Thursday, December 24, 2009

Zuda review The House Always Wins/ I'm hoping the house actually does win, would be a nice change...

December Zuda comic The House Always Wins, is done by Josh Hechinger and John Bivens. It got a favorite from me, here is the synopsis: Season seven of the realty reality show “Fix or Nix” is off to a bad start. In seasons past, the decrepit houses the show takes on have been known to have rats, or roaches, or inexplicably huge piles of junk inside. Fair enough.
This time, the house-in-question appears to harbor a malevolent spectral presence that violently murders anyone who enters it.
To safely solve the mystery in time for sweeps week, the producers have hired “The Hermit Detective” Raleigh Porter, a crime-solving genius who never leaves his house. Assisting Raleigh (re: doing his legwork) are Charlie Albarn (rugby talent turned forensic scientist), Jeff Lovering (black market anatomist), and Jackie Laika (a psychic pretending to be merely uncannily observant).
They’re a team of genuinely gifted crime solvers. They have a track record you could build a house on (no pun intended).
They are hideously out of their depth, and horrible things are going to happen to them.

Whenever I read a haunted house story I think of that song -can't help it

As the story starts off you're immediately hit with the fact the colors do an excellent job of setting the mood. Tying together a home improvement show with a haunted house is also a nifty idea. I really enjoyed the start with a plumber kicking back, and dropping plot points in a more natural way than you expect to find on most Zuda submissions. I have to give credit to some fine writing as the suspense played out across the screens. John Bivens is a Zuda vet who always delivers in the art, Marvel/DC/Dark Horse should get in touch with him already. I was also impressed at the characterization we had for the plumber, from the way it started (forgetting the movies Psycho and Scream) he could have been a main character. We get some humor, find out he's talking to his son he sees on the weekends, ends up with more of a tug at readers when he gets whacked by the end of the comic. Much better treatment than some of the Zuda contestants, where even main characters come across as red shirt card board cut outs, no one cares about.

Readers are led into Screen 2 by a T.V. going on the fritz sound effect which runs the duration of the above screen 2. Great layout, no dialogue, no pointless as hell narration, if you have an artist this good let his work speak for itself. The strange entity coming out of his T.V. screen (I like the Ring riff) frightens him into action in screen 3, by smacking it over the head with a pipe wrench. Much like bringing a gun to a knife fight, you just know it's not going to end well. Screen 4 has a nice 6 panel action sequence of the plumber bashing the hell out of the T.V. I was really impressed with the way it was colored, and how well the artist and writer work together to make the story better. Once the T.V. is good and crunched the plumber lets his guard down, which we now from every horror movie is a sure sign the danger isn't over.   
Is it wrong I want the house to kill them all, if for no other reason than a change of pace?

Screen 5 was some more amazing art, in such a well placed story. You just see a gnarled up hand placed on the plumber's shoulders from a bestial figure in shadows in panel 2. Panel 3 is a close up of the pipe wrench dropping out of his hands, it's not hard to figure this is it.Great silent screen, from the look in the plumber's eye you know he's scared shitless, no need for him to have a conversation with himself. Screen 6 features the 'hermit detective's' team (starting with tough guy turned forensics specialist Charlie Alban) going over the scene at the plumber's house. The plumber is sickly green, stiff as a board corpse by these point in screen 7, a fact the anatomist Jeff Lovering attests to. Porter also 'appears' here as a voice telling Lovering to stop shaking. Screen 8 we actually see Raleigh Porter watching three monitors asking the psychic Jackie Laika what she sees. The fact Jackie is: a psychic pretending to be merely uncannily observant, is a nice flip reworking of the Psych T.V. show  The comic ends on a appropriately scary moment with a demonic skull superimposed over one of Jackie's eyes as she has a vision. There was maybe one screen too many devoted to the team, but the writing/dialogue, and the art were fantastic. Given a win I doubt it gets, I would enjoy every screen as I followed this comic. Look forward to seeing the creators back in Zuda.

