Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Zuda review: Flowing Wells/ It's like the Matrix meets grumpy old men

White snow and yellow text boxes

Another May Zuda comic is Flowing Wells done by it's solo creator Andrew Dimitt. It got 4/5 stars and a favorite from me primarily based on the amazing art, and a very intriguing high concept you can read about in the synopsis. This is one of the times when reading the synopsis first will help you understand the story better. [As if on cue] Here is the synopsis: Flowing Wells was the most popular social-networking simulated game-world ever. Imagine the SIMS if it were hosted by Google-Earth, with billions of registered users going to and fro, building, selling and purchasing content for the world. - Then imagine that world again, when the only remaining survivors are a small population of service employees - the garbage men, the pizza delivery boys, the street cleaners, the gardeners, the mailmen, the prostitutes, the nannies, the doctors, nurses and handymen. And despite that world laying in ruins, frozen solid, overrun with zombies, aliens and monsters, none of them would chose to live anywhere but Flowing Wells.

Getting on with the story

Some copy/pasting and expanding on my thoughts written in the comments section of MPD57's blog. I hate text box thought balloons (and narration) with a passion, and they come at you non-stop in this comic. The action aside from snow shoveling is nil, the creator uses 3 panel, 1 panel, full page splash screen composition throughout the comic. On the plus side this gives his art room to impress, on the other hand the repetitive scenery and actions make it less impressive the more times you read it. Why try to hook a reader in 8 screens? well cause 8 screens is all you get to make a first impression on Zuda. Moody build up that is still building by the last panel on the last screen, gives all the other comics a chance to get out in front of you. The pace along with the narrative device (not even text box thought balloons, narration boxes) curtailed my enjoyment of the comic. The three paths story pace/ composition-wise for a zuda submission I like are: 1. movie trailer overview: Think Lifespan, you get a number of vignettes/locations that serve as a great introduction to a ‘high concept’ world/ story. 2. Self contained story: Even if the comic doesn’t win you still have a assessable ‘done in one’ story -exemplified by Terrestrial and Vic Boone. 3. Cliff hanger character study: one of the most popular formats for 8 screens. You follow along with the lead(s) and gain insight into their character’s nature by their actions and the reactions of those around them -High Moon and Lily of the Valley come to mind. If a creator can mix it up a bit with pacing styles even better, cause hybrids are all the rage. Trying to do a character study without a cliff hanger, and not many genre expectations (thanks to the high concept) that a writer/artist can play into as a shorthand (like werewolves or superheros) for readers to understand the story puts a comic at a disadvantage. Why text box narration, again? Considering the set-up it would have been more involving to me as a reader to have the lead character taking to himself. Accomplish the same ends only with dialogue. With the high concept it might have been easier to get into the grove of the story, if we had seen short 'snapshots' of different characters. We know about Donald, but what/who else is in this world of Flowing Wells created by Andrew Dimitt? The text was a little on the poetic side at the beginning, but with all the talk of game designers, avatars, and cheat codes it got better as the screens clicked by. It gave the reader a little bit of that 'what the hell is going on feeling', which makes people want to know what happens next. The story ended up not shining enough of a light on what is going on, however. There is such a thing as too damn much mystery. The fact most everyone left the game also makes me wonder what happened in the real world to bring this about? The elements in this story got to be repetitive and slow, along with the very passive read text box narration gives you. I wonder when the pace would pick up, or a character would speak? This isn't the kind of opening that's going to really grab readers regardless of how great the art is. The level of promise a reader hopes for of a Zuda comic (i.e. how kick ass will the next 52 screens be, should it win) always has to be taken into account. I have no worries about the art, but where the story is going to go I have no idea. . It could be a flip re-working of the Matrix (after all Donald and the snow are in a second life style world), maybe their was a snow crash and only the NPC's are left alive. The synopsis mentioned zombies, aliens, and monsters (damn shame we saw none of that in the first 8), so readers could end up with some survival horror/ video game shooter style action scene screens. We could get some superhero action give Donald a blaster and a sidekick, or magical realism by way of cheat codes for fire balls. If Andrew wants to show everyday joe's characters reactions to their virtual world, have the pizza guy get eaten by zombies, aliens, monsters, or all three. You get the feeling the story isn't going to be about all this outlandish elements, but everyman style NPC's who get over looked and taken for granted. This provides ample opportunities for quiet refection and third-person voice overs. Unless that's all Flowing Wells is going to be, please at least touch on some of the other elements in the story, or show more than one character, although the snow is almost a character in and of itself. Andrew's other comic implies this could get really good, but some of the competiton this month went above and beyond in the 8 screens allowed. I kept waiting for something else to happen in this comic, but nothing did.

