Monday, July 20, 2009

Zuda review Children's Games/ It's like Rugrats meets the Gnostic gospels

Children's Games is a contestant this month done by Erik Valdez y Alanis. It's yet another example of the originality to be found on Zuda, with a surprising very dark story -and a fav from me. Here is the synopsis: One day, while in the spare room, Paola and her cat Machiavello, open an old tin can and find a piece of God that has been forgotten there a long time ago. Taking it unto themselves, they find that they are imbued with the essence and power of creation. Which is great fun, when you are a six-year-old girl with a great imagination and the company of her best friend and fellow bath-hater. From their fertile minds, beings mythical and marvelous, monstrous and beautiful are given life. Worlds and lives and entire histories are created in the blink of an eye. The laws and rules of the universe are twisted and pushed to the breaking point. It’s all like a game and it all seems too wonderful to be true. It is. Nothing in life is free. And Paola and Machiavello learn this the hard way, when they receive a surprise visit from one of the premiere powers of the universe: Evil herself, the Devil. She wants the piece of God and the Creation Spark it contains. Assuming they survive the Devil (who is obviously not above the dirtiest, meanest tricks to get what she wants), there are still other interested. Amongst them: Death, The Anti-Creation and Ancient Black Cat Gods. And that’s just for starters. The little girl and her cat are going to need all the wit, strength and cleverness they can muster just to get through the day. They will learn that games can be fun - they can also be very, very deadly.

The darkest story in Zuda's short history?

The art here seems to fill just about everyone with a little trepidation, until they read it and give it a chance. I went into this comic wondering if I'd like it, and it turned out to be a very impressive read. I thought 'I Rule The Night' was a stark storyline (and it is), but if anything CG is a even darker story. There is a point it could reach crossing over from entertaining and thoughtful, to preachy and nihilistic with no rootable characters. At the same time Alanis not playing it safe with this story is a big part of the draw, and he definitely pulled off the tightrope act in these 8 screens. It had a second coming of the Rugrats start, but I was really impressed by good narration that didn't go on too long. I don't like text boxes, but : "It was a beautiful sacred moment and as such -it did not last long." was perfect. It got the point across without beating you over the head with it. I also liked the rainbow effect on the 'piece of God' and how once Paola realized she could split it without losing anything, she decided to share with her cat Mack. I enjoy comics that let readers draw their own conclusions about characters actions. With the early scenes of CG you can take them literal, or read in to them as you want. After both take their piece of God the dialogue between Mack and Paola is fabulous. "even if it did lack the adrenaline rush of a good mouse hunt." was a great line by Mack and screen 3 provided a lot of characterization for these two characters in their back and forth conversation.

Cartoony art with dramatic impact

The 'cute' moments (such as Mack loving hats) help to set up the strips more serious turn. Screen 5 is where things start to take a darker turn. The parents of Paola taking about "it's never too early to start dieting sweetie" brings up all kinds of issues dealing with body image/prick parents. The parents get turned into multi-colored butterfly's where they had been in black, white, and gray. After that Mack eats them in the background as Paola starts to use her powers. On screen we see the two main leads creating life, and squishing it out to start all over again. These screens struck me as being subversive and disturbing, but it only increased my wanting to see what happens next. Screen 7 is the best screen in this comic. The way the art aiding the narration was very impressive. The surprised appearance of realistic looking people on panel 3, and their fate being destroyed in blood and fire. I don't know how much (if any) commentary on religion was intended by the creator, but that is going to hurt the comic with some readers. For me Alanis managed to avoid crossing over into 'preachy' territory, but that want be the case with all readers. The comic ends with the devil (a babe) showing up on the last screen which made for a great cliff hanger. I do worry this story could get too dark, which would kill my interest, on the other hand if that line is never crossed it is just a fantastic 60 screen read. their are some stories that stay on the razors edge of being 'too much' and push that fabled envelope with every new page. The final fate of these types of stories (which Children Games is), depends on the ending. It's either a unforgettable finish, or a absolute train wreck. I do hope Children's Games lives on to see not just the fates of the characters, but if Alanis can pull the story off. One thing Erik Valdez y Alanis didn't do was play it safe, he challenged his readers and himself -I respect that a great deal.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Zuda review Bloody Pulp/ You'd have to be vapid not to see the originality in this comic

