Monday, 6 July 2009

July Zuda Reviews

My first batch of Zuda reviews after my break – lets see what all the eager contestants cooked up!

9th Year
by Alberto Lanzillotti & Manuel Bracchi

A nicely drawn and coloured strip, it avoids most of the novice issues with Zuda entries, but there are some significant storytelling issues. The reader needs to know where the action is set and who the participants are. Clarity is important – less so in the talking heads scene that opens the story than the fight scene that wraps up the entry. The big negatives with this strip is that it feels like it was drawn for a traditional format and cut to fit in the Zuda window; so it really feels like 4 pages of comics spread over 8 and it just ends.

If a team can’t take Zuda seriously enough to craft a real entry for the format and in consideration of how those first 8 pages will be received, I really don’t think it deserves to win.
2/5 stars

Assignment
By Justin Jordan
It’s a visually annoying strip – the exaggerated dot-colouring emulating old four colour printing techniques doesn’t help the strip in any way – in fact I think it obscures some the details that should be readily visible to enhance the storytelling. One page of strip makes no sense until you see the first panel of the next page – considering that one of the characters was reacting to something the audience should have been able to see, it’s a dropped ball on the part of the writer/artist.

I found the “acting” over the top and the action largely uninteresting, which turned me off on a genre I usually dig.
1/5 stars

Bloody Pulp
By Jeff McComsey & Jorge Vega

A nice, solid entry. Solid drawing, the letting needs a little work to sit better within the work and the colouring is off in places (the colour of blood is rather orange and dull, for example). As an entry, McComsey crafts a nice 8-page sequence and cliffhanger that gives a sense of place, time and character and wraps up with a good cliffhanger that might drive the right number of people to want to see what happens next.
3/5 stars

Children’s Games
By Erik Valdez y Alanis

This is a weird and occasionally charming entry. I’m not partial to the drawing style of the majority of the strip, but it’s well done for its type and it’s deviations into other styles and techniques are nicely handled.

The story doesn’t really hang together too well, but it sets up it’s ending in an interesting manner.

2.5/5 stars

Interrogation Control Element
By too many people to list here.

I guess this is the start of some sort of political thriller. The drawing is, well, its okay. Some of the drawing is too sketchy or stiff, the colouring a little flat and without nuance. The Arabic characters are drawn with white features and the colouring isn’t up to the job of covering the shortcoming. Considering that this is a story that seems to be setting itself up to deal with Middle-Eastern characters on an ongoing basis, that’s a problem.

The story feels like a technical exercise at this point – touching on a bunch of points to set up its credentials and the world it exists in, but not doing so in a manner that really caught my interest. It’s a case of doing the right things, but just not doing them well.

2/5 stars

Metropolitan Siege
By Eric & Chris Zawadzki
A damn fine entry with some really, really awful colouring. Nicely setting up its initial characters and conflict and moving to a energetic and intriguing climax I can overlook the oddball “censored” banners in the word balloons. I think Zuda is cool with the occasional F-bomb. The title bothers me some -- feels like the name of a shareware video game from the 90s. Not saying it was, just that if there were a shareware game about a city under attack and this was 1997, Metropolitan Siege would be a likely name for it. Was Alien Siege or Viral Siege already taken?

If it’s picked up, the colouring really needs to improve and, while I’m making suggestions, the inking could be more sensitive and less flat.

3/5 stars

Rockstar
By Aluísio Cervelle Santos

Essentially a seven-page fight sequence. It have a nice, early-80s Paradax feel to the art, though not as accomplished as Brendan McCarthy’s work, nor as surreal as his narratives.

There are occasionally weak storytelling choices next to really interesting ones as well as a few nice lettering touches. It feels like its missing something that would make me want to read more, so, despite some really strong elements, I find myself less than interested in following this strip if it were to continue.

2.5/5 stars

The Adventures of Mr. Simian
By John Bivens

Bivens’s second stab at Zuda, first solo (unless I missed one along the way). This looks like pure fun – escaped super-smart lab animals on the run in a flying car. The drawing is very strong, lovely cartooning going on in here. I’m not a huge fan of the filters on the colouring, but it certainly doesn’t bother me to the degree the affected colouring of The Assignment does. I would like one word balloon moved on the last page so it’s easier to distinguish what’s so special about the car, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a perfect Zuda entry out of the gate.

Mr. Simian could be a strip that really kicks ass.
3.5/5 stars

The Ares Imperative
By Steve Ekstrom, Mikael Bergkvist & Jesse Turnbull

This very “talky” and slow moving entry serves as an intro to a story that implies some big, secret science project that falls flat with an ambiguous and actually dull final page. The final image of a few bodies, frozen in the snow isn’t particularly shocking or disturbing to me as a long-time comic reader, so it does nothing to intrigue me about where the story is headed. Writers should keep in mind that they aren’t competing with the reader’s own life experiences when trying to shock them, but more often their experiences from other comics.

The art is very derivative –Alan Davis and perhaps Dale Keown’s style are heavily stomped everywhere – and the inking is often clumsy. The lettering and colouring are actually the strongest elements in this entry.
1.5/5 stars

Vigilante Granny
By Don Kunkel and C. P. Wilson III

It sells itself as a superhero comedy, with an aged super-heroine who talks like someone in their 20s. There wasn’t much in the way of funny on display, but the B&W art is actually quite acceptable – things like solid perspective and consistent anatomy can usually be overlooked when humour is the supposed goal. This is a strip where the decision to go black and white was obviously a bad one. Colour would have greatly enhanced the feel that this was a superhero tale, and it looks like it was drawn with colour in mind. Page 2 suffers greatly for the lack of colour.

Should I go one more about how the lack of colour hurts this entry? Didn’t think so. Even with the colour the lack of real funny and sour note characterization would sink this one.

1.5/5 stars


Either I’m mellowing after my break from my quick reviews, or this month’s entries are actually better overall than those I’ve seen previously. On quality, my choice would be either Mr. Simian or Metropolitan Siege to win. History tends to favour the entry with the largest number of participants or a devoted local non-English support network, which might give it to Rockstar or Interrogation Control Element.

As I have in the past, I might expand or update my reviews as the ranks come out.

~R

6 comments:

Jorge Vega said...

Hey, thanks for taking the time to read all the reviews. I think you gave a fair, even handed assessment.

Tyler James said...

Thanks for reviewing Interrogation Control Element. We'll agree to disagree on the art. :)

Shannon said...

Of course you come back the day after I submit my next Zuda entry. My luck it'll make it in and you'll tear me a new asshole. I'll be shitting blood for the whole month!

Anyway, love your reviews and I have missed them greatly. I would read a comic, then your review, the next comic and then the next review.

Good stuff!

Steve Ekstrom said...

Thanks for taking the time to check out THE ARES IMPERATIVE. I appreciate your comments about the lettering--I'm the writer/letterer. :)

Aluísio "zsa" said...

Thanks for the time reviewing all the entries, and I'm particularly glad to hear your opinion, so that I know what I have to work on next!

Just in case, the reason I went more straightforward action on this sequence is really that I didn't want to compromise the story having to putting it whole fitting inside 8 pages, specially for it being a super-hero comic!

I hope I don't let you down in case I can win the competition!

Aluísio "zsa" said...

Hm, weird, I had posted a comment but it didn't show up..
Anyway, I'll try to retype!

Thanks for the time reviewing all entries! I'm really grateful for the crits, specially since now I know where I can work better on and what not!

In any case, the only reason it's a more straightforward action comic right now, is that I didn't want to clutter the story inside 8 pages and still look nice! (though some people can pull it!)

Thanks again! I'll work my best on the comic so that it can please everyone