Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zuda Review Snipe Hunting/ I'm familiar with the southern variant

Snipe Hunting is another March Zuda comic done by Ian Williams (Mookie Blaylock) and returning Zuda vet JM Ringuet. Here is the synopsis: Snipe Hunting is an Americanized imagining of the infamous Dytalov Pass Incident. After a group of campers are mysteriously found dead, the "haunted" woods surrounding the coastal New England town of Narranghassett are teeming with paranormal investigators, FBI agents, and curious locals - each confident of the underlying cause of the deaths (Aliens, Terrorists, Jesus, Indian Curses...etc). The longer they search for clues in the woods to support their individual theories, the further they descend into the depths of paranoia, hallucinations, and intense mania. Will one theory be proven correct, or is everyone caught in a violent game of snipe hunting?

It's all right to be left holding the bag, just as long as you don't let the cat out of it.  Using the snipe hunting tradition/metaphor and mixing in some real life weirdness with the Dyatlov Pass Incident is a great start to build a story from.  The story starts off with paperboy Malcolm noticing the headlines talking about mysterious deaths blamed on a compelling force. When then see a benched Malcolm thanks to a coach that either hates him, or is crazy enough to worry about blowing a 18-0 lead in the sixth inning of a little league baseball game. I'm beating on hatred. Screen 2 is also the screen where you get a cuts of pork image in one of the panels, and a inclination Malcolm might not be right in the head. Later, he sneaks out of his house and leaves a 'dear dad' letter that talks about baseball being a red blooded sport  and no pink tea. 3 screens in and the story is already getting creepy as hell, which is a good sign in Sci-fi/horror story. It's start's getting surreal on screen 4 where Malcolm stumbles across two-headed men, evil looking clowns, and pumpkin-heads playing baseball, with a baseball that has a face. Malcolm is the star player in the game -of course- and wants to celebrate, which leads the characters he's playing with to make a dark turn and bring forth the horror element. Their appearances change into more gruesome characters  and 'they' go on a bloody rampage killing a UFO believer, while Malcolm sobs and hits his inhaler. Screen 8 is a full screen shot that shows a demonic crazy looking Malcolm covered in blood, with the corpse of the UFO believer beside him, and a image of the Dytalov Pass map behind him in the art. The text on screen 8 "since honest men are in the slime" accompanying the shot of Malcolm on his knees in a puddle of blood makes you think maybe the kid isn't a crazy/possessed/mind controlled killer after all. Along the way the possibility of a Indian curse causing the deaths is also worked into the story.

All the slaughterhouse imagery conjured up by the words and shown in the pictures will have you wondering what does the other white meat have to do with it? The ending sequence over the last few screens could be too revealing depending on how the story plays out, if future twists are reminiscent of High Tension, or Blair Witch Project 2. It could also be too much mystery if readers try to follow the clues and the story resolution doesn't match-up. Then again the ending could be left wide open enough that any or all of the above synopsis suspects could be responsible. The story is really a Sci-Fi/horror mystery, all the clues need to add up on the last screen no 'deus ex machina' endings need apply. The 'butcher boy' mind-set Malcolm seems to be operating with is either a red herring, red flag, or a little bit of both.  The 8 screens here really set expectations high, but with all the interlocking mystery over what's going on, I'm expecting one hell of a payoff should Snipe Hunting carry on. Regardless of future directions, the 8 screens of various possibilities for whats really going on come together for this submission. I'd particularly like to see more with the locals -maybe- the ones who think it was Jesus, or terrorists.

The writing delivers on the 'freaky shit going down' vibe I'm sure the creators were going for. JM Ringuet is an artist who does excellent work and the excellence continues here. Readers do have to pay attention to catch everything going on in the art, even then it's no sure thing you caught everything. A 8 screen submission with a high re-readability factor -genius! The colors fit the comic well, and all lettering is completely readable. Concerns about how it all plays out aside, It's a great start to a mystery I would enjoy reading on Zuda.

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.