Saturday, February 6, 2010

Zuda Review Pavlov's Dream/ Spending eternity in Candyland

Pavlov's Dream was a January Zuda comic which finished sixth, but is set to continue on off Zuda here. It was created by Shari Chankhamma and Kelsie Yoshida. Here is the synopsis:  The afterlife is different things to different people. To some it's a fiery pit of doom and suffering, others envision it as eternal paradise, and some don't believe it exists at all. Brothers Sasha and Micha never gave it much thought until the day a living shadow enters their lives. Of course, no one believes the tall tales of a sentient shadow Sasha spins, not even his elder brother, until it sweeps both boys away to the land of the dead, a place that is everything and nothing like they'd been told.
Once there they must find their way back home with the help of their new friend and a dead pet goldfish with a penchant for blowing bubbles, avoiding the dangers of a world where just about anything can happen, few things are what they seem, and possessing a pulse makes one a tempting target. But that’s just the start of their adventure, because when the afterlife spills into the land of the living, things really start to get messy.
Now it’s up to two young boys, a wayward spirit and a fish to set things right before the whole world unravels around them. 


It's not my go-to genre, but I can definitely appreciate the quality work in this comic. It starts out with Sasha doing shadow puppets on the wall, then the shadow comes alive. It was a well designed screen with very well rendered characters. One of the unique aspects about this comic is Sasha starts out speaking in pictographs as he tries to explain the weird happenings to his family. Sasha doesn't actually speak in words until screen 4, and that doesn't happen till Micha sees for himself the shadow boy on the wall. Between the funny pics and character expressions it works to make readers more curious as to what's going on. Seeing that actual words will be used is a sign in and of itself to readers things are moving on to the next beat of the story. Picto-speak isn't that easy to pull off but it works to convey the excitement of this young child in a more expressive way than just a bigger font could pull off. It also fits into the characterization that Sasha can't slow down enough to be really understood by anyone till his bother knows he is telling the truth. A smart bit of narrative there that takes advantage of the medium of comics. The dialogue-dialogue also fit all of the characters and was just as well done.The colors also aid this comic in pulling off the story-book feel, not too harsh, not too light -it just fits the story.  You have a nicely done action sequence of the shadow boy turning into a bird and leading the brothers into a bureau that happens to be the gateway to the afterlife.


The afterlife Sasha and Micha end up in is actually a fairy tale landscape style place with big yellow leaves and mushrooms all around. It's a nice -but not surprising- twist on the standard gloom and doom of the afterlife. I also appreciated the technical details of the story AKA effective use of comic book short hand. The creators have the good sense to leave what's unnecessary in the gutters between the panels. As the brothers and shadow boy make their journey to the portal to the land of living  I enjoyed how changing the colorful background conveyed a lot of travel in few panels. The comic ends with the boys crossing paths with the goldfish mentioned in the synopsis and readers get the impression the little band is finally completed and the rest of the story is about to begin. For younger readers, or older readers going for a more up-beat story book read they will probably enjoy this story. The only real failing is it doesn't have that cross over appeal a story like this needs. How many times have you read something and said to yourself 'it isn't normally my kind of thing, but something about this story makes it stand out from it's genre/style confines and grab me as a reader'? That hook that expands creators predictable audience is missing from this comic. If your more into story book tales that skip the grim -then do give this comic a shot over at it's new home.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Zuda Review Phantom Sword/ The amazing technicolor fantasy adventure

Phantom Sword was a January Zuda competitor done by Nick Edwards which finished in the third spot. This is the synopsis: Henry, a young, adventurous boy and his guardian Gumb take on a quest that could be their greatest yet. They once again run into the notorious demon wizard, Shanks, as he corrupts the forest and turns the once good creatures against them. Through use of Gumb’s book of monsters and the power of Henry’s Phantom Sword they must slay and capture the beasts of the forests. Yet not all the creatures can be defeated so easily. Therefore the duo must take on multiple quests in order to obtain the necessary trinkets, armor and weapons needed to slay or free the beasts. As these events unfold and our heroes get closer to Shanks’ lair we start to discover more about our intrepid adventurers, the mysteries behind the Phantom Sword, the secrets of Henry’s father, Gumb’s origins and Henry’s forced premature jump into adulthood. Phantom Sword mixes epic fantasy, a buddy movie and the smaller more significant accounts of a young boy becoming aware of the world around him.


Gumb is a egg shaped fuzzy, wuzzy, with magical powers, Henry is the young errant knight on a  acid trip crusade. The thing that stands out most about this comic is the coloring work. The star characters stand out like a neon sign in a already colorful back drop. They're looking for a forest god named Gregory and they find him on screen 3. The character design on Gregory is as tripy as the other characters, it serves to draw you into the story. Turns out Gregory has a translator -who's an owl- who offers our heroes a quest. Henry accepts the quest with a flourish as he pulls  the Phantom Sword out of it's scabbard and readers find out some evil forest flower is tainting everything causing the woods and woodland creatures to rot and die. The comic has a good pace that moves right along through the story without wasting screens. Shanks is a demon believed to be responsible for the evil plot and the art works well with the character narration to tell the story. The reward for this quest added some humor to the comic. With a bag of gold, and a bag with badges on it offered, while Gumb wished they had heard what the mission was about before accepting it. The lettering was done in a fun style that stood out on the page. It ends with Henry coming face to face with a huge -fairly scary- monster summoned by Shanks, and Gumb being knocked out cold by a lighting bolt.


The most impressive quality this comic has is how well Nick makes use of the 8 screens you have in a Zuda contest. You have a good bit of story with no drag assing around till you get to the payoff confrontation at the end. It's not my go-to genre, but I do appreciate the effort that went into this comic. It is more of a all ages/younger readers tale in style, and it didn't have enough elements for adult readers to grab me. No lines or jokes that worked on two levels and would be a wink and a nod to grown-up readers. For younger readers I don't think it would be challenging enough. Scary monsters and a powerful sword are nice, but a more complex/convoluted plot line would have helped not hindered this comic. Everything was well put together but more background on the two lead's, lines aimed at older readers, or more expository dialogue would have made me feel there was something here for everyone instead of just younger readers. As it was, this comic either missed my age group -or I'm too old and grumpy to embrace the whimsy.