Zuda review Villain/ superheroes and villains on Zuda, -no really that's what it is

December Zuda comic Villain is done by Gregory Smallwood. This comic got a favorite from me, and my vote. Here is the synopsis: Terry Allen has the ability to manipulate energy. He can absorb it, channel it, or redirect it. It’s a powerful gift but, instead of using it for good, he uses it for profit and destruction. Under the guise of Shockwave, Allen commits high profile crimes and amasses a small fortune. But money and power are not enough to save him from earth’s premier superhero team, The Overmen. Caught during a diamond heist gone awry, Shockwave is given a life sentence on the prison planet, Atticus. Located in a parallel universe, Atticus houses some of the world’s most dangerous super-villains. With no guards and a super-powered prisoner population in the hundreds, it is a dangerous world where only the strongest and most ruthless survive. On Atticus, Shockwave is forced to confront his own nihilism and choose sides in a fight that determines the survival of earth.

I want to see Shockwave come back to earth only to lose again, otherwise it could just end up being a sanitized version of Wanted

In 8 screens this comic doesn't put a new spin on things, but it does make a very entertaining read. Considering some of the other comics this month, that counts for a hell of a lot. The story opens with the lead character fighting  this universe's super hero team. Screen 1 is a nice action scene, with text box thought balloons that get into Shockwave's villain logic. Screen 2 is a nice fight scene with this world's Superman stand in and some very well written 'it's all about me' text box though balloons. I also liked the flip put on the classic Spider-Man line in this comic, Shockwave's view: "With great power comes the opportunity to make your own rules". Less is more with the narration, cutting down on some of his 'deep thoughts' might have got the point across even better. The art is very well suited to this comic, and the colors make it even better. The script is a fun read, and the letters are all legible. Screen 3 reveals Shockwave was caught, and is being held at the 'Overmen' headquarters. Shockwave is defiant, but here you find out he is being shipped to the prison world Atticus. Screen 4 finds Shockwave has fallen silent, the 'Major' hero takes time to rub it in, but before he  leaves Shockwave vows to come back and beat him up. There are a number of ways this comic could go, should it come back for the win, none of which are really tipped off in the 8 screens.

You are the biggest dick, and not in the 'you have a future in porn' sense of the word

Which gets to the heart of the quandary in a story like this. There's only so many ways for the story to go at this point, course I give the creator credit who knows what twists he might have in mind. You could go the reformed villain route, or a less extreme version of Wanted where he comes back to win. For a surprise Shockwave could actually not get off the prison world. His opponents on this prison world are going to have be even sorrier than he is, to make me want to root for him to survive. There's no history, therefore no need for a villain popularity pissing contest to determine the 'winners' which is what DC's prison planet comic turned out to be. I enjoyed the artwork on screen 5, nice design work on Atticus. Screen 6 is Shockwave's first meeting with the natives, which featured some cool sound effects in panel 2. Shockwave avoids getting blasted by a guy with a cannon for an arm, and his scary looking partner.  On screen 7 you find out the guy with the gun is named Arsenal, and the other fellow is a speedster named Speedfreak. They say there the welcoming committe, and Shockwave prepares to fight. In some well done action scenes the speedster starts smacking him around. In screen 8 Shockwave gets some good one liners in, nice dialogue,  as the comic ends with him blowing up Arsenal's gun arm  accompanied by the screams of "NOOO!" This comic meets all the minimum genre expectations in this story. From the quality of the initial 8 screens I take it on  faith Villain will have a number of interesting twists by the time it gets to screen 60, should it win. Great potentil from a cool start, in a area of subject Zuda is short on, won my support. Best of luck Gregory!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Zuda review Daemon's Sphere/ The diminishing returns of finding bigger and better artifacts

December Zuda review of Daemon's sphere done by Andrew Hartmann and coppervines. Here is the synopsis: Introducing Reginald Daemon: a specialist in tracking and acquiring artifacts of extra terrestrial origin. It is 1957, the height of the cold war, and Daemon’s superiors, in a top secret, unnamed organization within the American government, have given him the task of keeping these artifacts out of Soviet hands. With the help of his friend and partner Steve Ross, a veteran of the Pacific conflict during World War II, he travels the globe, one step ahead (and, in many cases, one step behind) those who would have the artifacts for themselves. This time though, the artifact he seeks is something far more powerful and far more dangerous than any he has sought before. If he fails, it could mean much more than the destruction of the United States...the fate of the entire world could be at stake.

Is everyone in this comic whispering, or are all see through word balloons the start of a bad new trend?

