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.

Kharon: Scourge of Atlantis Zuda review/ I could see the same thing happening in a EC comic

Kharon: Scourge of Atlantis is another March Zuda comic done by Jim Shelley and Pierre Villeneuve.
Here is the synopsis: Journey with us back to an age when the golden spires of Atlantis cast long, dark shadows across the world --where ambition and achievement have been replaced by apathy and arrogance. The unlucky multitude not born in the city by the sea are considered outlander filth and treated like chattel. As slaves they spend their lives building lavish temples with huge, bloodstained altars. All the while, the cruel and decadent Highborn Atlantean Senate plot to expand their domain and wage full scale genocide on those races they deem inferior. Now comes the outlanders' darkest hour as the Highborn Senate has decreed that all Atlantis must be made pure. The Royal Guard drive the outlanders further and further into the barrens, mercilessly destroying those who resist. Unskilled in the ways of war, the outlanders need a leader to unite them. What they get is Kharon -- a man with a personal vendetta against the Highborn. Driven by a destiny that none would envy, he will take up a flag of hate and carve his way to the royal city with blood and fury. Our story begins with a Kharon entering a cursed valley where an Atlantean garrison is stationed. He brings with him proof of a murder, a promise of vengeance...and a declaration of war. Kharon will have to defeat the entire legion of highly trained Atlantean soldiers if he is to continue his one-man campaign against the empire. Will he be victorious or will he fall victim to the curse of the valley of death?
Sometimes I like the art better than the story, other times I like the story better than the art. This is one of those other times. As has been mentioned before Pierre's work does have that 80's cartoon/ cell animation vibe to it. I enjoy his art work it just didn't fit this story for me. I don't bow at the alter of photo-realism in comics (or tracing depending on your point of view), but more detail isn't a bad thing. On the first screen their wasn't a whole lot of detail to be found in the mountains behind Kharon. This didn't surprise me the lack of details here in the background helped to put the focus on the lead character just as much as the two crossed spears symmetrical panel effect did. The problem was with screen two. No not the text boxes (this time ;) ) Jim did a find job writing the captions for them. The problem was this whole screen was an establishing shot of the little hamlet, but their was still no more detail there for the mountains. We see nice shadow work on the mountains, and a really neat reflection in a lake, but theirs a problem with the rest. The Ash white mountains look like snow caps, or really big rocks. Maybe this was done (lack of details) to show perspective/ distance, but it really threw me off. Some places the grass grows, some it doesn't I just didn't like the look of the geography, and that was the first thing I saw. Considering the subject matter I was expecting Savage Sword of Conan meets Tales from the Crypt in the art. This is one of those comics where if you had more than 8 screens, I might have got into the grove with the art, by knowing more about the future tone of the story. Maybe you just needed more screens to let me see everything mesh, but you don't get that during the contest.

Their were some very well done action scenes, Pierre did an all star job on. The first panel on screen 5 (and all the rest of the page too) I really enjoyed. Remember the way they used to handle flashbacks on the Highlander TV show? Extreme close up of a character's eyes, then FLASHBACK!!!! we get the same thing here. Very impressive panel layout from Pierre, to show the events that helped lead up to this with ultimate amount of drama impact for the readers. Jim's text was very well written here, and a great compliment to the scenes. Great expressive art to show the fear and horror, and the text gave it very somber, chilling, airs. Screen 6 isn't a I Spit on your Grave/ Last House on the Left homage -thankfully. It was very well done with the art and narration. Screen 7 was another 'cool as hell' screen. The bad guy general touching the scar on his face and his words started to bring that darker feel. The sequential art for the skeleton coming out of the bag was excellent! A necromancer as a hero, damn cool more on this after the bold. The last screen text set up a good mystery/ action hook. With them bones looking for vengeance, and our lead talking about his true goal.???

Necromancers aren't usually heroes because of that whole: are you now or have you ever been a necrophiliac question???

The dual genre's listed for the comic are fantasy/ action adventure, so that doesn't necessarily imply the story is going to get too dark. When your main character can raise others from the dead that does imply a slightly morbid/ horror genre streak in the story. Which made me think darker more vague art might be more appropriate. That been said their were some absolute stand out screens I mentioned before Villeneuve should get accolades for. The whole revenge of the bones segment screamed EC style revenge story to me and I really enjoyed it. It is a novel idea -to me at least- for a heroes powers so it was a real highlight to me reading this. If it just wasn't for them damn mountains.... :)

Enjoy the Bronze age goodness/ some nifty examples from the comic to show you what I mean.

