Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tri-Boro Tales

Tri-Boro Tales by Keith Miller and Chuck Collins (plus a crew of others)

Closing out December with a pretty good entry that doesn't do enough to distinguish itself.
Doing a relationship, character driven story is a bit of a handicap around these parts and you've got be that much better if you want to make it work. I imagine if this were about Vampire Ninjas who hunt Zombie Pirates in the far distant future it would be right in the mix for #1, but it is what it is and there's nothing wrong with that.

I enjoy the art but again I feel claustrophobic. That's been happening a lot this month, maybe it's a reflection of my mental state rather than a problem with all the entries I've been knocking but just assuming my head's on straight after all, what I'd like to see is the artist pull the camera back a few extra feet every now and then.

I've also been harping on colors, so it's a relief to see some that are pretty well done. Not flashy, just effective. Well done.

If there's a problem I'd like to see addressed it'd be to make the dialog a little bit less 'busy'. What is there isn't bad but there's so much of it and some could be cut out without changing my understanding of the entry at all.

I know there's a plan that I'm not privy to, there might be a great plot element involving the chess guy for example, but as far as winning the contest goes it's clearly ancillary to that purpose.

Good entry, 3 out of 5 stars.

The Accountants

The Accountants - Rob Osborne

Best entry this month.
Not getting my vote.

I have very little to criticize. It's really quite good.

1. Tangents. The linework looks great but the style he's using seems highly susceptible to panel to panel tangents.
2. I can't get into the animal suits, even if they're metaphorical I dislike them immensely.

Other than that it's a solid 4 star. It's a good trailer, a nice vignette. Not much in the way of character driven story but it all rings true and heck, 8 pages isn't a lot to work with so this is the safest course to take.
I like character pieces, so I wonder if there might have been a way to finish the character moment. Burt says he wants to retire to Mexico right? That's half-way there. He told us he's tired, now play with that idea.

As is, it's just kind of floating out there. Unresolved. It gives me some hope that resolution will be forthcoming so that's a plus, but finding a way to fit a hint of where his character journey might lead might have clinched a vote from me.
Yes, even in spite of the animal suits.

-Burt is contradicting himself. He's saying he's tired but make it obvious that he's really enjoying his job. Is he a closet sociopath?
-Burt is hiding something. He does something sneaky that even his partner doesn't know about. Does he actually have a plot in motion to get him to Mexico?
-His partner is hiding something. Same deal, but in reverse.

I don't know where Mr. Osborne is going with this and given the quality of the entry I wouldn't be surprised if he's got better ideas than these for the future plot direction. I just wish we'd gotten a little bit more as readers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Non-Exertus 12

Non-Exertus 12 - Spencer Platt

Exertus - tested, tried, approved, experienced
I had to look that up. I guess the title means inexperienced in this case?

I want to complain about the framing of the shots. The camera is almost always tighter than I'm comfortable with. This would've worked great for quiet tense moments like in a horror movie but not so much here where you've got complex actions to depict.

It took multiple reads before I had an idea what's going on, and I don't like ambiguity.

I do like the character work. I like the plane on page 5, panel 4. That's a case of tight framing that I DO like, though having those two rough-housing behind the tail isn't good.
That could've been a 5 star panel if only it had been wider so that their scuffling could be framed better.

The colors are just decent, he's not doing himself any favors with it but it's pleasant enough. I think the light sourcing problems have not been adequately addressed in regards to the blue glow of the hoverboards. It's colored as if the entire under-surface is uniformly glowing and it's glowing pretty bright so there should be greater contrast in the vicinity of the bright light source. I'm not seeing it. Check out page 8, final panel. The one hoverboard is shining directly at us, the other hoverboard is facing away. The one that's facing away should be much darker against the bright background.

Just my opinion.

I think we've got a decent entry here. 3 out of 5.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Juliette: Worst Vampire story ever

I've been dreading this one.

Juliette - Cedric Poulat

Not that I didn't derive some pleasure from the read. Hell I was a big fan of Buffy until the series started. Swanson over SMG fer shoor.

