Sunday, January 10, 2010

January Zuda Reviews part 2

Welcome back to our look at this month's batch of competitors over at Zuda Comics. Previously, we reviewed the first five entries, which you can catch up on here. Today it's the last five. Who will win? And more importantly, will any of them be awesome? Let's find out... together.

Phantom Sword
Nick Edwards

Phantom Sword is a fairly fun little fantasy strip which, like fellow competitor Beyond the Borderlands, uses familiar cartoon and video game tropes to appeal to modern readers (specifically in the way the characters cast spells and use abilities by shouting them out with attending spell animation).

Where Beyond the Borderlands seems pretty straightforward, however, Phantom Sword is more of an offbeat humor strip and is bolstered by some pretty sharp art that is appealing in a Care Bears meet R. Crumb kind of way. There are a couple grammatical issues which are fairly blatant but which don't significantly detract from the story due to the fact that it's too whimsical to seem to care about those sorts of little details. It's not perfect -- the opening was a bit abrupt for me, even with only eight pages to work with -- but it's worth the read.

My Grades: I'm not sure I'll vote for this, but it wouldn't bother me if it won, nor would it surprise me. B.

Road Monster
Nicolás Raúl Sánchez Brondo and Diego Cortés

What would a Quentin Tarantino comic starring Danny Trejo look like? I don't know, but that's the question creators Brondo and Cortés seem intent on trying to answer with Road Monster, which combines horror and... horror... in an apparent attempt to capture fans of The Hills Have Eyes.

Look, I'm not going to bag on this too much. The art is pretty good, writing is fine and the production quality is sharp. I personally don't like horror and, as I have had to state more than once in my Zuda reviews, I'm also a little tired of the grim anti-hero protagonist, which in recent years has morphed into the "not a hero at all" protagonist. So the main guy doesn't want to help the kid begging him for assistance at the start of the story? Well, it proves he's a hardcore badass, but it also proves he's a giant douchebag. And I get enough douchebags in the real world without wanting to read about more in my spare time.

My Grades: If this is your sort of thing, you'll like it, which seems obvious but kinda isn't. So even though my personal interest in this can't be above a C-, I'll give it a B- for technical merit.

The Thunderchickens
William Dean Blankenship Jr. and Chad Boudreau

I like the name Thunderchickens and the accompanying thumbnail, because you pretty much instantly know exactly what this comic is about. In this kind of competition, that's an important edge for a comic which may have only couple seconds on the main page to entice people to click and read further.

If they do read further, they'll get a reasonably entertaining anthropomorphic superhero parody, though parody isn't quite the right word; it's more like a loving study of the superhero genre (or, at least, it seems set up to be that; eight pages is a little too short a window to get a full taste of things). The individual characters are well enough realized in the brief time we get to know them, and the superhero genre is well enough known among people who may be reading this that the conceit, while perhaps a little too inside baseball, probably will work anyway. They may want to think about coming up with a new logo, though, just to be safe; the current one seems just a little to close to Thunderbolts for the legal eagles to be comfortable should this win.

My Grades: A fun enough read and likely to appeal to a lot of comics fans. B.

War of the Fallen
Quinton J. Bedwell

There's been quite a bit of discussion at Zuda about the word balloons for this entry and, I think for good reason, because they were the first thing I noticed about the strip. Even at full screen size, the font chosen seemed a bit diffuse, as though it was intended to be viewed at double size and was therefore missing some pixels. This made the comic just a bit more difficult to read, but even that small annoyance is enough to turn off a lot of readers, especially considering that by today's standards, this comic has a whole lot of words in it. In the future, I'd suggest that the creator may want to try out a slightly different font or font size for his projects.

Those many words in those balloons also are just a bit stiff, as Bedwell seems to struggle a bit trying to work in necessary exposition in a natural fashion. As a result, the comic, which is competently drawn, feels a bit clunky and obvious in places. The ideas seem to be there, but a bit more polish may be necessary to get them into winning form.

My Grades: There's a lot of promise here, but unfortunately I don't think most of it is yet realized. C.

War of the Woods
Matthew Petz

As always, before reading the comics each month I take a look at the titles and thumbnails as part of my study to figure out what presentations work and don't work at Zuda. This one was, for me, the best; between the titles, which works both on its own and as a reference to War of the Worlds, was pithy without being annoying, and the artwork was appealing and interesting enough to make me want to see more. A good start.

Sure enough, the art inside is very nice, though perhaps just a little formal; and the title does, in fact, directly reference War of the Worlds, as the comic seems to be a retelling of those events (i.e. an alien invasion of Earth) through the viewpoint of intelligent animals. If I were still 13, I would love this. As it is, it still brings a little smile to my face. So how are these animals going to avert world conquest by aliens? I'm certainly curious to find out, but I know who they shouldn't ask for help: that guy from Road Monster. Because he will f**k you up.

My Grades: Yeah, kind of the opposite of Road Monster for me in every way -- I'll give it a B for technical execution even though for my personal tastes it's more like an A- and will likely earn my vote. First impressions are powerful things.

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