My vote February in Zuda was for Island, Alone (blog here) which is written by Zuda vet creator Shawn Aldridge, and drawn by Rich Fuscia. Island Alone was in the lead for most of the contest, but lost in the final day. Here is the synopsis: For John Wharton discovering the island Mayda was to be his greatest triumph, but when he finds himself on its shores, not as explorer but as castaway, his greatest triumph may be just surviving the night. Wharton soon realizes, though, that surviving is easier said than done, as the island and its inhabitants are unlike anything he has ever seen. If he has any chance of returning home, he must unlock the secrets of Mayda—secrets it doesn't seem all that willing to give up. The key to its mysteries and to his own survival may lie in the hands of the only other “human” on the island, a girl who seems to have a few secrets of her own.
The jungle adventure/explorer story with it's accompanying damsel in distress has been around a long time. Comics have came a long way from the days of Denny O'Neil thinking it would be empowering to have Wonder Woman lose her powers and learn judo instead. Here in this comic the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tradition is continued of turning that outdated trope up on it's head by having the damsel rescue the endangered guy's ass. I'm jumping ahead to the last few screens, but I loved the ending as a cool cliff-hanger. Island girl shows up and is playfully confident in telling Wharton she is his friend, but the big scary monster behind him isn't with a wag of the finger. She looks like she's ready to kick monster ass on the last screen, he looks scared shit-less -which is probably a good thing. All the words are readable, and the colors suit the story throughout. The creators said they had some unexpected twists and turns in store for the story, so I hope somewhere/someday we get the chance to seem them. All the genre expectations are met, and in the lasts screens I think those unexpected twists started to emerge.
The story starts off with Wharton and his friend Kozlov on a dirigible looking for that fabled island. Well designed monsters making a dramatically timed appearance only adds to my enjoyment of stories like this. A cool looking creature shows up to wreck havoc on the characters and give readers a inclination of what's in store for them. The attack leaves Kozlov presumed dead and Wharton airship wrecked and floating on the sea in a robinsonade manner. The text accompanying him making his way to the island had the tone of a survivor's diary journal from a few hundred years ago, with a hint of Heart of Darkness. It's well written, not too long, text box-less, and invokes a mood that's largely lost today.
My favorite panel in the comic, which shows the artist can do just as fantastic a job with people as with monsters:
All it's needing is some kind of immanent threat to fully invoke those old 'eye injury' panels from the golden oldies of comics which I enjoy. It's also a good depiction of a person's face just before something really bad happens. Screen 1 starts with an establishing shot and ends on this, which is a good way to get you to click to the next screen where the monsters start showing up. Writing for Zuda isn't like doing a submission for other comic companies, readers decide who gets in on reading 8 screens, so you need to get on with the story-telling. Island, Alone made full use of the Zuda parameters with its words and art to get readers to want to see the strip continue. It tells a effective cliff hanger story in 8 screens, no wasted space or wasted screens. Island, Alone had my vote for the previous month. I hope even if this strip doesn't continue (somehow/someway) we will see more work from Shawn Aldridge and Rich Fuscia.