You can get away with a raw look to your art if you're telling the right kind of story, but this is a ditzy blonde vampire for crissake. This screams out for a sophisticated finish but the linework here looks like he scratched it out in MS paint. Pixelation is evident even in the windowed mode and the colors are unsophisticated.
Whether in daylight, interior rooms, dark cars, or moonlit rooftops he leans on the same harsh two tone. I'm tempted to admire the consistency but I just don't like it. Every character is lit independent of the scene they're in.

I'll grant this one point, there's enough skill on display to make me think that Mr. Poulat is holding out on us. His faces are lively and the figures look good.

The first time at least. I got tired of seeing the same image over and over again. Page 7, not so bad. It added something to the joke that she sat there for 10 minutes without moving. Good times.
I might forgive page one for the same reason, but there's too much. Humor me, give me something new to look at. I feel like I'm being short-changed. It's insulting almost.

The nail in the coffin (har har) is the lettering. I'm not usually the type to harp on lettering but he spends 8 pages convincing me that he's satisfied with half-assed artwork and then when I look at the letters I find dialog isn't centered, word balloons aren't big enough...


I went through the talkback (which I don't usually do before I post a review) and I'm impressed with Mr. Poulat's attitude toward the competition. Therefore I'm going to do what I can to help him out and hopefully we'll see him again soon.

All pages, most panels, dialog.
You need to increase the size of your oval OR change shape a little bit so that you never run the text up so close to the edge of the bubble. Looks unprofessional. Get it centered and consistent.
Translucent bubbles is okay but there are places where it works better than others. E.G. page 2 where she's daydreaming about the hot guy. Good use of fading bubbles. I approve.
Bad use on page 2, panel 1. Looks bad with the polka dots behind it.

Also on page 2 I look at the guys behind Julie and they're ultra distracting.
Contrast is the reason, specifically the contrast between the light skin tones and the dark black dots you're using to depict their eyes, eyebrows, goatee....

Contrast draws the eye and it makes the image pop into the foreground, which is not what you want to do with those guys.
In fact there is a problem with depth all throughout. You use your black to 'hardline' the figures which makes them seem like cardboard cutouts on top of a three dimensional background, then you further play with white outlines which just makes it worse.

Maybe I'm misinterpreting and it was your goal to achieve this look, but I don't care for it.

Here's something I'm not particularly proud to show but it illustrates one of the points I was trying to make.
Snow scene

Look deep into the background and observe that the blacks are no longer black. I shifted the line of trees into the blue and it helped create depth.
What you did is the opposite of what I just showed you and it's not working for you.

Keep at it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nihongo wa hanashimasu

[i speak japanese]

or at least I'm learning a few things.
I don't really speak enough Japanese to have a conversation, although I HAVE cobbled together a few ideas.

I've been to Japan a few times. They're a polite culture that nonetheless is finding cause for unpoliteness when it comes to us. I can provide you a few examples.

I met a couple of Japanese tourist girls at a bar in Honolulu and my friend Chris and I arranged for a date the next night. One of the girls knew a few english words and the other knew a few more, enough to express some ideas. I can't say I had a GREAT time on that date seeing how I was paired with the girl who knew very little english. Not much communication went on, I must say.

But these girls weren't unusual in knowing as much as they did. All of the Japanese people I've met have known a few words and phrases in english. Likewise when I was in Japan I made efforts to speak to them. I met a nice cab driver in Okinawa, he spoke enough english to understand me and he seemed surprised that I knew anything at all. He taught me my right and my left (migi to hidari)
On another occasion I ordered a cheeseburger from an American restaurant chain. The girl who had my table was probably the least capable english speaker on staff and was clearly struggling to explain that I was to pay for my check at the front of the restaurant.
I helped her out. "Cashu registeru ikimasu?" (go to the cash register?) and her face lit up. She LOVED it. She went straight to one of the other waitresses and told her what happened. I didn't understand what she was saying but I can guess.
"Oh my god he knows something in our language!"

I could've worked so much game there.

