Friday, July 17, 2009

Zuda review Metropolitan Siege/ How do you say "Burn baby, Burn!" in demon?

Metropolitan Siege is a Zuda hopeful done by Eric & Chris Zawadzki. The art had a certain crudeness I enjoyed, but their are too many other top notch contenders this month. Here is the synopsis: After being placed on leave and put under investigation for the unintentional death of a civilian, Officer Nikki Cross is entrusted with saving her city, the floating city of New Avion, from a force of nature that has infiltrated the police and exists only to feed off chaos and watch cities burn. On top of dealing with protesters and the media complaining about the increasing reports of police brutality, Nikki must also fix her fractured relationships with her friends and family in order to effectively combat these forces who's ability to stoke a fire only make them stronger with each rising flame.

What do you want to bet New Avion ends up crashing into the water for the big finale?

The story starts off where it should, a establishing shot of the floating city location of this story. Why is the city floating? My guess of course to build drama and sink/crash down into the waves as we get closer to the ending. It would also be a good way to contain that 'force of nature' talked about in the synopsis. [please read the synopsis...pretty please] One panel in and it already has the promise of a fantastic suspense countdown ending. Read the story, then read it again and soak up the potential, don't let that awful thumbnail pic drive you away. After a quiet 'sun sinking down' open we get the conflict started on page two with a funny little (censored) break up fight scene. Only problem with screen 2 is what looks like some gratuitous filter use in panel 2. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should, and it was more distracting than making the broken bottle look cool. The lead character of Nikki doesn't look like the pin-up queen one usually finds in these stories which I thought was a nice touch. It adds a certain realness to a story with monsters in disguise, invading a city floating over a ocean. We get the first part of the synopsis in the well written exposition conversation on screen 3. Then we move on to the action in screen 4 with the alien body snatcher sub-genre stock character 'someone who knows the truth' but never lives to tell it -A.K.A. the prophet of doom . You get the rest of the synopsis by screen 6 when the bad guys have shown up, and a dead line of two days to start saving the city is given. I really like the doomsday clock effect for adding so much suspense to stories it was great in The Crooked Man, and it's great here. There is a nice cut away to Nikki's friend curled up in terror on screen 5. Those funny moments were the sweet spot in this story, unexpected but welcomed. I want to see Cloud City 2 crash so bad..

BOOM! goes the human Kabuki doll...

Screen 7 we see a very whacked out Nikki's face before she explodes, the explosion was very well done, with a white fire out line of her. I was a little surprised their weren't any ka-blewie style sound effects, but it worked for this story. If it was a movie you would either hear nothing as the explosion went off -total silence-, or some poser hipster life anthem song. Not going crazy on the sound effects was a good call, but the comic would have been even better without the motion blur effects. The Z brothers should know bottles breaking, and doors being kicked in look fine just drawn. The last screen was one of the best screens. That blur effect fuzziness should have been saved for this screen when Nikki opens her eyes. The creators also let you see the monsters as they are which was a neat touch, and good 'evil creature' design. I do wonder if Ayumi is extra tasty crispy fried after that explosion? Being inspired by the L.A. riots to use sci-fi to deal with the degeneration of a city is inspired in and of it's self. The story ends with a nice image of Nikki in terror. It's actually gone up in my estimation the more times I've read it, but this month has even more grabbing reads. It was bad luck to get into a month of such fierce competition for the creators, but I hope they continue their efforts. Their is always the possibility first place at Zuda this month will be like a door knob -everyone gets a turn.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Zuda review 9th Year/ Mutated, albino, naked Stretch Armstrong -not as scary as you might think

9th Year is another Zuda comic in contention done by Alberto Lanzillotti & Manuel Bracchi. The story is typical, the art is fine, but the weak monster designs kill the thrill level of this comic. Here is the synopsis: In the near future, at the end of a bloody war between humanity and demons, the world is governed by a military dictatorship, whose leaders belong to a secret sect. Taking advantage of an unstable political situation, the army has taken control of the few inhabited centers that are left. Unhappy with the situation, a small group of people formed a resistance, in order to take back the power and to form a new democracy. The main character of “9th year” is Laura, a sixteen-year-old, who sees her best friend brutally killed by one of the demonic creatures. When Laura’s father and the other men prepare to attack the monsters responsible for the savage murder, she decides to go with them and get her revenge. During their travel, Laura discover the real reason her father’s plan. In the meantime, a group of rebels are trying to free a small boy that has been imprisoned by the army. According to a prophecy, this boy is the Elected, the one who might be the real messiah. The only one capable of saving the world.

