Friday, May 29, 2009

May Zuda review Cubicles/ In pencil wars always aim for your opponents fingers

I've always hated onions cause their evil

Cubicles is another May Zuda comic done by zuda vet Walter Christopher Ostlie. It was a tough month, this was a solo humor comic, not my go to genre but still funny -so a 3/5 star rating from me. Here is the synopsis: Wally is an aging office worker who spends most of his waking life in a cubicle. Ironically he works for Cubicles, INC., the galaxy’s largest provider of cubicles. Wally would have gone insane long ago if it wasn’t for his best friend, Ost. Together they have to deal with all the rigors of cubicle life set in the distant future. Wanda, the manager, is constantly trying to get Wally fired. She can’t because the boss thinks Wally is cool. Would that change if the boss found out about Wally’s crush on his daughter? Wally is on a mission to impress the boss so that he has a chance of one day marrying her. This throws our duo headfirst into all the dangers of space age big business. Will they be able to survive space monsters and pirate hijackings? Plus their biggest threat - the genetically enhanced executive that is trying to take over the boss’s company and steal the affection of his daughter?

A bespectacled older man faces the terror of thunder thighs

In Walt's last zuda entry I really enjoyed the art, and of course the second time around it was even better. The squiggly line panels/ screen composition really aided some funny visual humor. In particular to description/intro of our leads nemesis Wanda was a funny high light. Walt even had a spandex joke! The submission revolves around a office order for 10,000 pencils and trying to duck the fallout from pencil wars. Screen 3 was indeed one of the best screens of the comic. Funny dialogue and great panel composition. Screen 4 also had a close up sequence on Wanda's mouth which was humours and kind of gross. The composition of the screens throughout and the pace of the story was impressive to me. Screen 5 had some nice anime style tribute panels, screen 6 has our leads boss getting them out of trouble and wanting a million pencils for a real showdown. Wally and Ost are the classic funny man/ straight man comedy team. Screen after screen Walt shows an impressive screen layout, that only increases the effectiveness of the story. The creator here definitely has some narrative skills and hope he continues to send in zuda submissions. The story ends with a classic question hook, what happened to make a giant squid go on the rampage? The letters looked very professional throughout and were easy to read. The last screens varied sound effects were a lot of fun to read, a very good ending.

How green were my monitor's settings

Humor comics are not my go-to genre, and May was a month with a number of comics that were. Almost any humor comic is going to have a tough time with me because my interests go in another direction, but this was still funny. The one big problem with this comic is the wash-out faded colors on the screens. It gives it a noticeable style yes, but I'm on color green overload and I'm freaking Irish! ;) The art is great, but the colors here hollow out and curtail the art's effectiveness. The comic artificially reduced it's potential for coolness cause of the colors. The 'hearts panel' and 'mind control powers' screen all that green mixed in well -but the rest of the comic it got repetitive. Humor comic fans would give this title a much higher rating than I did, I have no doubts about that.

"rebooting the franchise"

Walt has said this comic will live on and he's going to redo the start of the story. The art's fine as is just tone down the green. It was nice to read on the comments section Walt's commitment to this comic and getting his ideas out there. Too many zuda comics have ended up in the comics graveyard. Also having daily strips of these characters online for free. It will be interesting to see what new formats/ stories the ideas of Cubicles are spun off into. I am curious to see what directions these characters go in from here, and what is coming next from this creator.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zuda review Amber Hale Supermodel/ A bad ass chick with sci-fi roots

Doll house, Bionic woman, and now you

Amber Hale Supermodel is another May zuda comic done by the Black Halo entertainment crew Daren Strange, Lewis Walker, & well known artist Josh Howard. It got 3/5 stars from me competition this month was tough, but I do love the genre. Here is the synopsis: In Earth's future, Amber Hale embodies glamour, elegance, and sex appeal. She’s a household name beloved around the globe. But when her true nature as a product of Thane Enterprises is exposed, the world's admiration turns to controversy and fear.
Now facing dubious notoriety, she struggles to find her own soul. Does she even have one? Should she exist? Does she have a purpose? Surely, her creator, Kael Thane, must know, but he refuses to tell her. Is he protecting her from some dark and horrible truth? Perhaps the mysterious assassins pursuing her have the answers…
Written by Daren Strange and Lewis Walker, and illustrated by Josh Howard, creator of "Dead @ 17", "Amber Hale, Supermodel" tells the story of a woman searching for herself in a world where the human soul hangs on the line and an ever-looming darkness approaches from the shadows.

