Thursday, November 5, 2009

Robot 13: Colossus! Review/ Looks like a Scooby-Doo villain, kills monsters like nobody's business!


Robot 13: Colossus! is a new print comic done by Blacklist Studios: Daniel Bradford and Thomas Hall. It's up to issue 2 now and can be ordered at there web site, here is a short synopsis: On the surface, Robot 13 is about a skull headed robot who fights giant monsters from Greek Mythology. From a storytelling standpoint, however, it's somewhat a reworking of Frankenstein meeting Homer's Odyssey- it's the story of a thing created by Science who goes on a Hero's journey of sorts to find out who he really is...

 Kill the Kraken, Kill the Kraken, Kill the Kraken 

Based on revelations in the second issue it actually has a much deeper theme than just robot vs. monsters, but no need to rush over one of its coolest points. The bulk of Robot 13 #1 is taken up with R 13 getting pulled from the sea, along with a almost instantaneous attack by a Kraken looking sea monster. What members of the crew don't get eaten look on in horror as the fight begins. If your going to draw a western comic you have to be able to draw horses, if your going to draw a comic with robots and monsters you have to be able to make all those critters look cool. looking around in comics shops and online I get a little stunned at how many creators can't pull it off. The creators of this comic didn't just pull it off, they did one of the best action/suspense scenes I've seen in comics lately. In order for readers to take these static images and fill in the blanks between the gutters the art has got to be smooth. You have to be able to draw the figures in conflict from all angles taking advantage of fantastic page composition to wow your audience. I always appreciate it when a character is fighting for there life (or to avoid being crushed into recyclable materials in this case) they don't spend a lot of panels blabbing as they fight. Never mind being realistic, too many word balloons hinder the art, and can slow the action packed pace down to a crawl. In this issue you have a mostly silent fight scene that lets the great art really grab hold of the readers. There are no unnecessary panels everything is done mindful of the 24 page economy to give readers the most bang for there buck and page count. As I said at the start you get more than just an amazing battle sequence. The Robot doesn't know who or what it is, or from whence it came. There are some tantalizing flashbacks that serve to get you wondering about it's origins. A doctor smuggles the robot out on a ship, then casts him adrift in a small boat so he can be free. The robot's confused state, unable to understand human concepts, is well done with the added benefit his confusion about what's going on in the world is one of the most human emotions a character can have. The robot on his little boat promptly gets attacked by a giant lobster that he begins fighting it out with. There is a nice movie like transition shot between the giant lobster in the past to an image of a regular lobster in the here and now being skewered and inspected by the robot. In a nice touch R 13 brings the monsters eye on board and the ships captain says he could make some money showing it off to people. 


No worries -R 13 is monster and rust resistant

Issue #2 provides a fight with a phoenix, and more clues to R 13's past and purpose. Whenever you have a unnatural creature fighting it out with monsters there will be a Mike Mignola/Hellboy comparison. The art does show a Mike Mignola influence along with old school newspaper adventure comic strip feel. It's important to remember everybody has influences (including Mignola), and it all probably traces back to a creative arts troglodyte who drew mammoths on cave walls better than anyone else. Everyone wants to take what has gone before, build on it, and go off in there own direction. The art here does just that with a number of standout pages which are perfect in conveying the story. The letters are well done, and the colors fit the story so well -it's just another reason to read it. Once you can see the art is there, the next question is what about the story? What makes Robot 13 stand out is all of the back story and future hinted at in issue #2. R 13 is a monster magnet, this issue it's a phoenix and ends up konked out in a snow bank found by a man and his dog. The dialogue between R 13 and a sailor serve to give a good insight into what the robot is thinking and foreshadowing of the upcoming conflict. It also serves to avoid text box thought balloons which I love. The issue opens with a memory that reveals the possible origin of R 13's creation, and closes with the reveal of its ultimate foe.The comics opens in the ancient world in Crete as the greatest minds in there world plan the creation of a 'man of bronze' champion to defend the people from dark threats. The comics ends with Echidna 'the mother of all monsters' wanting to know where the murder of her children are. A oracle and her teacher are trying to tell her, but in typical oracle fashion the pronouncements are murky. Echidna gets angered and the results are predictably gruesome. Issue 1 was the set up, issue 2 reveals enough you think you know what's going on, but you're not sure, and you still want to read the details. Long ago all the Daedalus types got together to invent a mechanical man to face off against the various man eating monsters in this world. That's  just enough of a hint at what's going on, and a peak at the future to make readers want to pick up the next issue to see how it goes. How did we end up with version 13.0 of the metal man? How was this robot created? Ancients embracing technology to protect them from the monsters of their myths can touch are kinds of areas dealing with humanity, or the lack of it. When you have a concept timing is also important.  lately there has been a number of special on the History channel and elsewhere, about ancient peoples being more technological advanced then modern people had wanted to give them credit for. Ancient computers, mechanical weapons, clock-work inventions created by people so far ahead of there time it's not even funny. Some of the stories about statues of gods 'coming to life were true', but what the people then didn't know was it wasn't supernatural forces, but engineering smarts that lead them to move. It is rather cool to see a comic making use of these concepts. In Robot 13 the monsters are real, and the technology is even more advanced. Magical vs. science -with belief on both sides- in a showdown  makes for a amazing story here. The dialogue and art work together to tell a very entertaining story, which I'm sure is only going to get better as more issues are released. It's a title you should differently check out