But I never could understand why it was such a big deal to them.

I'm sorry, let me make a correction to that statement.
I do understand why it's a big deal. It's rare for them to meet Americans who took the time to learn some of the language.
What I can't understand is; why would anyone go to Japan and NOT try to speak the language.

The cabbie and the waitress stories each occurred near a U.S. military base. There are a LOT of Marines, Air Force, and Navy personnel living within miles of these locations who come out to the restaurant expecting the locals to speak English for their benefit.

Can you imagine that in reverse? If some French tourists came into a restaurant in America and copped an attitude because no one speaks French?

So. One more story. Involved a few friends of mine.
They're out exploring in Sasebo, try to go into a small restaurant and the owner comes running up with his arms crossed in an 'X'. A clear signal that he doesn't want their business.
Another Japanese man on the street, just passing by mind you, he sees this happening and he pretty much goes ballistic. He starts yelling at the shop owner and the owner throws his hands up and the passer by starts waving to my buddies to come inside and eat.
But they're understandably not very interested anymore.

You see? What the shop-owner did is so rude by Japanese standards that a total stranger was willing to get into a fight with him to stop it, but I can't say that I blame them considering the way some of us act when we're over there.

I've got like, 10 different books on Japanese, 2 or 3 audio programs, 10+ bookmarked link and recently got my hands on a premium learning program.
In the last week I've been hitting the 'books' hard and I just watched my trusty old 'Love Hina' sub again to check my progress.
It's coming. There were a few times where I thought the translation could've been a little bit better, and that's a huge leap in cognition for me. There still will be huge walls of dialog that go in one ear and out the other but more often now I'm recognizing verb and adjective conjugations for what they are and recognizing perhaps that 'something' is being refuted even if I don't know what that something is.
This is good progress.

I'm excited. I feel like I'll always be an incomplete adult until I learn a second language and I know that the new grammar I've been adding will have an exponential effect in increasing my level of understanding.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Massively multi-player online role playing games

I am a disgruntled fan of the genre. I LOVE the idea but I hate the execution. I hate World of Warcraft. I hate Everquest. I hate the fact that these games have spawned the belief that this is the de facto 'standard' that must be adhered to in creating a MMO.
After all, how can I argue with the financial success of WoW?

Is there anyone else out there who played Ultima Online? I'd love to hear from you.

I'm a big fan of the 'sandbox' style of MMO. If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's used to describe an MMO which gives you a number of role-playing 'tools' and just sets you loose in the world to do as you wish.
There have been some problems I admit, but the good times are SOOOO much better than the good times in the 'combat' oriented MMO games.

A few examples.
The most fun I ever had in Everquest was the time I ran from Qeynos to Freeport at level 5. That's pretty much it. Not much to the story.
There are other stories, like the one where I helped save the lives of a bunch of noobs in Blackburrow for example, or the time I helped a larger group of players kill mobs twice my level in Everfrost, but that's pretty much all I can remember.
There was lots of level grinding that I can't even picture clearly anymore. The depressing fact of my time in Everquest was that I only had fun when I went outside the bounds of what the game is programmed to do.
I didn't get any reward for any of the examples listed above. No loot, no experience.
The Everquest message got to be very tiresome. No acknowledgement of the accomplishment of my OWN goals, just constant reminders that I should've been grinding levels instead.

And that's the problem I have with Everquest (and WoW). You DON'T get to do whatever you want. You WILL grind levels and if you don't like it, you get no reward.

My Ultima Online stories are older, but fresher and unquestionably better.
Like the time my poor PC got his first magic weapon. I was thrilled and figured it would be a good time to explore so I headed in a southerly direction.
I'd been told to watch out for the crossroads.
First of all, how awesome is that? There aren't any crossroads to watch out for in Everquest, just mobs to avoid and zones that aren't suited to your level.
In Ultima Online there was the crossroads, and everyone knew about it and it was pretty much common knowledge that one shouldn't go there unless you can protect yourself.
And there's ANOTHER bit of awesomeness. How do you know if you can protect yourself? In Everquest you know you're level 10, you stay in the zone with the level 10 monsters and you refuse duels.
You're basically completely safe as long as you're conscientious about /conning mobs before you attack and pay attention to reinforcements.
In Ultima Online you never know, as I'm about to demonstrate.

