Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lani, The Leopard Queen/ If Frank Cho drew her it would be a crime!

Lani, The Leopard Queen is another comic on Zuda this month, it's done by Geof Isherwood.
Here is the synopsis: Lani is trapped in a disturbing dream. Her pet monkey Ini wakes her up. She must face harsh reality again, as she has been alone for two months. Ini warns her of danger, and a young leopard is found injured behind her jungle house. He seems to be more intelligent than an ordinary cat. Lani finally has a lead to finds her parents , who had vanished suddenly. On the trail of the cat, she finds deep in a sea cave a boy who does not belong here. And he is old, 500 years old, but still a boy. Her head whirling with disbelief, Lani follows him to an underground maze. There she finds Kalla, and her 500-year-old pal, the rotten Tongo. More than that, Lani has stumbled upon a whole hidden world of large cats. The respondent queen, Vaspira, is a black leopard with spots like diamonds. She speaks to Lani in a raspy voice that a panther should not be able to do. She tells Lani of a secret to immortality. Lani is old enough now to be transformed and Vaspira offers her to join the others who have lived for centuries. But what of her parents? And of the plans Vaspira has for poor Lani as the old witch weaves her deception?
First things first the art is amazing, which didn't surprise me after I checked out the credits Isherwood has to his name. The storyline received some criticism because the first 7 screens are a dream/ nightmare Lani has. You get to the 8th screen and some of the readers reaction was WTF??? it was all a dream??? I actually didn't mind the dream story I thought it was very engaging. It was my hope Geof would push the dream angle more and less on the action/adventure aspect of the story. The story could have gone for a more Little Nemo in Slumberland vibe which would have been a nice twist on an old favorite, instead from the synopsis it hints at being a more underage Sheena/ all ages read. Nothing wrong with going for an all ages comic, but the creator here really could have had something special with a jungle dreamland, instead it's action/adventure redux.
The colors are absolutely fantastic, they really add to the old newsprint feel of the story. I also enjoyed the fact all letters were very readable. Then go back to the dream element of the narrative this really provided for some great imagery throughout the story.

Some nifty examples from the comic to show you what I mean.

Screen 2 is a full page shot showing Mom and Lani, looking at Dad with a animal skeleton with golden tusks. The perspective, colors, letters are all done in a top notch way here. It's beautiful art, really beautiful. Screen 3 makes me think that skeletor critter could be of the dinosaur persuasion? In any case the art is again beautiful and the thought caption at the bottom of screen 4 hints that something else is going on here. Storytelling from a pacing perspective fits the 8 screens you have on Zuda very well even if I didn't like the ending.

The it's all a dream part of the story worked perfectly to set up some really impressive imagery on screens 4, 5, and 6. Seeing as I read the synopsis, and this is a nightmare in the daylight, Lani being along on those rocks as her parents sail away is really invoking the subconscious imagery. The colors used throughout really seal the deal of this being an impressive comic art-wise, it helped so much. The "lizard on hot lava" comment was a funny line in a high drama lost child story. I was disappointed she woke up in the 'fantasty action/adventure' jungle though, the Nemo (everything old is new again, if enough time passes) set-up was right there.

Monkey's (or chimps) are not cute little sidekicks, they're deceptively cute little cannibalistic bastards who bite off peoples faces, fingers, and occasionally genitalia.

Which kind of puts a hi-light on my problems with the story. Jungle action/adventure fantasy stories, don't really do it for me as a reader. From all the talk of dreams on the comment section, I was looking forward to a real world vs. dream world story, which I don't think is what Geof has in mind. Not meeting readers expectations by the 8 screen is one of the underlying themes this month at Zuda. In this case you have the people that felt ripped it was mostly a dream, the majority of critical opinion. Then you have me being me wishing to see a jungle dream world, but have her wake up in the regular world. End result a fair number of readers are ho-humm, if not outright disappointed. Geof needed the payoff in the 8th screen, I didn't get it, other commentators felt the same way.

I actually hoped the story talked about in the synopsis would be revealed to be just what happens in Lani's dream world, but guess not.

Those feelings aside the art/colors/letters/ and writing all very impressive to absolutely beautiful . The way the story turned out dropped my grade done to 3/5 stars and a fav. Geoff I hope to see you in Zuda again with a new story.

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