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Zuda review Fly Me From The Moon/ As Alien was really a horror film, this is really a hardboiled crime story

Fly Me From The Moon was a October Zuda comic done by Gabriel Bautista it finished with a final rank of 9th. Fly Me got a favorite from me, here is the synopsis: Titus Simirica is a dead man! What else can be said for a man who is being chased by one of Chicago’s premier mob bosses and a group of mysteriously strong men in black?
The year is 2157, and lunar property is a hot commodity! Moon cheese is no longer a cute children’s phrase, but an incredible raw material found deep within the surface of the Moon. It is refined to produce copious amounts of pure energy, and you better believe it’s pricey!
But what happens when there are threats of civil war on the moon colonies? What if you owned a piece of that highly sought after land? Would you get rid of it, or sit on it?
Follow Titus as he does his best to ditch his lunar property on businessman/crime lord Kevin Harrell, and steer clear from the mystery super men that want their land back!
May lady luck be on his side! GOD SPEED TITUS!

A rare Zuda comic where the writing is fantastic and the art -isn't

The reason this comic got a favorite from me is because I enjoyed the story (pace and dialogue) so much. The colors are great, and all the letters are completely legible. What brought this comic down is less than impressive art. It's not horrible but it didn't rise to the level of the story, if this was a first time entrant I wouldn't be typing this at all. However, this is Gabriel Bautista's 4th Zuda comic and I expect to see a progression in the art,  not a regression. You expect to see a creator continue to get better, not have his previous art efforts  look so much better. The concept and characterization has improved in Fly Me, so why would the art be left behind? Frank Miller seems out to see how 'cartoony' his style can go in a rebellion against photo-realism, and the work in this comic seems along the 'how loose can it be and still tell a story' variety as well. This doesn't grab me as a reader when a well known artist does it, or someone who is making a name for themselves. Talk your time to do the best comic you can. It's a marathon not a sprint. Don't just send something in you think is good enough to get in, spend the time on it to go for a win. MPD57 has had posts to that effect about various Zuda contestants and that's how I feel about this title. After the first panel overhead shot with the ceiling fan it's the dialogue that draws you in. It's instantly just sounds right and has a ring of truth about it. With only one end of a phone conversation being heard it builds suspense as to what they're talking about. As a reader you can guess it sounds a lot like a phone call that might have been overheard in some real world corporation that was headed for a Madoff style melt down. Light coming through the shutters and the coloring job done on this part saved the lead character from just being a slightly defined glob with good lines to say. It was a nice touch to have the secretary peaking in the room on the last panel of screen 1. Once Titus gets outside on screen 2 in come the reds and greens in the color scheme, which again look fantastic. Titus calls to tell his wife get the hell out of there house, then sets up a meeting with that crime lord mentioned in the synopsis. Harrell the crime lord takes the bait on screen 3 and from the dialogue Titus reveals himself as a smooth operator. On screen 4 we see more of Titus's secretary, and some mysterious men silhouettes in fedora's and overcoats trying to see Titus. Using science fiction for a weirder, more memorable, MacGuffin as well as better technology helps the story avoid having a too stereotypical setting or feel.