I get to the crossroads and it's empty. Brilliant. There's even something lying on the ground and I run over to investigate. Nothing worth keeping, but now I'm in the middle of the crossroads and I'm approached by a stranger, a fellow PC.
His name is diplayed in blue above his head which was an indication that he'd never killed another player before. He is asking me a question and isn't obviously equipped for player killing so I let him approach me as I'm typing out my answer.

Then it happens.
'So and so' fails his pickpocket attempt.
'So and so' fails his pickpocket attempt.

I cut off my answer midsentence and attack him. He takes the time to yell out 'Yipes!' before running off. I let him go, lulled into a false sense of security by the failed attempts.
Then I check my backpack. (more awesomeness, a backpack for your stuff rather than a stupid inventory screen with squares for your stuff)
The magic weapon is gone.

That still gets me mad.

See that? I'm not mad about anything that happened in Everquest 15 years later like I am about that one day in UO. That's not even the only story. I've got two other stories of relative interest and I only played UO for a few weeks before I gave up on it.
Yes, I gave up on it.
The other two stories also involve mischief-making PCs and it got to be too frustrating that I never felt safe leaving the town. Clearly UO was just a little bit too anarchist for it's own good, but that doesn't mean a completely sanitized, completely safe 'combat sim' is the best the genre has to offer. There's MUCH more out there than stupid World of Warcraft.

Friday, December 19, 2008


The winner (of my vote) - Hellbreak by Radek Smektala and Janusz Ordon.

I've been through quite a long stretch of watching my favorite comics finish mid-pack (or worse) and I guess December of 08 will continue this trend.

First thing, I'm not drawn to the demons or hell or anything like that. Usually it's the opposite in fact. My first impression of this when I saw the title was to think that I'm going to hate it.

But then I read all the other entries and I realized that this one appealed most by just a smidge. I think it's not so much a case of what they did right, but maybe a demonstration of what they didn't do wrong.

No clunky dialog, no unnecessary narration, interesting visuals etc...
Only thing I would've changed is the font for 'Famous last words'. Took me out of the story when I had to decipher the identity of the speaker.

Not really sure about keeping my interest. Hell has been (so far) relatively sparsely illustrated and I believe that in this sort of a story the location should be as well developed as the characters. Oh well. Not likely to win a top spot this month. Hope to see more from this team in the future.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Caztar - Luc Poets

This is a hard one to talk about because there's a part of me that has a high degree of respect for the professional production values apparent in the visuals.

The art is simple and clean and is exactly the sort of art I'd want to see in a humor entry but I do expect something to laugh at. I wish I could say that nicer but I simply did not find anything about this entry funny.

Also, I have come to hate the picto-speak.
I don't know what else to say. If I were grading Mr. Poets on graphic design this would be a 5 star entry but the comic wasn't very enjoyable for me other than that.
Call it an exercise in finding two extremes and take 3 stars out of 5.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bleed review

Bleed - Adam Atherton and HarleyQuinn

I'd like to start you out with a little bit of Erasure. No reason really. In fact have another!
If you have Sirius (or XM or whatever) you should listen to the Rick Dees top 40 reruns some time, it's great to put yourself in the 80s state of mind.
Of course if you weren't alive in the 80s this probably doesn't apply to you.

Now for the main event. The comic is well told but it's not much more than a vignette. I LIKE vignettes but I'm disappointed that we didn't get any deeper than this. The perils of 8 pages.
I'm reminded of Brave Ulysses. In the case of Brave Ulysses I was seeing a fully colored sci-fi world in a style that appealed greatly to me and I was able to forgive the fact that Ulysses didn't show his face much.