Was a good friend of mine...

The characterization of the humans in this story wasn't that thrilling to me, that's why I felt let down by pedestrian monsters. It starts off well enough with some establishing shots of a urban castle type setting. You see some cool artwork done on a sort of survivors council it's exposition handled well, but a few more panels per page would have moved things along better. The discussion they have is a monster movie classic: to keep hiding, or go on the attack. Anna was the girl who was 'savagely' murdered, more conversation about this (if not a mental flashback) could have added more drama to the narrative. Laura setting along holding herself was a good start to the creators making the human characters human, but not much follow up. More panels to show off more art, or more grabbing dialogue would have helped. Stories like this typically have a prophecy of a upcoming savior, unless this kid isn't really the Elected, (for a nice twist) I've already read better versions. This army group being corrupted by it's power is another one of those typical and tired elements of these kind of stories. If this plot point is just as describe in the synopsis, again I've already read it -no interest in reading again. Their is too much originality, and realism this month in Zuda for a strip that seems predictable to not suffer in comparison. It could be this strip isn't going to play out as expected -I don't know? I do know the peak into the past/future provided by the synopsis ended up detracting from this comic for me as a reader. With the typical dialogue, and generalized genre survival story, 9th Year needed some awesome monsters to stand out, but that didn't happen.

The demons are like fast zombies

The last few screens deal with the savior kid, and his protectors. Screen 6 does have an awesome layout if only the monsters were more scary. Aside from running out of bullets screen 7's layout didn't bring the action, suspense, roller coaster thrills. The demon in panel 3 looked like he was having a hard time marking his territory -or laying an egg. Readers finally see a demon out of the shadows on screen 8, and you led my description of it in the title of this blog post. Long hair with a machete gets saved by someone off panel, and it ends with longhair being surprised by looking at this person. A cliff hanger/mystery ending that left me wondering why I should care who this new mysterious character is. A full screen shot of a cool looking monster attacking that guy would have been a more impressive spot to end on -for me. The artwork was great on everything but the monsters, which doesn't work at all in a story like this. The story could go in a lot of directions, but a standard write up on the synopsis doesn't make it seem like anything really interesting is going to happen soon. A truly fantastic demon design could have lifted everything thing else up instead of helping tear it down to mediocre hell.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zuda review Ares Imperative/ Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Dead bodies!

The Ares Imperative is a Zuda contestant done by Steve Ekstrom, Mikael Bergkvist & Jesse Turnbull. The art's good, the story is exposition talking head monotony, and this post is expanding on my comments at MPD57's blog. Here is the Synopsis: It’s the early 21st Century and corporations continue to manipulate world governments as emerging quasi-religious science cults and techno-centric international terrorists are beginning to develop their own biological weapons mapped out in human genomes. Special Agent Adam Geist operates covertly within the framework of the ultra-classified PROJECT ARES division of the C.I.A. under the supervision of Deputy Director Ted Gerard and his assistant Maxwell Clearwater. Geist does not fully comprehend the processes, which he has undergone as a part of PROJECT ARES but numerous studies have revealed that alien mitochondria have asserted control of his DNA—altering his higher intelligence functions and his nervous system receptor processing speed. He has become sensitive to electromagnetic fields and has developed heightened senses, which include something akin to Wi-Fi reception. His skin is capable of rapid, localized cellular density adaptation—making him virtually bulletproof. Due to the secret nature of his existence and the fear that a “super-man” would create in light of the unstable relations between the U.S. and other world powers, Geist is under strict orders: he must eliminate anyone—friend or foe—who learns of his uncanny abilities. Sadly, as he grows in power, his own humanity diminishes from the actualization of his computer-like brain—and now, evidence is beginning to surface that his own strange biology may, in fact, be malevolent in nature…