I loved the who, what, when, where, why Marvel style intro text on the first screen. The high concept character set-up was also a nice nod to the best of the best of the bronze age. The tone of dialogue made a great impression on me, it was handled well with all the characters. The colors were pretty good, and the letters were very readable. This is a pretty critical review -for me-, but I think you might only have needed a few more screens to show me the art/words really coming together. 3/5 stars and a fav.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dracula vs. Santa Zuda review/ How many times can you read the word 'Ho' before your mind goes into the gutter?

Dracula vs. Santa another comic in Zuda this month done by Melissa DeJesus (that woman has talent), and Ed Power who did a 'cool as hell' written script. Here is the synopsis: Santa’s home is under attack! Count Dracula has decided with its six full month of darkness that the North Pole would make a perfect headquarters (he got the idea from the movie ‘30 Days of Night’, but will NOT admit it as he thinks admitting he has a Netflix account weakens his image) and he’s gathered an army of the world’s most famous monsters to evict Christmas Town’s current residents. Now it’s elves versus vampires, flying reindeer versus werewolves, and Christmas versus Halloween as the forces of darkness and despair descend upon the bringers of joy and merriment! In the end only one holiday will be celebrating. Dracula vs. Santa: Welcome to the ‘Winter Wonderland’ of our discontent!
I have mostly high praise for this, but I did have a WTF moment reading this comic, so bad stuff first.

WTF moment/ Where was the Count, at his day job on Sesame Street???

If it says Dracula vs. Santa in the title, Dracula better damn well show up in the comic.
I know it's only 8 screens, not a lot of space to work with, but come ooooooonnnnn!!!!!!!!!!!!! As I got closer and closer to screen 8, I (not being my first rodeo as far as reading Zuda goes) figured Ed and Melissa were saving up the Dracula appearance for a 1 panel cameo on the very last screen. Kind of like how they did the most God forsaken character in comics (no it's not Rob Liefield -haters) Wolverine's first cameo appearance in Incredible Hulk. It would have been a high drama note to end on, and set things up well should it win. Instead we get some elves tossed in the air, and who knows it could have been Jack O'Lantern or the Bogey man doing that. I really expected him to show up, and it was a let down he didn't.
By the way who's side is the ghost of Christmas future on?
Considering you killed off the Easter Bunny Godfather 3 tribute style, I'm interested in what the balance in the tone of the comic will be: comedic moments vs. Rudolph getting field dressed by a werewolf?

It's not a naughty list it's a shit kicking list and you do not want to be on it Vald!

Now the praise. Ed and Melissa managed to make Santa a really cool, smart, and kick-ass character. This characterization of him, kind of reminded me of the St. Nick is a fable issue of Fables. They took a well established concept -Father Christmas- and made it a fun and action filled story -Dracula being M.I.A. put aside. I liked the reindeer being curled up at Santa's feet, nice touch. first screen was a great lead in, a iconic shot, with a toymaker/Watchmen reference very well timed considering. I also wondered if this might be setting up a plot point that maybe Santa's not so good after all considering the source material. Watch those Easter egg tangents! ;) I really enjoyed the pace of the story their wasn't too many panels or too few per screen, but just right. [Yeah that's a line from the 3 bears, but it fits] I thought the art work done on the children (being naughty, or nice) was very impressive, Melissa has a easy to follow and very enjoyable style. Their are text boxes, but Ed doesn't over do it and they fit the story.

I liked the use of magical artifacts combined with modern day technology. Good beats (thanks for that Ed), to end a screen on, and move to the next screen. I love the silent bells, and I love their leader Nick Frosty, a three foot tall version of Nick Fury if their ever was one. Some reviewers are not such Frosty fans, but I really enjoyed the in joke. It enhanced the story for me with a little wink to the reader. I really enjoyed screen 4. We had of course great art, but also damn fine written dialogue between Nick (of the big gut), and Nick (of the eye-patch), with last panel foreshadowing -vampires don't show up on recording devices according to the latest White Wolf edition. On screen 6 I enjoyed Santa's silent night ring tone, and seeing the poor Easter Bunny in the last panel took away the light action whimsy feel to the story up to this point. Screen 7 really had me feeling sorry for the poor bunny. Melissa's art will melt your heart on this screen it is so expressive. The dialogue was perfect for this scene -go Ed!!! The last panel Godfather tribute with Santa's friends/employee's in the background, shows fantastic screen composition. [a side note Toykopop needs to get its corporate head out of it's corporate ass -a Sokora Refugees reference] I liked the last screen, but again where was that Dracula cameo shot?

Will St. Nick get impaled on a Christmas tree, Will the Count receive a gingerbread man shoved where the sun don't shine?

Well that's the reason you would vote for it, to find out the answers to those questions. The colors really fit the comic. Letters easy to read. The art and dialogue were really top notch. My searching for Dracula in context, this comic gets an easy 4/5 stars and a fav.