I'm torn on the linework. Although I think it's really strong stuff there are areas where the marker lines are very obvious. I know these people don't live in a world with gray and black barred skies so I hope I can count on Mr. Atherton to clean that crap up. Finish your blacks or if you think it adds depth, at least disguise it so it's not obviously marker lines.

Not much else I can complain about. I was so fixated on the truckers beard that I didn't recognize him flying through the air on page 5. There was ample visual information to make the connection but I got confused anyways, and I'm willing to take credit for that. I'm a bad reader.

Bad reader!

I did like the sfx, I thought they were well done, and the gradients really helped to add depth and to focus the eye.

All in all I see another entry that makes me wonder if a higher rating is warranted before I default to the typical 3 out of 5. If you want another point of perspective, this is my third favorite entry of the month.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Angus Frump Kills Christmas

Angus Frump Kills Christmas - Steven Bialik

Another second time competitor but a HUGE departure from his first entry 'Janggar - Son of the Steppe'. I liked Janggar alright but I feel as if Mr. Bialik has 'steppe'd his game up for this second entry.
Transformation, Maturation, possibly Discovery are the plots suggested by the Plot-O-Matic. It's a good start, a good premise to build from and bonus points for avoiding Zombies, Ninjas, Pirates, and Robots.
It being a 'humor' entry I'm happy to note that there's a few jokes in there that are pretty funny but I think that he may be aiming over the audiences' head by tapping T.J. Hooker for jokes.
I also have to ask why most of the characters have been outlined in white? It makes everything look like a cardboard cutout (not that there's anything wrong with that) and it's pretty distracting. I don't think Mr. Bialik wants to draw us out of the story like that.

I like this enough to think about giving up a four star but ultimately I just can't. The visuals work well enough but there's nothing that pops. Still the best entry thus far and I'm thinking about sending my vote this way.
Three out of five stars.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh.... the Singularity

Lots of interesting things to think about here.
What is the singularity? Well think about how fast computers are improving nowadays.
What happens when we build a computer that is capable of designing better computers than we ourselves are capable of designing?
What happens when that newly designed computer continues to propagate the process?
The capabilities of computers will increase exponentially from that point, so rapidly that it will take almost no time at all for the descendants of the original design to become unimaginably capable of processing information.

Of course this isn't a new or novel idea and it's explored in greater detail in the link provided but I thought it would be interesting to get some 'gut level' reaction from my peers. I particularly hope that some of you will follow the link to the short story 'Hard Takeoff' and let me know what you think about it. Even though it's so fantastical as to seem like pure fantasy I also can see the clear steps that might result in just such an occurrence.
The only detail that might not be accounted for is the energy requirements.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I made it easier to read

I knew I shouldn't have picked Courier but it looked so....
Well anyways it should be easier to read now. The color scheme is wack but you all love it.

Numerous things plus review of Aeon of the Dead

1. I like to watch Eli Stone a lot.

2. The Macy's parade was Rick-Roll'd and it took me until today to find out about it? Damn.

3. I'm never gonna give it up.
Complaining about narrated Zuda entries that is.
Understand this. Introducing a narrator isn't just an easy way to solve story telling problems. It creates NEW problems.
For example: Who is narrating? Why are they narrating?
Reference this wiki.

Consider this an addendum to my first review.

The narrator in 'A Single Soul' is speaking in the first person as indicated by her use of the words 'our' and 'us'.
So pay attention to this passage from the wiki - 'It is a character in the work, who must follow all of the rules of being a character, even during its duties as narrator. For it to know anything, it must experience it with its senses, or be told about it. It can interject its own thoughts and opinions, but not those of any other character, unless clearly told about those thoughts.'

So the first few pages are fine but it gets to be bad starting at page 4. The narrator starts talking about things that she didn't experience and couldn't have known. So unless you want to try to make a ridiculous case that these reborn warrior women spent a night discussing mundane details like whether she choked when she started to breathe again, that's a break in narrative mode and there's really no excuse for that. Shoddy storytelling.