Refitted pages have only ever really worked for Supertron
I think

According to Mikael the story was reformatted to fit Zuda, which could explain the never ending word balloons, and lack of any appreciable action. Thankfully the letters are easy to read. Also according to Mikael and Steve later on the action elements increase significantly. I don't want say you can only really judge by what you see in the 8 screens. Their is also an element of promise where a reader has to be their own judge about what they can expect should the story continue. The impending coolness promise factor wasn't there for me with this strip. It really is just one long exposition conversation until you get to the last screen corpses -and the characters talk over that. The red Hexagon's showing Geist's mental powers at work was a neat design element. I couldn't help but think the blabbing buddy banter could have been further reformatted to pick up the pace. I expect a little set-up with the Kane future bad guy back story, but it continued on for the rest of the comic. The art is good, but their is a limit to the number of interesting visuals you can squeeze out of different angles at a abandoned factory. A chemistry lesson didn't make for a grabbing read, but was kind of a hint Chemical Lad was the writer's favorite Legionnaire. "According to our field agents two unidentified middle eastern males had been making soft inquires into purchasing this refinery. The local real estate agent who had been sent to give the tour of the grounds had been reported missing by his wife three days ago. His remains were found a meter from the trap door to this room." All that one sided conversation between two talking heads didn't have to be as uninteresting as it was. This was a perfect place for a voice over. You know we see the images of a real estate agent's body being found, those suspicious looking characters, cut to/back as Ted talks to add some new images. For that matter a few flashback panels being talked over of Kane could have helped show the villain and make this a better comic. Ted doing the voice over thing for different and varied images could have made this comic so much better to me as a reader. It's hard to get me excited about the mystery angle when it's just two guys talking. These creators had the opportunity for some really interesting images and they didn't do it -why?

The Six Million Dollar Man would be worth $29,679,529.41 in
today's dollars

You can play it safe in a Zuda submission, or you can put yourself out there on either side of the spectrum. Meaning you can do the half/half split the difference option when it comes to exposition vs. action. The other route is to focus on the 8 screens being mostly a fight scene, or mostly talking. If you have a lead character who is bullet proof, and only 8 screens to grab readers interest, might not be a bad idea to have Adam get shot... The last two screens deal with this story's second unit C.I.A. director Jim, and Carl. The art is very good on these screens, I liked the way to snow effect was handled. I don't know anyone who still smokes a pipe, but I liked Carl's look of surprise in panel 3. I have to give Turnbull credit, he does an excellent job on the colors. It was also a good scene to end on, but the cliff-hanger dread of the dead bodies was muted thanks to the excess wordage/repetitive imagery it took to get there. The comic had two many possibilities for good storytelling in the 8 screens it didn't take advantage of, to be in the running for my vote on the grounds of future promise.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Zuda review Assignment/ Jeremiah Johnson vs. El Mariachi but we already know who wins

Another Zuda contestant this month is Assignment done by Zuda vet's Anthony Peruzzo & Justin Jordan. Which has a nice opening, and good art, but doesn't focus on the best things in this story, and gives away a lot of the drama in the synopsis here: Twenty years ago a group of scientists found something extraordinary beneath the Antarctic ice. Something unimaginable. All but one, were slaughtered by a teammate who took a long walk across the ice to presumed death. Unfortunately, presumed death isn’t the same thing as actual death, which is why Hatch has to put a bullet through Simon Campbell’s head twenty years later. Hatch, a professional assassin and extremely amateur musician, has never botched a job, so he’s understandably surprised when the man whose brain he splattered all over the apartment turns up alive and well. It isn’t everyday that you have to kill a person twice. With the help of guns, hatchets, chainsaws, and other assorted lawn equipment, Hatch manages to kill Campbell. Then his problems just get started. Hatch unwittingly inherits the power to destroy or, if he's really lucky, save the world. This, of course, means that that everyone wants a piece of him. Dead or alive.

Jump around... Jump around...

One of the things that stands out about this comic is the way in jumps from location/scene to location/scene. This doesn't bother me the way it might some readers, what I didn't care for was giving the lion's share of the screens to the least interesting elements of the story. You have all these different locations, so take advantage of them to the fullest. Screen 1 starts of with a cool artic John Carpenter's Thing homage (with awesome bloody hand prints and everything), but after that first screen is the end of invoking The Thing. It went from being mysterious and intriguing to an annoying tease. I have to say I love the colors of this comic, it made Assignment much scarier than it would have been otherwise. Letters are also fairly easy to read. As much as Jordan came up with a great opening Peruzzo impressed me with his art on screen 2. I loved the warped buildings establishing shot, and the way the colors aided the art throughout. Justin Jordan can damn sure write quiet panels with little to no dialogue, I'd love to see the script for screen 4. The breaking down of the screen to lead to the bullet in the head (rendered with a electric glide energy sparkle silhouette) was great. Whatever the panel descriptions were Jordan and Peruzzo got on the same wave length with this screen. The fact that Simon was checking out musical notes on his computer (along with Hatch's shtick), makes me think the story could have a 'greatest song in the world' sub plot. Music in Zuda comics is a recurring theme/new trend people seem to like exploring. A few panels after screen 4 is where the story starts to go off the rails.