I don't mind the brand

I see the BHE marker as more of a reminder these various stories have only a couple of universes between them and it is to me acclaim worthy ambitious to want to 'build a universe'. On first blush a title screen on screen 1 might seem like a waste of space. However it's more than just a T & A title card for a cartoon character. In the background you see various images from Amber's world, it was a nice introduction. If your going to be reading it, your going to be reading it in full screen. We see Amber wake up, then follow a mysterious man with a cool visor around the secret base she lives in. It's not a quite opening but it is more of a suspenseful opening than say multiple explosions. It might go on a screen two long, but the art sells it well. Amber saw something hinky going on, then threw a cute tantrum when Kael wouldn't tell her what was going on. Amber fits the classic narrative definition of that meddling kid, who also comes across spoiled and self entitled. Some good character flaws that give her plenty of room for development in the story was a good call on the writers part. The pace isn't lean and mean, but I thought it fit the zuda format very well for the most part. The most impressive screen for art and wordage is screen 6. In panel 2 I loved the silhouettes in the background. The sniper point of view was something I hadn't seen in a while, it's shifting from Amber to Kael was a nice touch. The shifting point of views, along with camera angles and the bang on the last panel set the bar high for the final two screens. On screen 7 the slow-mo bullets looked really unthreating. If Amber has bionic vision a P.O.V. from her looking at the shooter with super-supermodel vision would have been nice, but I can see it was a jam packed screen. Screen 8 was okay with a classic cliff hanger ending, but the fight seemed a bit stilted in a panel or two, and she didn't look that afraid in the last panel. The pacing started to go off after screen 6, the rest of the comic lost some of that suspense the creators had built up with me setting on my chair. It did provide a chance for some cool fight scenes (the football tackle panel aside) a little bit of a 'powers showcase' I liked. The dialogue exchange between Amber and Kael throughout was damn good characterization.

Screen 6 should have been your screen 8

Screen 6 was the most impressive screen in terms of both art composition, characters actions, and great dialogue. So why couldn't the comic have ended there? Screen 6 would have been in my opinion the superior ending because at that point the readers still didn't know Amber could dodge bullets as well as she could. Seeing her Matrix like acrobatics, as a reader I have far less concern seeing her surrounded by gun men at the end of this comic. If it had ended on 6 for all anyone reading knew the creators could of had Amber shot in the head -more of a hook to grab a reader. Seeing how well she handled the opposition I wasn't that concerned about her facing more of the same level of threat. The question of why Huey, Dewey, and Louie (notice the different color visors), want to take Amber out is still a good cliffhanger, it's just more mystery than danger the way it ended. If your not a fan of the genre, it might fulfil too many expectations of readers. I enjoyed the genre in general and this story in particular, and I believe others will as well.

She's got legs and she knows how to use them

It happens that with some comics on zuda you think "if only a few more screens it might have grabbed me more", well that happened with this comic. Josh Howard is an amazing artist and the BHE crew gets better as they go along. First a fourth place finish, now third or second, a comic which connected with a wider audience would probably have them neck and neck for the winner's circle. I don't know about Howard, but I do know BHE has another submission in the works that I'm looking forward to. I believe BHE are only going to get better as time goes by, I hope to see more from these creators on zuda (Josh Howard too), touching upon even more genres.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zuda review OPSEC/ From across the pond a spy story cometh

