Friday, September 11, 2009

Zuda review Marked/ Now that's how you draw a cool looking monster

Marked is a September Zuda comic done by Fernando Pinto. Here is the synopsis: “Marked” is the story of Evan Dark, a man who loves his job. You see, thanks to the tattoos on his hands, he is able to destroy demons, trolls and various horrendous creatures of the netherworld, armed only with his fists. He’s one of the few “Marked men”; men who protect the world from the demon population which is trying to take over our realm. He received these tattoos by mistake (when the person, who had trained all of his life to be the next receiver was, apparently, ”less than prepared” for the task). With this, he landed a job working for “Blake, Stanton, and Bob”, the company that takes care of the human interests in the war between humans and demons. A war that, regular people (like you and I), are completely unaware of. It’s a great job, but there is one catch. You see, the problem in Evan’s life now is that there seems to be a demon rising (according to the sacred scriptures), so demons are appearing more frequently in our earthly plain. This means that working hours are getting more and more insane. Evan is trying to balance it all, while in a relationship the lovely Melissa Carlile, who thinks he’s just a regular accountant. So join Evan, as he punches his way through rooms full of creatures of the night, and tries to make it back home in time, for dinner with the love of his life.

Kind of like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, only it's a dude who destroys demons

The story of a hero who gets imbued with powers to go out and fight whatever evils lurking is a far older set-up than Buffy, and Marked does an excellent job of pulling it off. The art is a little cartoony, but the pace/writing is a great fit for Zuda. It helps a lot Evan is fighting some very coolly designed demons, in fluid action scenes. When it starts Evan has already gotten his powers (visible in the form of some cool 'Celtic cross' style tattoos on his hands), and is more worried about missing dinner with his girlfriend than the upcoming demon battle. That shows a early humor element, but also Evan is either accomplished, or overconfident in his demon fighting abilities. The script of the comic was filled with well done dialogue, and ending each screen on a high point that would make you want to continue reading. The demon design is awesome, purple skin, red eyes, and plenty of teeth. Readers don't get to see the fight continued because the story then switches to a flashback/origin story 3 years in the past. We see how Evan was like before he got his powers in a amusing exchange with one of his friends. The characterization here, and the compare/contrast to how he will become made for some great writing. I hope the plan is to continue having flashbacks to Evan's past, as readers also follow along in the present, it really hooks you as a reader. He has just lost his job because of backing over his bosses wife. He goes outside to take a leak in a alley, and crosses paths with the former holder of the special tattoos. He tells Evan he needs his hands, Evan says he's using them, so the former 'marked' just grabs his hands and that mystical energy starts flowing. It is a funny set-up and it got some laughs from me. Screen 5 shows a brilliant flash of light as the power changes hands (no pun intended), and then the former 'marked' falls with his last words being "Don't fuck it up". That last line was redacted for Zuda audiences of course. Screen 5 had some really nice sound effects which I always enjoy, and ended with a demon appearing behind Evan.

No drag assing around in Marked, Pinto mostly delivers in the 8 screens allotted

I'm not a big humor fan, but the mixing of humor with horror was so well done it made to story stand out. Readers see Evan's first ever battle with a demon, and of course he has his share of problems. A very funny moment was when Evan is grabbed around the face by a demon, and mumbles "Mfdbl pttrdl dsptl!" which translated means: "Dude I was just peeing!" On screen 7 we see the demon about to destroy our hero, along with some very good sound effects used as bridges between panels. The screen also ends with a panel close-up shot of Evan's new magical tattoo. Evan hits him in the face exploding his head, readers see the demon fall dead, and Evans pants slip to reveal some heart patterned boxers. It's one for the books as far as the things that can happen to you once you get your powers. It ends still in the flashback with Evan saying "Dooood", and looking at the now headless demon. The ending is the only thing that kept this comic from getting a favorite from me. I enjoyed the flashback, but it was a hollow ending that didn't connect up with the start of the story. It would have been great if the story could have came full circle by ending with Evan confronting a angry girlfriend back in the present day -even only in one panel. Ending in the flashback wasn't much of a cliffhanger since it's obvious Evan would survive and get better at slaying demons. I was looking forward to seeing the girlfriend back in modern times it would have made a fantastic self contained story. It's still a great read, and a great fit for the Zuda contest.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Zuda review Mystery Jungle/ I agree with everyone else, only more so

Mystery Jungle is a September Zuda competitor done by Diego Cordoba, which has good art to go along with awful narration. here is the synopsis: The setting is a lost world in a hidden valley down in the jungles of modern-day Borneo, where dinosaurs still live among other creatures. When two foreigners, a man and a girl, crash-land in the jungle they find themselves alone and pitted against all sort of dinosaurs. Thankfully they run into a mysterious bronze-skinned savage who seems to know his way around the jungle. Now, among various saurians, tigers, giant apes, snakes and other vile creatures, they must make their way out of the lost valley and back to "civilization". Along the way they run into some dinosaurs and, barely making out alive, are captured by the Puti-Puta, a tribe of pygmies who feast on... human flesh! One night before they actually end up in the Puti-Puta's stew they are attacked by half-humans riding on pteradodons. However, in the turmoil that ensues, the girl is captured by the riders and taken to the land of TraLaLa, where the pteranodon riders present the captive to their queen, the mysterious black beauty Sheba. Queen Sheba, whom legend says is immortal, actually needs human blood to keep on living, especially the blood from a virgin. Now it's up to the mysterious bronze-skinned warrior and the man he rescued, to find the captured girl, fight the pteranodon half-human riders and confront their evil queen Sheba... But the man that accompanies the bronze-skinned savage has other plans on his own, mainly to look for the hidden treasure of the Loomas, whose location he preciously carries in a map kept hidden inside his clothes. The ordeal through which they must all go will, for once, decide who are the real predators and who are the preys.