Is it wrong my favorite character here is the mountain man immortal critter?

Explosions sell but Hatch's agency giving him a spanking with a exploding guitar case was the least interesting part of this story. To put it another way: the more I read the story the more the explosion 'boom' fucked up the creepy vibe of this comic. It ended nice and creepy with a electric shock induced scream session of Simon's kidnapping victims. I also noticed those giant bad ass speakers in the back ground. Awesome panel layout for the last screen which just made me sad the lead (Simon) was for the better part of the story buried for the musician hit man. The synopsis which tips off the next big story beat's outcome also detracts from that spine tingling feeling from reading which could bring in the voters. It could be Hatch is super cool, aside from killing the old man and a sniper's bullet plot point, he didn't do anything that interesting. Knocking off the old guy also knee-capped Hatch's rootability as a hero. You can't be a good guy, and be killing Grandpa, anti-heroes can't even pull that shit off. If it's Hatch's road to redemption, why should I care if he gets redeemed? If it's greater evil vs. lesser evil -Simon is just plan cooler. It ended up being a 3 screens forward 5 screens back kind of deal. I am damn happy this comic wasn't burdened with the word 'the' in front of the title. The story had all the possibilities of being great, Anthony Peruzzo & Justin Jordan just didn't work it enough to really fit Zuda well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Zuda review RockStar/ Voltron wannbe gets ass kicked by that Sliverhawk with the Guitar -sort of

RockStar is a Zuda contestant this month done by AluĂ­sio Cervelle Santos. Basically a group of galactic heroes has a cult mentality and is out to recruit this story's lead hero Rockstar, and won't take no for an answer. That's a great hook which gets wrecked by a confusing fight scene that goes on for too many pages. Here is the synopsis: A boy, who has a hand with six fingers, receives an extraordinaire power from the skies. It set in motion an intergalactic conflict, putting his whole world in danger. Should the boy continue to pursue his musical career? Or should he fend for the safety of Earth? Grab a ticket for this galactic stage, because the show is about to go on!

In medias res isn't always the right option

I liked the sound effects/letters easy and fun to read. 'Arpeggios from hell' was a stand out. I will say the art is damn good, but I also have to say what the hell was going on? The fight scene that ate whatever story this comic had, invoked all the worst qualities of a Dragon Ball Z stand off. The pacing and not exploiting superhero dramatic elements to their fullest is what killed it for me. It starts off well enough with a good first screen that grabs a readers interest. Then readers get a second screen (best screen of the comic) that shows RockStar has arrived to save the day. The fact that this is also the last 'quiet' screen before the denouement ain't a coincidence. Screen 3 is where things start to go off the rails. You wouldn't think a creator could make 5 panel layouts (or less) feel too cramped and crowded, but you'd be wrong. The longer the comic went on the more overloaded and overworked the panels look. The new wore off the 'BIG ROBOT RAMPAGE!' 'BIG ROBOT RAMPAGE!' pretty quick for me. It has too much details in the panels, with no room to breath for the reader. Extremes in storytelling can either work out really well, or go wrong in a major way. I don't know what the polar opposite of decompression would be called -hyper speed- but that the affection this story has. More characterization and explanation of the world the story takes place in, were seen in your average Golden Age 8 pager, where that was far from a priority.

