Sunday, March 21, 2010

Zuda Review Leon and the Savage Fountain/ The lead character could be straight out of a cannibal exploitation film

Leon and the Savage Fountain is another March Zuda comic done by WEB99, w.a.r28, and klortho. Heere is the synopsis: Leon and the Savage Fountain is an epic tale of good vs. evil. The story is set on the backdrop of the New World, 1513. Leon has the misfortune of of traveling across the North Atlantic Ocean, with a crew of murderers and thieves, in search of myths and legends. The Fountain of Youth is said to keep old men young and bring life back to the dead. King Ferdinand II of Aragon demands this treasure to be not only the King of Spain but ruler of the world. Ponce de Leon will find this treasure thus making his king immortal and unstoppable. Long Live the King!

Have you ever seen any cannibal films? Yes, this does have something to do with this comic. Cannibal Holocaust, The Mountain of the Cannibal God, basically any one in the genre and you'll get the thematic feel of this comic right away. Noir style stories make an appearance this contest, but this was a surprise which made it a more interesting read.  Take out the cannibalism/exotic wildlife snuff film elements and you're left with some unsympathetic in the extreme bastards going 'exploring', pillaging and plundering the native people they encounter all along the way. You can also mix in the tone of Alan Moore's pirate comics EC tribute from Watchmen. It's the classic set-up of showing someone so horrible (in this comics case Ponce de Leon) that however awful their final fate is readers cheer it on. My problem is I don't know if this comics creators meant for Ponce de Leon to be such a villain, or they were intending Ponce to be a 'anti-hero'  and got cross of my Wolverine-types hatred. To me a character that has his sick men killed and thrown overboard, shoots a crew member in the head for being afraid of ghosts, and shoots a native child to show he wasn't a demon, lost anti-hero status back at 'has his sick men killed...' I don't mind reading stories where the main character is a villain, but trying to put a anti-hero spin on it would decrease my interest. If the evil is Ponce de Leon, and the good is the native people/ anyone but Leon, then this comic will have a regular reader in me. If Ponce is going to get a little redemption treatment in the storyline they have planned, that would be too much shades gray characterization for me.

Some of the opening text box thought balloons show a military man fanatically devoted to his king and country. In addition to being great writing (art and words in this comic are equally kick ass) it can't help but remind you of the self-justifying excuse of various atrocities committed 'in service to my country'. The story starts off bleak and gets even starker still. In some historical based comics I believe sticking as close as possible to real world history makes for the best story. In Leon and the Savage Fountain I think the story making up it's own history from this point on in 1513 would be the more interesting way to go. The magical element of the fountain of youth is already there, and otherwise Ponce de Leon dies from a poisoned arrow in 1521. Ponce de Leon finding the fountain and making the King of Spain immortal would definitely be a departure from history!

The text and dialogue make Ponce de Leon a memorable character, along with the high quality of art make this a very professional looking submission. The best screen of the comic for me is the splash page on screen 3. The previous screen lead up to it in the dialogue, and then in a well designed screen you see scores of dead bodies sinking in the ocean from a bottom-of-the-sea view. The art reminds me some of Marc Silvestri inked by Art Thibert. The homage studios look is still alive. Various other elements in the art from the George Washington Crossing the Delaware-esque silhouette in the top panel of screen 5, to the Where the Wild Things Are attired native boy shot and crawling back to his people on screen 8. The colors match the story, and all the lettering is readable. My concerns about the future treatment of Ponce de Leon considered, this is a horror comic that can send a legitimate chill down your spine. Not the kind of thing you find competing every month on Zuda, it's a shame it isn't higher ranked.         

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