Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zuda Review NewBot/ Simplicity in storytelling is a virtue

NewBot was created by Chuck Harrison and finished 2nd in January at Zuda. Here is the synopsis: A new world waits for a small integrated circuit. Superficial visions appear as our NewBot realizes that it’s not alone. There are more. Blockades are breached as communication is achieved. Obstacles materialize in our electronic heroes path. NewBot is a comic on the subject of the creation of a tiny integrated circuit with a metallic exterior and lustrous green eyes. NewBot is a narrative about how something new perceives the world around it. Binary is the only language used. 01010110100010101000101000110101

01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01101110 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00111111 

I was tempted to do this whole review in binary, but I figured that would be madding. The most important thing I got from this comic -besides the awesome robots- was how charming straight forward storytelling can be. The robots speaking in binary was a nice touch, equal parts cool and cute, but for the most part this is a silent comic. Silent comics are harder to do than works with dialogue, whatever story you want to tell has to be easily readable in the art, so any reader can figure whats being said. There is bound to be variations, but a general consensus on what's going down needs to be attainable. Here a new little robot is created, his creator introduces him to his brother robots, the inventor gets too happy/excited and has a heart attack then dies. The other robots are confused about what happened, start to gather around, and ask the NewBot, who tells them their inventor is gone. The old bot's blame NewBot, their eyes turn read, and as the comic ends NewBot seems to be facing a angry mob that irrationally blames them for their creators demise. You can  take the story a number of ways depending on your point of view. It can be just a cute little robot facing a hostile world you empathize with, or you can get more serious and see this story as a example of the dangers of a angry mindless mob, unjust persecution, and scapegoating justification. The secret of success of this silent story is the basic plot can be followed, but each reader is going to project their own feelings and experiences onto the lead character. It doesn't just 'work' on any number of levels it works on each individual readers level. If you've ever in  your life felt singled out as the fall guy, you can root for NewBot. If you like cute little characters trying to make their way in the big bad world, you can root for NewBot. It's a robot so anyone and everyone can identify and cheer him on. 


It's never as easy as it looks, every panel, and the composition there of matters. The only color in this comic is the eyes of the robots and their chest plates. Which  came in handy in the depiction of the robots anger later on in the screens, even at the start strong narrative decisions were made. These robots creator's face wasn't seen till screen 3 which was a nice split between NewBot's P.O.V. and the inventor's. You also see physical comedy as NewBot shakes with fear as it is first picked up and doesn't understand what is going on. NewBot's surprise is shown when it is presented before the rest of the robots. NewBot's 'Hi everybody' meeting of the rest of the brood can't help but remind you of the first day of kindergarten when kids begin their school attending odyssey. When the inventor first starts to have chest pains (and presumably drops dead)  it's a surprise considering the tenor of the previous pages. Things go from light and fluffy to deadly serious -but the cute art work remains. To do something like that without it being a glaring juxtaposition takes story-telling skills that deserves even more appreciation than a second place finish. By the end of the 8 screens Chuck had got me to care what happens to NewBot next, especially as it is a well done cliffhanger danger ending . Having readers wanting to see what happens next is the most important quality a Zuda creator can hope for, so that even if a competitor doesn't win the contest readers will still want to see the title live on.
If you haven't already checked out the strip, give it a read and see if you don't want to cheer the little robot on!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Zuda Review War Of The Fallen/ If you have pretty young people, and a ancient evil -they'll get together

War Of The Fallen finished in the 4 spot January on Zuda it was created by Quinton J. Bedwell . Here is the synopsis: Hannah Sephan is a normal girl attending a University in the quaint town of Northwood Hills. Her goals and everyday life is much the same as any young woman her age. When fellow college girls start disappearing she begins having horrific dreams of their mutilated corpses warning her of impending danger. She dismisses the dreams until the disappearances get closer to home and the dreams become more ominous and violent. The FBI's Agent Frank Shepard, is sent in to investigate the disappearances when he discovers that everything leads back to Hannah. Their destinies collide spiraling them both into a web of intense secrecy and suspense. The closer they get to the truth the more they realize that what's going on is infinitely bigger than either could have imagined. There is an ancient evil residing in Northwood Hills that has been patiently waiting and searching for something that could tip the balance in a war that has spanned the ages. Soon, Hannah's simple life of books, friends, and fun is transformed into blood, gore, and war.


The first thing I noticed was you couldn't read the font in small screen, and its not that easy to read it full screen. There is a lot of dialogue, most of which is well written, so ease of reading would have been a improvement on something already well done. It starts off with a nicely done establishing shot that moves into Hannah and her friends having a conversation about some missing  girls. The dialogue is handled very well reveals useful facts, and the banter moves along characterization. Hanah has the classic 'bumping into each other scene with F.B.I. agent Shepard, and a good use of silhouette with her friends telling her way to get that number. This goes along with the 'kooky old professor type'  Professor Locke who's giving a lecture coincidentally enough on the 'fallen'. Hannah falls asleep in clash and has one of those ominous dreams of the missing girl coming back as a monster and repeating "I wanna go home" and "all your fault" over and over again. The lettering style fit the creepy dream, and the whole way the sequence was framed was a nice touch. Screen 4 is the stand out screen here. Half the screen is Hannah's confrontation with the dream monster girl done with all angles askew, the other half of the page being her taken to a hospital depicted in level rectangles. The coloring isn't horrible, but it is 'just good enough to pass' colors are too rich considering the subject matter. Very good dialogue, and great screen design are this comics two strong suits.


I'm not kidding about that cliche business this comic has every element of the 'supernatural horror/chosen defender' genre shoe horned into these 8 screens. Even with all that it still got a favorite from me because it combined so many horror standards together so well. That's part compliment, and part wish on my part that instead of putting everything but the kitchen sink in this comic, Bedwell had left a few influences out to put more of a original spin on what he had in the title. I'm no comic reading novice, or purist -I know there is nothing new under the sun, and the wheel doesn't get reinvented too many times when it comes to stories. More of a effort can be made to put your own spin on things within the submission so readers can see them, instead of waiting for that fabled 9th screen. Hannah wakes up in the hospital with Shepard by her side in the course of the conversation they mention Locke moving the story along. On screen 6 some mysterious looking men in black arrive and start killing their way towards Hannah. A nice touch on the part of the creator was a Jay Leno monologue included since he was on the TV one of the soon to be dead humans were watching. Screen 7 is a nice suspenseful screen (Bedwell does great layouts) plenty of long shadows, turns out the men in black are monsters, and as Shepard and Hannah hide behind a curtain the two monsters are beheaded with a loud SPLATT! Readers don't actually see them beheaded, just two shadows behind a curtain, then two headless shadows, then a man with a really big sword.  The last screen is the reveal of Professor Locke moving aside the curtain holding the sword saying he believed Shepard had some question. Locke is also the one who arranged for Hannah's protection, and spoke Latin just like the monsters. It's a action cliffhanger ending, to set up the characters future struggle. I would like to see this creator back again with a more focused title giving readers more of his take on a genre, instead of making sure all the parts of a horror heroine story get thrown in.