Bloody Pulp is another contestant this month done by creators Jeff McComsey & Jorge Vega. It's a great mix of different genres/moods in a amazing story that got a fav from me, and my vote. Here is the synopsis: BLOODY PULP is the story of John “Pulp” Polpowski, a nightmare for hire who leads a dangerous double life -- secretly moving the men and women he’s been paid to kill to a remote safe house far from the syndicate controlled streets of 1930’s Kansas City. Each new resident brought to the house is expected to pull their weight and earn their keep, working side by side with people who know nothing of their past, nothing about who they were in the “real world”. For some residents the ramshackle house is a prison, for others a final chance at redemption. This is the house that Pulp built and the house rules are simple: NO ONE LEAVES. Ever. But nothing is simple about the arrival of Eustace Parks; a Negro bandleader entangled in mob debt. His presence will cause lines to be drawn, passions to ignite and horrible acts to be carried out, leading to an epic standoff that will measure just how far Pulp is willing to go to bring order to his house.

Twilight Zone, Road to Perdition, and Bird all put into a blender for one smooth read

That's a lot of different divergent elements coming together to form a story, but the creators do it with ease. This a comic that grabbed me from panel one, word one and didn't let go the grip -only got tighter. I like some of those old tunes, I enjoy crime comics, add a touch of drive-by weirdness, and you have my go to genre. It starts off with an old set-up (lead strapped to a chair being tortured) given new life thanks to very expressive art, and great dialogue back and forth. The story continues on with a number of interest building images including a head being cut off with a meat cleaver with the classic sfx: thunk! Cutting off some other corpses head is needed to fake a persons death, but it was cool how this necessary step only added to Pulp's killer mystique with "he wants to know... what do you do with the heads?" The pacing of this comic from start to finish fit Zuda perfectly. The letters are fine, and the colors fit the story. The fact that Pulp looks like a always dazed serial killer again adds to the story. Parks wakes up at the hide out town which starts the mystery: Why is Pulp doing this anyway? Screen 6 had some funny moments with Parks wondering where he was, and trying to get the hell out of dodge, while also giving some insight into the people already there. Panel 4 on screen 7 is absolutely fantastic in how expressive the art work is. Violence, dread, horror, humor, wonder -Bloody Pulp touches all the bases as the screens click by. You get a nice cliff hanger ending as Parks wonders where he is, and pulp says: "someplace safe" setting in a swing covered in blood with a cat next to him. reader's will definitely want to know why Pulp's doing this, and what role Parks plays in all this.

The same, but different

'The same, but different' is a common request and expectation of readers. I see genre tags as a form of short hand between writers and their readers. It lets a reader know the basics about the world created for the characters they're reading about. It cuts down on the need for a lot of extraneous exposition, while also giving general guidelines for theme and mood. Historical Period, Action/Adventure are the genre tags on Zuda given to this story. Really though unless aliens show up it's a crime story with a twist. [not a genre tag available on Zuda] You could go down into crime story sub-genre's and hit it with the Noir tag as well -it's even in the title with the word 'Pulp'. Every story/any story can and will be classified into any number of genre's and sub-genre's. I happen to enjoy 'genre' fiction myself, but creators have expectations to meet, and must provide a hook that stands apart from those expectations. When your dealing with Noir their is a perquisite level of 'hard boiled' action/dialogue, once that expectation is met, creators can move on to 'different'. The action elements of Bloody Pulp more than meet expectations, and it sets itself apart by delivering 'different' with a Twilight Zone style twist. It's a staple in horror fiction (and damn near every story Stephen King has ever written): 'the small town with a big dark secret', or a roach motel on a grander scale, that you can never leave. Putting the two together makes for a brilliant story with all kinds of possibilities. The way all the elements of this story came together to offer a great read that could go in any number of directions got my vote, because I need to see how things turn out.