Thursday, May 14, 2009

Zuda review Beertown B'hoys/ Edward G. Robinson would be proud, see

It's like the best parts of Godfather II, only with jewish gangsters

Beertown B'hoys is another May zuda comic done by returning zuda vet Steve Bialik. It got 5/5 stars and a favorite from me. Story and art are all top notch Steve's also shown with his third submission a mystery of different genres and style in storytelling. Here is the formally known as Pet Shop B'hoys (Beertown much better name) synopsis: Brooklyn, 1894 - With the nation sinking into a deepening recession, the fast money of the outlaw’s trade has gained a potent new allure. And in the village of Williamsburg, where wealthy beer barons breathe the same air as middle-class shopkeepers and waterfront “slum monkeys,” restless laddie bucks from every level of society are engaged in a mad dash for ill-gotten riches. For these aspiring rogues New York , with it’s vast and lively underworld, is the Xanadu of their larcenous dreams. But in order to reach it one must cross a river of hellfire. “Jigsy” Quinn and “Pickles” Fleischhauer, two waterfront throwaways, are about to embark on just such a voyage. And, unbeknownst to them, they’ll be making the journey with a man who is destined to become the most feared gangster in the city.

How to handle genre expectations well

Either embrace genre expectations totally, or reject them totally in art and/or story just don't be a middle of the roader. When it comes to genre expectations of art/story (in this case crime comics) their are two ways to go about it. One is to play into those expectations with fairly realistic art work that fits the subject matter, the other is to go in the opposite direction with more 'cartoony' artwork. The same principle applies to comic book scripts. You can live up to the hard boiled standard laid out by Crime Does Not Pay, and followed up by Crime SuspenStories, or you can give it the Woody Allen treatment. When it comes to my genre expectations I like extremes, either give me photo realism, or new style caricatures. With Beertown B'hoys the art work isn't 'heavy' it looks like light hearted modern day superhero art work. Why this works is Steve has a command of his own style and can adapt it to varied themed stories. In this case seeing someone get shot in the head rendered with this style of art has a surreal aspect I enjoy. Steve rejected genre expectations in the art and the strip is better for it. With the script it's the same dilemma, but Steve chose the other answer and embraces genre expectations beautifully. A guy getting shot in the head by screen two should have been a tip off, if it wasn't the slang sure was. Slang in comics dialogue is either something you understand and enjoy, or you don't. I actually understood all the terminology without a lexicon, but for those who didn't Steve has provided a lexicon here. The plot of gangsters working their way up in the criminal world is well done. The pace of the story really fits Zuda, and by the time you get to that last panel you really want to find out the fate of these characters. It was great characterization from the script & art for all of the leads featured. Good panel layout, I particularly liked the one way arrow on screen 4. That old gangster staple of betrayal with no honor among thieves is spry and kicking again in this story.

It's always great when the art and dialogue work together instead of engaging in a pissing contest

That happy synergy in reading this story isn't just due to Steve being a solo creator either. Sometimes it seems on Zuda with writer/artists the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. However good the writing, or art maybe the other half is working against it, or just doesn't measure up. Steve manages to make the pictures aid the words, and the words aid the pictures. A strong draw of this comic is the buddy movie aspect of Jigsy and Pickles as a two man crew of crooks. The excellent dialogue between these two is helped out by the great art in showing their various expressions and how they're arranged in a panel. The last 4 panels on screen 8 are a fine example of the art and words coming together to show you their friendship. You just know it's going to get tested by a life of crime. In addition to the slang, and period looks of this comic, the gray scale helps to really bring the effect home. It's a morally smokey gray world (for the lowdown on the how to go here) their living in so the look of the comic should and does reflect this in an amazing way.

Give the 'ole fishhook to the competition

It's not a comedy, but it does have some damn funny lines. Screen 6 panel 5 'interrupting a Briss maybe' if you know what that is laughing your ass is the result. Letters are easy to read, which is what you expect from a Zuda vet. A aspect of the comic that can't be over looked is the kind of 'real life' countdown this strip shares with a past comic The Crooked Man. That comic had the great quake in San Fran, Beertown has the life and times of Monk Eastman to guide the story.
Everything comes together to give Zuda another really fantastic comic, which may unfortunately end up in the Zuda graveyard. I hope Beertown rises up in the ranks over the course of this month's contest, it deserves to finish in the top three.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the kind words RKB! I'm currently looking into other avenues for continuing the comic after Zuda, so maybe it won't end up in the Zuda graveyard after all.