Initials work for a online alias, not so well for a comic title

OPSEC is another May zuda comic done by James Alexander Bott, and Dean. The art is the strong suit, the story decent which earned it a 3/5 star rating from me. Here is the synopsis: The greatest evil is the indifference of good men. Britain is in a volatile state as the European Commission debates on whether to grant Turkey full membership in to the European Union. Zealous right wing politicians and tabloid newspapers are scaring the nation with messages of paranoia and invasion. The streets are swamped with Islamist and right wing protesters. Britain will soon become a war zone. Someone must come to the fore to stem the flow of bloodshed and light Britain's path to a new world of multiculturalism and acceptance. Dr Nadhir Saleh is a peaceful and intelligent man. His only hope is that he has the strength and determination to help put the country back on track. To convince the general public that it's time to stand up and fight for what they believe in. Only through unity will Britain's citizens move forward into a brighter future. There are others in this world whose intentions are not honourable as Dr Salehës, who see this current situation as an opportunity to further their own despicable objectives. Dangerous and driven men capable of unthinkable evils. Tom Carter is working for the British Government. A career soldier, formerly of the Special Air Service, Carter was recently enrolled into a new government sanctioned operation. A group of solo deniable operators tasked with tracking and discreetly eliminating threats to national security.

Obama closes Guantanamo..... er not so fast mate

It was a very impressive opening screen, that did a good job (the news crawl was a nice touch) of putting you in this world James created. It was exposition heavy, but it did what it needed to do to set up how things were in this world. You can't know the players without a scorecard and it's nice to me all the major belligerents in the first and possibly only 8 screens. The most effective panel by far was screen 2 panel 1, we see a dead Muslim along with a quote from the Quran, a striking design that was starkly effective. I'm sure the Islamic militants/ terrorists in this story as in real life think they are in the pursuit of justice, so it works on a number of levels. Screen 2 panel 4 making allowances for the difference's in slang, I've heard that view a number of times in real life. Bringing reflectons of real world politics into it gives this strip more of a hook to grab leaders with than most. The text box thought balloons make their appearance on screen but they're well enough written. All the words are easy to read, good lettering always helps my disposition. The art is very impressive through out, and smooths over some dull edges in the writing as far as delivering on the synopsis promise. The dialogue and text was not a problem, story structure, plot elements, and pace were. An IRA terrorist, must we drag this tired old stereotype out yet again? The creator could have least put a different spin on it and had it be an Ulster Unionist gone round the bend or something. You have the BNP in England ready made to fictionally adapt to produce a terrorist bomber/killer without the really bad cliche of a mad Irish bomber. The creator of this comic is from the U.K. but falls into a American movie style stereotype by screen 3. Adding one too many ingredients can spoil the whole pot. In screen 5 panel 2 I liked the inclusion of a picture on the TV screen. The ten panel 'Dexter style' take out sequence on screen 6 was the second highlight of the comic, and would have made Steranko proud. I also have to compliment the colors in this comic, a job very well done by the colorist.

Prime Minister question time it isn't

As readers come upon the last two screens of course to story starts to get moving. On screen 7 in panel 4 in of the bad guy's has the oddest expression on his face, to match the oddest blue eyes, but other than that, very good action layout. Course it ends in a shoot out with the last image we see being our hero shooting his gun. You wouldn't think a shoot out could be anti-climatic, but it was. I would have liked to seen some of the other villains in the story, or more of the good guys fighting for peace. I didn't feel Carter was in any real danger, I didn't even think their was a chance the bad guys here would catch him alive. I figure he will win the gun battle in short order. The spy elements were well done and fairly interesting, but the current political climate in your world was more interesting, but didn't get enough face time. I thought more of the strip than if it would have been set in the states. It was a nice change from the big cities that usually take a staring role in these types of stories in the U.S.A. I really enjoyed all the slang, again it set the story apart from what was expected which I liked. Not surprised at all James already has a gig drawing the comics, the man's talent is obvious.

England beats New England by a county mile

Spy stories can be, and usually are trite. They need something to set'em apart: sex, violence, or sex and violence usually gets the job done. Setting this comic outside the states went a long way to avoid that pit fall, but it needed something else. The first screen and synopsis lead me to believe this was more of a political story dealing with real world issues. The rest of the screens didn't back up my knee jerk view. Tom Carter brutally executing enemies could have been riveting, Tom Carter being forced to defend his self gave the reader cool actions scenes. Not much in the way of characterization I haven't already seen before The text box thoughts of Tom were pretty good, but the competition quality this month made 'pretty good' fail to measure up. This comic was close to grabbing me as a reader, but the creator didn't quite get the job done. If my past views on other creators is any indication: James will try again for zuda with a even better submission, and get a much better grade from me, maybe even a vote.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Zuda review Freak City/ It's like Doom Patrol meets The Barker