Throwing away great storytelling opportunities is like pissing in the wind

It's a classic superhero conundrum: How do you protect your family once your arch-nemesis discovers your secret identity? The set-up for this was there in RockStar until you click past screen 3. After that it's not brought up again until the screen 8 denouncement which wasn't really about the dangers RockStar's parents faced because of him, it was just the 6 finger reveal. The fight scene failed for me as a reader because of the way it was executed. From RockStar's dialogue it was apparent battles like his showdown with Voltron Wolf Guy had happened before, and RockStar won with no real challenge. RockStar came off like he was facing this 'threat' (no real danger) for the umpteenth time, and was as bored with it as I was by the end. It read as more arrogance on RockStar's part than protectiveness, but he won so he didn't even get called on that. Maybe these other Galactic heroes are just testing him, or letting him win -but that wasn't well shown in the story. It could be RockStar is far and away above any of his opponents power level, in which case you run into the Superman problem. You'll need a kryptonite stand-in, or focus more on RockStar's personal morals/ethics to make things interesting. It could have been saved by using suspense to cut to and back from RockStar's parents -normal humans in real danger-, and have Voltron Wolf Guy try to attack/kidnap them. When RockStar saved mom and dad on screen 2, I thought this would be more of the direction the fight went in. Beyond a 'I'll be back' moment the parents were quickly forgotten till the last screen. Being a complete done in one story actually hurt this entry more than making it stand out. If Santos had done a cliff hanger where it looked like RockStar might lose the battle it would have been more grabbing to me as a reader. The suspense level could have been ratcheted way up to have me, or any other reader sitting on the edge of their seat, but that didn't happen. The panels could have been less busy (tone down the backgrounds) to allow the artwork to have more impact. Instead this comic was a case study of the diminishing returns of explosions and energy blasts in comics. The big dramatic hook that could have maybe gotten my vote (what's going to happen to the parents) and grabbed me as a reader wasn't even really explored.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review Captain Moosestash and the Incredible Flying Machine/ In search of adventure in a adventure comic...

This random azz review is about: Captain Moosestash and the Incredible Flying Machine a web comic/ merchandise line done by Sean Friend. Semi regular update schedule , with a fun airship helm site design. It's cartoon style art work on a (I think) action/adventure comedy that isn't funny -but the adventure part is almost kind of there. The various shirts, caps, and stickers are a cheaper price than S.H.E. merchandise, and is actually based on a web comic. The various chapters are set up in a unlock/key format. One thing to come away from with this comic is the site design is more impressive than the character art work/ story.

It needs more adventure, more adventure I say!!!

The letters are easy enough to read, but too much white is showing, those balloons need to be trimmed and centered. The art is cartoony, but actually fits the subject matter, and all ages approach fairly well. The story starts will Professor Airborne about to unveil his latest invention to 1861 New York. He has a Steam Generator to usher in a new era to the city, which ends with a explosion superimposed by Friend over what looks to be a wood cut. Their was some nice screen layout's when Airborne woke up and met Captain Moosestash, then picked his way out of his cuffs. These two former jail birds then go on the run in the Captain's flying ship. Turns out Moosestash is a bounty hunter who teams up with Airborne instead of cashing him in, to go after bigger game with better paying rewards. There are hints in a panel here, and a panel there that this comic could do a decent bit of traffic on the web. Before that happens a better handle on pace would be needed. Two, or three panels to a screen makes for eating a snail's dust pace. Just because Sean has a infinite canvass doesn't mean his story warrants it. Don't even get me started on the whole 'decompression' deal, the more big panels shots you see in a comic, the less impact it has. Plus repeated similar page layouts can lull a reader to sleep, cutting down on a story's impact. It's as bad as road daze from starring at the same scenery over, and over again. Insomniac web comic readers looking for relief is probably too much of a niche audience for Sean Friend to have real success. Probably.

Where's the sight gags at, oh it's just the same one, over and over again...

One of the fun repeated moments of the comic is Moosestash has the same kind of control over his mustache as Medusa from Marvel comics had over her hair. Moosestash steers at the helm with it, and picks up small objects. It's a good gag, but has a limited shelf life. At the end of the first chapter things start to move (slowly) and you see the future direction of the story. A new villain is introduced and the Professor is pressed into helping Moosestash. Their is also some exploration of Moosestash's dodgy character, as a bounty hunter along with his 'boys'. I don't think I'm the market for this comic, and I'm not entirely sure who is. It's still early yet in the updates, but the title doesn't have much of a identity besides the real star of this work, a prehensile handle bar mustache. The artwork could be better instead of just good enough, but the action has got to start picking up with a pace that grabs a reader, and doesn't let go. I think the art and storytelling will improve as the story goes along, so my advice would be to just read the last chapter and enjoy, no need to spoil the work by seeing how the sausage was made. In web comics land though, who knows if that last chapter will ever be made???