Seriously, I kind of like see through word balloons to stand in for the old style whisper balloon, but not for every single piece of dialogue in the comic. The art has a nice distinctive style, and liked the coloring done on this work. I also really appreciated a 'silent' first screen with no excessive text box narration gumming up the works for pointless prattling. There aren't any words needed for screen 1 because the panel layout does a fine job of letting the reader know what's going on. A group of three obvious adventures parachute in and pull out a map. In screen 2 this merry band climbs up a hill and down to find a abandoned destroyed church. I was impressed with the layout of this screen especially the art in panel 4. In panel 3 Steve Ross makes a Jack Benny reference and then in the last panel you see the story takes place in 1957 at Tunguska, Russia. In screen 3 A Aztec looking symbol is found hidden on a wall which opens up a underground passage way. In a nice little cliff hanger moment the third person in the party pulls a gun on a nervous Ross and Daemon. I enjoyed the fact the comic move things along at an initial good pace for Zuda. The only problem is most times Zuda contestants move things along too slow in there entry, this is one of the few times where by the end events are rolling out too fast. Screen 4 shows a nicely stylized action scene, with Daemon telling the Russian agent he hid his accent well, but forgot something, before knocking him out. Daemon then admits to Ross he actually didn't forget anything, that was just the first thing he could think off. I could have just as well done without the motion blurs for the fight scene, but good panel design -especially with the last panel.

Indiana Jones did adventure stories with great effects in color, Laura Croft supplied the T & A quotient, what does this comic add to the genre to stand out -aliens?

Every story has to face the test of once you fulfill peoples genre expectations, what do you do differently to stand apart from all the others who have gone before you. In this case it seems intended to be a alien tie-in with the flying saucer scare 1950s' backdrop.  Screen 5 is another good action scene with Daemon narrowly avoiding falling to his death thanks to Ross. Some great angles and views where chosen for this screen's layout. Daemon figures out where the device, a glow-e-tablet thingy, was hidden and they go to make there escape only to be caught by the Soviet's. Some cool character drawing in the last panel as a annoyed Daemon looks at Ross as he asks the question: "have these guys forgotten anything". Didn't care for the word balloons, but I appreciated the good dialogue all throughout this comic. In screen 7 we cut to the Antarctic ocean and a man and woman on the deck of a ship. She's propositioning him, he's looking trapped, until she see's something shocking you have to click to the next screen to find out what it is. Screen 8's big reveal looks like a ancient ship trapped inside a glacier. This gets into my main problem with this comic moving too fast. I'm sure the Soviet's will take the tablet back, only to have Daemon steal it back from them, that's to be expected. With Daemon finding the tablet so quick, and the introduction of that ship, it seems to be piling on with bigger artifacts equal a broader, and better story. Or, it's going to be a scavenger hunt with one object leading to another, and then another, and another... I'm not attached enough to feel any sense of accomplishment on behalf of the characters for finding the tablet in only 8 screens. It would have been a better cliff hanger to me to end the comic with the heroes about to go into the tomb, or about to go in search of it. I don't know that if this comic won it would change moving on from one strange object to the next, without the page count necessary to really appreciate  Daemon's success or failure. I really didn't like the ship being brought in when things were just getting good with Daemon. The two screen closing vignette distracted from what should have been the whole focus with only 8 screens for the story, and led to speeding things up too fast to get to it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Zuda review Mark Wolfchild/ Oh Joy! Those evil corporations are up to no good again...

December Zuda review for Mark Wolfchild done by Li Shi Peng and Davidlevack. Here is the synopsis: Chicago in the future is just one city suffering from the woes of the world; Overpopulation, rising water levels, and food shortage. This demands a new breed of detective. Enter Mark Wolfchild, known as a Reconciler. Equipped with a high speed computer capable of analyzing forensic evidence at the scene of a crime and cross referencing data in the blink of an eye implanted into his brain, Wolfchild still has a long way to go before he’s the next Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. Ever since the Vandenburgh case, he’s gotten by on laurels, good looks and charm. You see, even with all of the clues compiled and given to him on a silver platter, Wolfchild has an unfortunate penchant for putting two and two together and getting six. It's a numbers game before everyone discovers what Mark Wolfchild already knows; he’s made a career out of getting lucky. Chicago's finest are puzzled by a grisly and bizarre multiple homicide on a train which leaves the suspect dead and seems to come back to an average looking ash box. While investigating, the mystery deepens, as things turn horribly wrong for Wolfchild. He's swept up into a nightmare that leaves the police squad hunting him down and forcing him to lay low while looking for answers. He takes to the dark alleys and seedy underbelly of Chicago to avoid detection but his reputation precedes him with the criminal element. It's the toughest case of his life as he battles thugs, the police, debt collectors and inadequacy issues. Even if he manages to come out from under this case, it remains to be seen if he or his career will remain in tact.