One of the worst aspects of comics in the Golden Age shouldn't be repeated in piss yellow text boxes

The colors are fine, art is fantastically pulpy in a Tarzan newspaper strip way, and the letters are easily read in any viewer mode. The problem is with all the yellow boxes of needless narration. In the Golden Age (my favorite period in comics) one big problem was telling readers in text boxes, exactly what you've just shown them in the art. This comic is eat up with that problem all the way through it. Yellow box narration wasn't needed on screen 1, but I took it as a homage to the pulp genre of comics. Screen 2 is when the repetitive show and tell business really starts and it's all down hill from there. Screen 2, Panel 1: "Abruptly a staccato sound breaks through the humid skies...", in the panel you see a plane flying by with a Wwwrrrrr. "The bronze skinned man looks up at the new intruder...", sure enough a bronze skinned man is drawn looking up at the airplane. "These are not people who normally inhabit this jungle, he thinks...", yep the bronze skinned man does have a confused look on his face. Panel 2: "Suddenly a pair of leathery wings hit with all its force the metallic flying machine...", in the panel we see a 'pteranodon' flying into the plane. None of that text was necessary we could see what happened in the art, which would be even better without redundant text boxes taking up panel space. The narration also seemed to switch into first person with the 'metallic flying' bit. On screen 3, panel 2: "losing one of its wings from the impact by the creature, the plane spirals below towards the dense jungle", the art's good enough you can plainly see the plane spiralling without the play by play. With panel 3 we see a nice action shot of the plane crashing through the jungle, which is wrecked by a caption telling us the plane crashed "through the heavy foliage". On screen 4 we see the bronze skinned savage swinging through the jungle in panel 1, and read it in this caption: "The bronze skinned savage swings through the jungle trying to get below and see if they are any survivors". After that we get panel 2 of the two people in the crashed plane, then this caption to start panel 3: "Once they recuperate from the shock of their accident, the two foreigners climb out of the plane..." -you see them standing outside their plane. With today's readers that narration is needless, it would be assumed the crash landed pair got out off panel in between the borders/gutters from panel 2 to panel 3. You'd think once readers got to the T-Rex stand in that would be the cool part, but the big reveal is also accompanied by more narration. On screen 6 we get a nice action shot of the bronzed skinned savage swinging down to fight the monster, and save the poor foreigners. Its dramatic impact is hamstrung thanks to the inane caption: "Suddenly as the creature faces its potential dinner for the day, a bronze skinned figure comes soaring down...". Needless captions messing up the flow of the story, and taking space away from the art continue on screen 7. The comic ends with 'the bronze skinned savage' trying to jump on the monsters back, but he gets thrown. If you want a cliff hanger of impending doom their is a better lay to lay it out than making the hero look like he got thrown off a mechanical bull.

Reading the synopsis first I was hoping for a Tarzan meets exploitative cannibal story

Cannibal exploitation might be too hard a R until Zuda gets that mature content up and running, but the comic needed something else as a hook. I've already read Tarzan (I own some of the old comics), I don't need to read it again. Mystery Jungle needed that something 'different' to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. Considering it's a 'lost world' setting more monsters wouldn't have been a bad idea. My view of this comic would have been much higher without the yellow text boxes. Try this as a experiment: read the comic again, but ignore all the yellow/blue text boxes. It reads far better with just dialogue and sound effects than it does weighted down with narration. A advantage of getting rid of the narration is the creator doesn't put too fine a point on things. More elements of the story are left up to a readers interpretations, and it avoids pointing out the obvious in text. The art is more than fine enough to convey emotions in the characters expressions. Cordoba needs to abandon vestigial storytelling techniques, and have more confidence in his abilities as an artist.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Doing the happy dance for Eclipso

Showcase Presents: Eclipso just came out recently, and I was thrilled to pick it up since he is one of my favorite characters. It reprints (with the exception of a Brave and the Bold Batman crossover) all of his earliest appearances from House of Secrets# 61-#80. Eclipso started out as a kooky Silver Age supervillain take off on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The character got a kick ass ret-con, and regular series as a fallen angel of revenge in the 90's. Then Bart Sears left, the art went south, and the regular series limped along till it died. To make matters worse the latest continuity rewrite has Eclipso being a creation of Darkseid (repetitive simplistic plotting every bit the equal of having the Red Skull be behind every villain Captain America ever faced) and the Atom's crazy ex-wife got possessed. I think faux-Eclipso is back giving Bruce Gordon (his host for most of the characters appearances) hell, but the Darkseid connection turns everything in the here and now into shit. Which is why I turn back to the characters original run. I long ago gave up my hopes of a Eclipso DC archive edition, but black and white in Showcase at least is a collection. I own a lot of the original issues, but they don't travel for easy reading near as well as a reprint edition. Eclipso was the creation of writer Bob Haney, and artist Lee Elias who drew his earliest adventures. This edition also reprints Alex Toth's run on the title (House of Secrets #63-#67), which isn't that easy to track down in back issues. Artist Jack Sparling would come on to handle the rest of the run. Their is a lot of Silver Age goodness to be found in Showcase Presents: Eclipso for 10 bucks, not to mention Toth artwork! If you got the cash to spare you should give it a try.