It's not “Kim possible meets Resident Evil”, but it's still pretty cool

The high concept of characters in a video game world provides the opportunity for a ending like the Soprano's cut to black, that wouldn't feel like a rip off -somebody pulls the plug. You also wonder did world war III go down and the explains why the player characters disappeared, or was it everyone left for a new fad? Whatever the case my be it provides some interesting directions this story could go in. I think the art is what has really impressed the people who have been reading it. My comment was it's like Mignola from classic X-men covers inked by early Sin City Frank Miller, and I feel (throw in Guy Davis and Vincent Locke too) that's pretty apt. The art work is awesome, and Andrew does a good job in screen composition/ layout. Some highlights are:

Screen 3: Nice full screen shot, and I really enjoyed seeing the 'beware of rex 84' sign in the background.
Screen 4: Panels 1 and 2. I enjoyed the different P.O.V. shots of Donald, and this is some very Mignola-esque character drawing.
Screen 5: Another cool full screen shot
Screen 7: Panel 1 nice inks!
Screen 8: Nice thoughtful, mournful poise for Donald.
You made snow a sort of character in the story (man vs. nature and all that), that's a accomplishment regardless of where you end up in the rankings.

Could have been and might still be a winner

If shoveling snow got this comic a 4/5 and a fav from me (and I'm sure others as well), showing less 'quiet' scenes could have left this comic in a better place for fighting it out for peoples votes. As it turned out May 09 was a better than average month with a number of amazing (read favorited) comics, in another month Flowing Wells could have fared better. The first 8 pages of Drockleberry are much less quiet and a better read. Andrew Dimitt got a new Drockleberry fan in me, and Flowing Wells could stil make a climb up the ratings depending on how well the creator gets the word out/ how much of a fan base he has.


  1. Is this some kind of personal vendetta you have against the artist?

  2. I do not have a personal vendetta against Andrew Dimitt.
    I do not have a personal vendetta against Andrew Dimitt.
    I do not have a personal vendetta against Andrew Dimitt...

  3. "I do not have a personal vendetta against Andrew Dimitt." :)

    Hey there. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to review FL like this.
    Prior to my Zuda experience I've not come across the annoyances over caption-narrative, though I've since noted it not only in reading through my own comments but in other Zuda entries as well from a significant variety of readers...and myself, having honestly never formed an opinion about them ( other than whether or not I dig the writing or not ), I'd really appreciate it if you could more clearly describe what it is about captions that turn you ( and likely others ) off.

    In hindsight, I really should have illustrated, at the very least, suggestions that Donald was being followed ( among a host of other small details I might have done, like having him say something to himself in that last page while he's giving that room a look around.

    I hope you enjoy DROCKLEBERRY...it fails on a number of levels certainly, but it was a successful-failure...heh...I'm amazed that I managed to finish it :)


  4. First off thanks for the question. :) I only speak for myself, but I'm a well known text box hater Zuda reader. That and being the guy with the comic comments so long they just had to be stopped ;) Actually i should just do a post on my text box thought balloon/narration hatred. With my general views and a compare/contrast with FW and Drockleberry i haven't read all of D-berry yet, but so far it's a success with me. I'll post a comment on FW when my blog post is done .