchety; if you're a fan of this sort of thing, and you like the idea of teen mutant lucha libre, then this will probably curl your toes.

My Grades: Objectively I have to admit this is a very solid competitor, so it gets a B. Subjectively, well, I think I covered that.

Gregory Smallwood

And finally, we end the second (much stronger) batch of entries for December with Villain, which follows the story from the point of view of a supervillain. This is a bit tricky, because this sort of thing has been done a few times in recent years in works such as Wanted, so the creator runs the risk of being unfairly (or fairly) labeled a copycat or, even worse, having the readers tune out because they feel they've seen it before. And I was worried a bit at the start because, though the writing was fine and the art was above average, it didn't feel like anything too new. Of course, this is one of th ebig problems with doing this sort of thing; the comic is intended to be a riff on established tropes, so it has to be familiar, but without becoming rote or derivative. For the first half of the story, Villains toes this line and maybe goes over it a couple times (for example, the protagonists archenemy appears to be Samaritan from Astro City).

The second half, though, doe sa better job of playing off expectations while still being fresh, as the main character (a supervillain by the name of Shockwave) is sent to a prison dimension (a la the Phantom Zone) where he is ganked by a couple of other supervillains who were previously shanghaied there. This sets up an appropriately familiar but still intriguing concept where we'll have to follow this amoral villain as he fights his way not only through this prison planet of evil, but also somehow back across the dimensional barrier to somehow exact his revenge on the heroes who exiled him. It could be interesting if it manages to stay fresh and doesn't veer too far into cliche.

My Grades: The art was very nice and the writing was good too. I'm just not sure if the genre can support even more deconstruction. Plus, I'm not sure I want to read about a complete toolbag. overall, then, another solid B rounds out a batch of B's. After a slow start this turned out to be a solid month even though there aren't any true stand-out works. It will be interesting to see how the voting goes.

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