Maybe it's European, but it's definitely cool

Freak City is another May comic done by Mackenzie Michael Schubert which got 5/5 stars and a fav from me. The art and story is very entertaining and it's a nice concept that fits well in the 8 screens. Here is the synopsis: The traveling carnival freak shows seen in and out of our small country towns hold a secret that shakes our nation's way of life. Those performers, to whom we so willing give a nickel, possess talents that are well beyond that of mere shock. A fat man with adjustable girth, a strongman whose forearms naturally produce steroids under stress, a miniature magician, and a bearded lady whose hair needs more than just conditioner to be tamed. Under the guise of national security the carnivals have been forced onto reservations. Their cartwheels replaced by cinder blocks. The government tightens restrictions on the so-called "Freak Cities" and they become prisons in all but name. In such a situation what is there to do but rebel? In the carnival freak's first major attempt to gain back their liberty it becomes frighteningly clear that the government is willing to take drastic measures to keep control of its new, powerful population.

Step right up and test your strength

The first thing you notice is Michael has a strong command over his art style, and hits all his marks for characterization in the 8 screens allowed. The next most impressive thing is the pace the reader gets a nice silent suspenseful build up with the airplane making it's approach. This all started on screen one, imagine that no (well almost no) wasted space in a Zuda submission. This is one of those comics that a reader is helped by reading the synopsis first. I could have done without the square speech balloons, but it ain't text boxes so I'll deal. Screen 2 is a silent action sequence worthy of Jim Steranko, with a Joe Kubert style insert panel to end the screen on. A artist/writer that has no problem letting the art do it's thing which works out well for this comic with a few exceptions. Panel 3 screen 3 we see a insert panel of the Fatman's face which just looks weird in a uncool way. It would have had more impact to just bring the Fatman closer to the reader in perspective and skip a gratuitous insert. Seeing the wind pull back the Fatman's face reminded me of the video of the old woman sky diving who lost her dentures. The Fatman's descent is a nice funny bit in this comic as well as a means to show action, characterization, and their 'super-powers'. Screen 4 with the Fatman 'hulking up' and losing his clothes to turn into silly puddy mixed with lard was a screen composition highlight. Panel 1 on screen 5 makes you wonder who those Stretch Armstrong hands belong to. Panel 2 was a amazingly well put together panel with the Fatman in the villains sights. The not so good thing about screen 5 Mackenzie draws clouds of dust and flames the same way. Compare the 'flames' to panel 4 and see past the crunch. Screen 7 has already been talked about on MPD57's blog, but I'll repeat.
The colors are muted, and the flames just don't look like flames. We also get a whole series of insert panels here. Props to the creator for trying something different, but it ended up being a wasted screen. If you have to turn on the stove, or start a fire to make flames not look like a cloud of orange/peach colored dust do it. Aside from the flames in the back ground screen 8 was a great cliff hanger to end on. Seeing the villain go all Mr. Fantastic on the freaks collective ass was some great character composition. Mike was right the Fatman's gut does look a lot like a ....

"Oh thit" it's a good read

I loved the dialogue between the strong man and I guess the bearded lady on screen 3. It was very well written banter between these characters that also provided story exposition. The reader finds out things we need to know without feeling like the creator is beating necessary plot points into our minds with a sledge. I loved the idea that the Fatman had to be specifically told not to blow anything up, and did it anyway. Having other characters talk about a character to provide insights is a old trick that still works well. Who hasn't been in a situation in real life were you told someone to go left, no your other left! It is my go to genre and the story did grab me because it hit so many points a like to see in comics. We also get jokes about the Fatman going pop, and said Fatman's messed up voice after the crash. Very well written, insightful, and funny (even though it didn't have to be), dialogue. Mackenzie melded his art and writing talents together to tell a amazing story.