4. Aeon of the Dead
Plot-O-Matic suggests a quest, pursuit, perhaps revenge, possibly underdog or sacrifice.
I guess I'd say that the strength of the entry is that an easy to understand premise has been established and there are many directions that Dean can go to from here.
But on the other hand it's hard to get excited about a post-apocalyptic zombie tale. Not that there's anything wrong with that but the setting and the characters have been explored so often that there has to be a character 'edge' to involve us in the story.

Ya know what would've been bitchin' cool actually?
If the horse had been seen glaring at the girl's back, hatred apparent in his eyes.
Yes I know that's not the story you're writing here (and I don't say this to be mean) but what I'm reading is pretty fucking boring.

In all other regards I think it's a solid entry. I like the art, the storytelling is clear, no problem with the lettering.
There IS a hell of a lot of narration again but at least it's utilized in a relatively unobtrusive manner. A dry lead-in that is over quickly and then a pure first person narrative that never breaks character or tells us something that could easily have been expressed in the art, but the narration still managed to deaden the action. If I may make a slightly more reasonable suggestion to Dean; I think it would've been in your best interests to have her speak out loud a few of the thought lines.
"What big teeth you have..."
"Just a weak, half-starved stray."

It would've brought the reader closer to the action and made it more fun.

So I'm giving Aeon a 3 out of 5.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let the reviews begin!!!1 one one one.

A Single Soul - Nathan Furman, Nancy Leslie

Furman is a repeat customer at Zuda, being previously responsible for the entry titled 'Alone'.
He provides us again with an entry that's easy on the eyes. I prefer the new look personally since I'm a sucker for naked women, big demons, and crosshatching.
But having said that, I've still got a helluvalot to complain about.

The narrative works better here than it did in 'Alone' because there's less of it.
I don't mean to single this entry out for special abuse but I'm getting pretty bored with the voiceovers. Comic books are a visual medium. That's not to say that a voiceover is completely out of place but I think you should explore all other options first. Most of what needs to be said can be shown in the artwork, usually the rest can be expressed in dialog. I'd be more willing to give Mr. Furman the benefit of the doubt here if he didn't have two separate entries that read almost exactly the same.
Of course I DID say it works better in this instance. It kinda fits the mood. It's just getting old. I think the entry could've been rewritten to exclude the voiceover and it would've been a stronger entry for it.

Of course that also would've eliminated my #2 big complaint. Those scrolls are all gray tones and they look like crap floating up on top of the crosshatching. I'd have thought that this would be obvious, consistency in your visuals.

Now I'm going to bust out my brand new Zuda review tool.
Okay, yeah, it's just a web-page with some plot summaries, but I've been struggling since day one of Zuda to find a 'plotting standard' and here I finally think I've got a method that'll work and I'm excited about it so STFU.

Here's what gets me. If this story is about Pan then it makes sense to call it a revenge story but it seems very clear that naked woman #5 is the protagonist here and it doesn't make sense to call it HER revenge story.
So what IS her story? God, what's her name even? If it's not her story then why give her so much screentime?
The fact that I can't answer this question or even make a reasonable guess based on story context is a pretty big issue. Even the synopsis (last resort of the lazy) fails to fill me in.

I'm gonna move on now.

What's up with page 6? Where'd all the crosshatching go?
Page 7? Looks like she goes in a cave, then all of a sudden she's up on a big demons shoulder. Huh?
I guess it's just a carving or a statue but it's hard to tell. It doesn't help that the very next panel shows a demon of similar design but this one is clearly not a statue.
And finally she's outside the cave fighting some third demon.
Who's demons are they anyways? They look an awful lot like Pan.
Last panel on page 7 is very small and squishy. I'll tell you what I'd do.

Get rid of panels 1 and 2 entirely.
Shift panel 3 to the left, enlarge it so you can see more of the statue and darken the tone of the statue so that it's clear that it's background. Enlarge panel 5 significantly on the right side so that the spacial relationship is made more clear.
The scene change on page 8 is confusing and doesn't add anything to the story. I'd move that fight sequence back into the cave.

So ah.... that's it for me. I'm giving it a 3 out of 5.