Zuda: Round Two Reviews

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Zuda, DC’s web comic venture, has released the entries for the second round of competition. The winner of the first competition, High Moon, by David Gallagher and Steve Ellis has been given a contract for a year of updates. The second round features a more varied selection of entries than the first.

While serial stories still dominate, the new entries feature two police procedurals, several light hearted super-heroes, Frankenstein’s son, web designers and pirates. Comedy features in many of the entries. Two of the comics, Avaste Ye and Development Hell are solely comedic strips, while The Mundane Overrated Misadventures of Spudman, The Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire and The Araknid Kid use humor as well.

Avaste Ye, by Kevin Cygan & Daniel H. Irving, is a stick figure comic about Fred and his friend Tom who decide to become pirates after losing their jobs. The art is reminiscent of early Order of the Stick fan art done by MSpaint. The writing is serviceable, but pirates are beyond clichéd by now, especially in web comics. While using ninjas, pirates, robots or monkeys doesn’t automatically label a comic bereft of originality, it is a hallmark of hack writing. There is nothing in this comic you haven’t seen before.

Development Hell by Carlos Ruiz is a gag strip about the difficulties of web design. Think Dilbert but with graphic designers. The first eight strips hit all the obvious jokes of web design hell such as anonymous jerks on the Internet, overwork, idiot clients who want too much for too little and so forth. The jokes are good, but Ruiz takes shots at easy targets. Furthermore, the humor is geared towards a very specific niche, namely web developers. The writing and the art is not strong enough to interest many outside of that niche.

The Mundane Overrated Misadventures of Spudman by Rory McConville shows the origin story of Spudman, a human-potato hybrid superhero. The art is bold and colorful and the story shows promise as a superhero parody along the lines of The Tick. After a normal guy discovers that his body has become a potato, he eventually decides to fight crime. A decent premise that shows potential.

Another superhero story, The Araknid Kid by Josh Alves is a bright Saturday morning cartoon style comic of the eponymous hero and his fight against crime. Speaking only in pictographs, the Kid fights villains with nary a word of dialogue. The first eight pages are interesting but it’s hard to see how well the rebus gimmick would last over the year.

Rounding out the superhero stories is Ponbiki Z by Alberto Rios. It has a typical origin story of a kid stumbling across an alien who grants him superpowers to fight evil. Aside from the Dragonball Z derived title, Ponbiki Z has middling art and absolutely terrible lettering. Overall, it isn’t especially bad, but it’s just not enough to hold my interest.

The Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire by Paul Maybury III is a cute entry about a living doll who leaves his girl and decides to find her again. Maxy’s innocence combined with Maybury’s art makes for a charming comic. Frankie by Manny Trembley is based on the continuation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The Monster creates a son, Frankie. As children rebel against their parents, Frankie leaves to see the rest of the world, which angers his father. The introductory eight pages lays out the central conflict well, showing Frankenstein Sr. dragging Frankie back into the frozen wasteland. The writing portrays the soul wrenching angst of the Frankenstein mythos quite well and the art is some of the best in this round of the competition. Definitely worth a read.

Word of Power by Marc Sylvanus is a heavily manga influenced title about a daydreaming rock and roller caught in a dystopian near future society. The synopsis describes the setting as a magical world, but there’s little of it in the introduction. The main character daydreams about a girl and then almost starts talking to her by the end of the eight pages. Zuda doesn’t seem to be the right venue for this story, as it seems to have a very slow pace. Most epic manga titles like Berserk or Akira last for thousands of pages. The story can’t advance with only new page a week.

The two police procedurals, The Crooked Man and Pray for Death emphasize the dirty underside of law enforcement. Pray for Death by Nicholas Doan looks at a black sheep detective who is caught between her department and a serial killer. The artwork’s style reminded me of Ben Templesmith and the story holds promise. It’s not quite Fell, but worth reading.

The Crooked Man by Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Sara Bechko is a historical crime melodrama set in San Francisco shortly before the 1906 Earthquake. An American veteran of the Boxer rebellion chases after a policemen in Chinatown. The artwork is very realistic and detailed, a perfect match for the historical detail of the story. Placing a crime story in the context of the 1906 quake isn’t new, as the DC comic Caper did. However, The Crooked Man starts much stronger than any of the other entries and has an original take on the subject.

Overall, the round two entries are quite diverse and many of them have potential to become great comics. Unfortunately only one will get to win and the others will be forgotten. Give Zuda another look with these new entries. It’s worth an hour of your time.

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