The art's real pretty, but then you read the words

The above is the first panel, fantastic artwork accompanied by  lame as hell population control/global warming/evil corporations at it again, in a text box narration political screed/ Cyberpunk 2020 RPG adventure comic adaptation. The evil corporations of the future/ alternate time line thing is a common genre, creators want to pull any weight with that you would be better off setting it in the here and now 2009 we know to bring a element of realism. Considering how screwed up things are these days the creators could have wrote a post apocalyptic present almost. "Debt and job loss threw people into a panic, society begin to cannibalize itself, government institutions and conglomerates begin to gorge on each other". You could apply that text to any government today in the here and now instead of in Metropolis. In these times -at least for me- this kind of science fiction has no ability to grab me as a reader. The ice caps melting, population control elements, might make the rowdy boys in Copenhagen rabidly read on, but it repelled me. Lucky enough the comic did get better, the recovery wasn't sufficient to earn a favorite from me, but it ended with a nice Hitchcock suspense vibe. The letters are easy to read, and the colors fit the comic well. Screen 2 is a text box thought balloon intro to the main character Mark Wolfchild. It was a good enough way to introduce him, with a 'meet his girlfriend Madeleine' mini-cliffhanger to click to on the next screen.Screen 3 had some nice panel layouts to go along with the narration which was a checklist of his cybernetic enhanced abilities. The screen ends at the scene of the crime with a police detective bemoaning Wolfchild being called in. Screen 4 is Wolfchild's arrival -cloaked in mist or exhaust fumes- with a little light banter with the cop in charge. The screens with readers and Wolfchild just about to find out what the mystery is.

Things finally get good starting with screen 5 when Hitchcock style suspense begins to arrive

Panel 1 has some nice perspective of 5 dead victims splayed out on a train car, the garbage arranged on the ground leads viewers eyes to take in the whole scene. It is a well done gruesome scene with a nice amount of blood and evident violence which gets readers to wondering what happened? We see Missy the call girl who looks like she was choked to death, Angelo the pimp with one of Missy's high heels stuck in his eye. A couple with bullet wounds who died from aspiration. Lastly is Kevin Ranney, who looks like a mild mannered geek but mysteriously started all of this. Well done screen layout for depicting the carnage, Wolfchild's bionic eye analyzed there deaths but came up with a 'syntax error' on Kevin Ranney's C.O.D., hence the mystery. Screen 6, another great layout, you have a series of panels that show the 'security footage' of what really happened. Kevin opened a stage box, then choked Missy to death, and stabbed Angelo with her shoe. Angelo fired his gun the bullet hit and killed that couple, in through one and out the other. Wolfchild examines the box and finds a little Madeleine doll inside. The close up view of the doll was a nice touch, and the implied threat a good reason to click to the next screen. The doll says "what have you done loverboy" and Wolfchild runs out of the room, meanwhile in a panel with the cop we see the box is really empty, and the doll was just in Wolfchild's mind. Wolfchild is freaking out as he rushes to his car, finding Madeleine's body in the trunk in the same poise as the doll. A 'heart broken' bumper sticker on the car was a nice touch. If Madeleine had actually talked to Wolfchild in the 8 screens and we had seen a little of there relationship, the death would have had more meaning than just a plot point. It's a good plot point for a mystery, but why pass up a chance to get readers to identify at least a little with the character. Any future flashbacks to Madeleine with a pulse (I'm guessing at least a few are predestined), would have been better set up. The cops show up on screen 8 to arrest him, and Wolfchild gains and loses pupils over the course of three panels. In a surprising move, Wolfchild seems to have the ability to shoot one of his arms off to attack the police with. This leads to a misfired ricochet bullet that appears to hit a future S.W.A.T. cop right between the eyes. Nice set up to the Wolfchild on the run sequence should this comic win. Mark Wolfchild would have been better off without the horrible worded start. I also believe the story could have been redone for a better fit on Zuda within the 8 screen limit. Too much text box narration, and not enough focus on the suspenseful weirdness at the end. Screen 5-8 range from very good to great, but the drag from the start was far too much to overcome.