In a story like this guys showing up in trench coats is always a bad sign

Screen 5 is the first big action screen. The three guys in trench coats punch there way through a door, and leave a message with the secretary they want there land back. It is a good start to the story with more than one opponent for Titus. Screen 6 Titus is eating a hot dog, drinking a soda, and talking on the phone to his brother. He finds out the coup he had been earlier warned about has already happened and one ship had left a hour earlier carrying those men in trench coats that are trying to track him down. Along his way Titus drops his food and reveals his plans to get the hell out of dodge by taking his wife from the moon. He says this in the last panel where we see a close up of his feet and the food he had ealier dropped. I'd say this was a impressive screen layout except for the fact the cup of soda was drawn so -abstract- it can barely pass for a cup. Titus comes back to his wrecked office and his secretary Charlie fills him in on what has happened. It's all leading up to the big reveal on screen 8 and I enjoyed how every screen lead you to click to find out what happens next. There was a coup on a lunar base, the Earth President is destroyed, and Harrell wants to even the score for losing his money by taking Titus's wife. The dialogue on this screen from Harrell was very pulpy, wondering why Titus would want to go to a death trap like the moon, then finding out his wife is still there says: "Titus. You are one sick and demented individual." There is still a mystery as to how this happened readers want to have answered, as well as the classic question: what happens next? The script is tight, the art is too loose, and I think Gabriel Bautista should set his sights on doing a better comic than he has ever done before to go for a instant win.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zuda review Evil Ain't Easy/ Either I'm dreaming or I've lived through this before...

Evil Ain't Easy was a October Zuda comic done by Seth Wolfshorndl that finished up ranked number 4. Here is the synopsis: He may have a Destructo Ray that can level small cities, but that doesn’t help this evil genius deal with the mundane annoyances of everyday life. The diminutive Dr. Nimbus must wade through taxes, rent, gas prices, and even poor customer service in his quest to eventually rule the world. Along for the ride is his newly created henchman (which may or may not be a good thing).

Gag-a-day strips are the Kudzu of online comics

There are so many comics online, more than a few on Zuda, you really have to do something different to stand out, and this strip didn't grab me. The art is cool, the story has some funny jokes, but the field is just too crowed. Humor comics are generally not my go to genre, being good wasn't enough for my vote -you got to be great. The artist is very good at making Dr. Nimbus's face very expressive, especially in the last panel on screen 1 with the sigh. A mad scientist who's having problems paying the bills in this economy should be low hanging comedic fruit. You have 2 kinds of comedians: story-tellers, and the ones who tell jokes. Considering the market you can't be Larry The Cable Guy, you have to channel Rodney Dangerfield. Joke, after joke, after joke, every panel you got to hit the readers with something. Better still hit the readers with 2, or 3, or more somethings every panel. Will there be more misses that way, sure but quantity counts, make up the laughs in volume like Wal-mart does sales. There is such a number of 'set up for the last panel punchline' comics out there, it ends up becoming one big haze where nothing stands out. Screen 2 is a good example of Gag-a-day. On the top of the screen we have a high price of gas joke, on the bottom half a fast food ordering joke. Besides throwing in the bits about being a mad scientist you could probably put any character in the same set-up. Screen exploits the mad scientist background for more than a Dr. Drakken style monologue. Dr. Nimbus is out to find himself a henchman with the job interviews not going well do to yuppie slacker monsters. We see part time monsters, benefit package seeking monsters, and disrespectful monsters, leading the Doctor to create his own henchmen. The sound effects and sight gags are very good in the last few panels of screen 4. The lights go out when Dr. Nimbus plugs things in, the coloring effects and sound effects were very well done. Comedy strips have it tougher on Zuda, and you have be able to bring more laughs with the dialogue.  

We don't meet the sidekick until screen 5, what's up with that?

Lothar is the green skinned Frankenstein stoner type Dr. Nimbus created to be his henchman. Buddy comedy is always funnier, the gasoline and pickle jokes could have been dropped for more of this. Lothar has no real respect for Dr. Nimbus, and his dim incompetence makes for a nice contrast with the mad scientist. Screen 6 had some nice exchanges between Lothar and Dr. Nimbus, and great choices in the layouts of the panels. I'd like to see Seth Wolfshorndl back in Zuda with a non-humor comic. Screen 7 feature the appearance of a recurring foil in Mrs. Brewster Dr. Nimbus's landlord. He tells her Lothar is his nephew, you know that's a prelude to comedy hi-jinks. All of these events, the buddy, the foil, should have happened earlier on in the story to increase mine and other readers interest. It still would have needed something else to really stand apart from the masses, but the strip would have been more on its way. Screen 8 ends with Mrs. Brewster telling Dr. Nimbus his rent was due last week, and his sad admission he must go out and find a job. Ending up in the top 4 is a good sign, but comedy is a the hardest way to go on Zuda. The art, colors, and letters are all there, but more funnies in the dialogue. The stuff with potential didn't happen until the end, screen 2 could have never been there and the comic would be better for it.