One of us one of us

It doesn't look like Freak City is going to be making that comeback to join the winner's circle at Zuda. My own vote is elsewhere, but should Zuda do the invite thing again (and they should) Freak city is going on my list. I would also ask the creator to give some of the other comic companies a try for submission. It is a different style perhaps than many Zuda readers might be used to -but changing the tires if you can't reinvent the wheel is a step up above most of the rest. I saw a hell of a lot of promise in the 8 screens at Zuda, and can only imagine how much better this story could get. In any case I hope to see the creator in question back in Zuda again if not Freak City: the next 8 screens, then some other comic.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Zuda Review Clandestino/ Is Grindhouse a genre for comic books, if not it should be

No one does car chases as cool as Annb, Frank Miller would be proud

Clandestino is another May Zuda comic done by Zuda vet Annb. It got 4/5 stars and a fav from me for great screen composition and a action filled story. Here is the Synopsis: For years he has been haunted due to a mysterious Gypsy legend. For years he has been seeking the origins of this legend. Clandestino’s fate is about to change, now that he is getting closer to solving all the mysteries of his past. An old Gypsy legend said that the Gypsy Queen, who gave birth to a boy the first night of full moon, would bring to earth the future Gypsy King. With the powers of the moon, he would guide his people for the rest of eternity. It never happened. She gave birth, but soon after was killed leaving the little boy an orphan, with no mother to raise him to maturity. As he grew up, many questions started to appear. Dangerous people started to chase him, blaming him for the death of the Gypsy Queen. All that he knows is the clandestine lifestyle. He trained himself and become the best shooter in the underworld. That’s where he met Leena, a Gypsy that knows even more of his past than he does. With her help, will be become the King he was meant to be? A Gypsy, a girl, and a gun, will guide you to the journey of Clandestino to discover his unknown destiny.

Revenge is a story best told with fantastic art

The opening two screens show a well drafted car chase that immediately grabs readers who are looking for 'something' to happen in their comics. A safe bet for Zuda is 50/50 action/talking heads we get a little more action here but, Clandestino is a submission that perfectly fits Zuda. The most impressive screen was screen 3, for the most part the creator here didn't overuse the text boxes, and they were needed for the way he set up the story. Screen 3 is excellent design, especially panels 2 and 3. Really grabbing and disturbing artwork and text. Besides the go-to genre for me grindhouse elements, you also have a supernatural aspect/mythology in the story which I always enjoy. One of the most impressive things about this comic is how well the art goes along with the dialogue/text. A perfect example of this is screen 4. Seeing the scary guy in the hat's reflection in the baby's eyes, then the transition to Clandestino being upside down was very impressive. I also enjoyed the character's right side up banter with Leena. The non-traditional panel layout really helps make the action scenes flow smooth -damn smooth. This comic starts off with a car chase so you expect it to be chaotic which is only helped along by the vertigo inducing art. It was a nice touch to end the 8 page submission with a title card screen, the only drawback to this was the need for a lot of text box thought balloons.

How do you say gun shooter in Spanish?

Native speakers of any language can always tell when something doesn't sound quite right. This slight problem has came up more than once in previous Zuda comics, and was noticeable a few times in Annb's last Zuda venture. In a comic script I did and am currently back to re-drafting I had a sequence in Spanish. I knew looking it up in a book, or using the computer would not cut it so I sent up a thread on the Zuda message board for help. Juan and Andres were kind enough to help me out, and I'm sure myself, Nate, and others would be glad to help a creator get the English to sound 'right'. A tribute to Annb this mild disconnect only came up once in Clandestino. "I became the best gun shooter in the world" it's grammatically correct I guess, but it doesn't have that 'heavy' tone the rest of the script does. It just reads off, a better turn of phrase might have been: gunfighter, gunslinger, assassin, marksmen, depending on just what kind of mood/ character's past Annb was trying to convey. if it's a almost/actual supernatural skill with a gun I'd go with gunslinger for that subtle Stephen King reference. If he is just a stone cold bad ass gunfighter or assassin get the job done well. Beyond all that (I along with others) would welcome a Spanish only Zuda comic in a contest. 'Gun shooter' is just a minor point, and the text did go a little long on screen 8, but still an awesome read.

It's always nice when Zuda creators improve from one comic to the next

I thought Annb's last entry was impressive (and it was), but this comic blows that one away. People who prefer a quiet start might not rally to Annb's banner, but if you got the skills to get people setting on the edge of their seats -use them. Which is just what is done here with Clandestino. I also appreciate Annb has a mastery of his own style which comes through both in terms of the art, and the writing. I don't know how much of a 'get out the vote' effort Annb has made but if he continues to build on his talent a instant win or a Image title is the minimum least his future holds.