The Zoo Act

The Zoo Act

Staff: Myron Macklin

Overview:

An excellently written comic with adult themes, good visuals, and competent writing.

Review:

Starting off, there are some really adult themes in this comic. They are handled well but it’s got blood, tits, drugs, kinky sex in bunny masks, death, dogfighting, more drugs, splattered brains, murder, etc. If your a kid, put this down and go watch some Spongebob.

The art is very stylized in this comic. I love the way they utilize black, white, and light blue to augment the emotional aspect of the visuals. The style kind of reminds me of Frank Miller’s art in Dark Knight Returns vaguely. This does suffer a few mishaps when the black is used for multiple similar aspects of the picture but ultimately these are far and few between. They do a great job using the environment to show motion, something a lot of artist could better utilize (the trail of snow off a foot kicking for example). The art on the whole shows some real talent. The artist had a keen understanding of dynamic posing and that stops the stylized look of the comic from becoming distorted. I liked all the little nods to pop culture they slipped in the background (is that a certain King of Monsters I see in the protagonist’s apartment?).

I need to mention that special attention was given to the character designs in this book. Everyone FELT like they were unique and that the designs were able to inform me of something about the character. Like when they show a senator’s son he had a american flag pin, a overlarge collar, scruffy facial hair, and a black and white (or at least some color pinstripe) tie. That educates me a lot as to who he is. Why is his suit collar large? Does he not like suits? Does he not know how to wear/pick a suit? Is he just so use to suits that this is just a little well worn? It gives him personality and I can really dig it.
From a lettering perspective there were a few times when letter spacing with the font they chose gave me a little problem (example: There is an instance where it looks like the word is “he ad” rather than “head”) but ultimately it is readable. I think they were looking to have the font match the art style and it certainly does. The onomatopoeia are well done and indicative of the sound visually so that’s a plus. It’s untraditional for a comic to use hyphens to break words across lines and it does do this on occasion. If it feels like I an nit-picking, I really am. It’s just little things. Ultimately you can read it so what else really matters right? 🙂

The dialogue is well written. It has a bitter, almost satirical, edge, and isn’t always PG-13 (again, nothing too offensive). We have some slang tossed in there. Having multiple conversations going on at the same time does get confusing at time As an example, at one point a TV is dropping some background exposition while the protagonist is having a phone call. It wouldn’t have been an issue but then we have a few full screen panels of the TV conversation and it breaks the flow of the phone call, which I had to go back and re-read to pick it up again when they jump back to it. On the flip side there is some beautiful imagery that goes with the visuals, acting in tandem rather than at odds with it. For example we have a beat to hell guy walking and the narration is, “But my legs only mimic walking”. Goddam bloody gorgeous. The story often flips from vulgar dialogue and slang to a more artistic inner monologue and it works.

One thing I’ll say is that this is a long comic (117 pages) and hell if it isn’t good… but after a while the pacing started to slow down. I would really have broken this up into two, three, or even four issues. It’s not like the story wasn’t good but I think it could have benefited from a break, like how a run-on sentence could benefit from a coma (or a period).

Overall this is a fantastic, if not adult, comic. It’s got an interesting art style, compelling story, and competent writing. The premise seems like it’s been done at least in part before (no spoilers) but it’s a welcome premise with a lot of room to grow. I would really recommend this only for adults (18+) but it’s a hell of a good read. The point of this site is to find indies that push the envelope and in that regard- I’m glad I reviewed this one. Check it out.

 

Metrics

Art: 7/10 (Stylized but it works and good on a technical level)

Lettering: 5/10 (Readable but some really minor issues)

Plot: 6/10 (Damn good read. 18+ though.)

Novelty: 7/10 (Novel art style, good characters, excellent tone)

Overall: 6.25/10

 Link to Website

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Eclipse

Eclipse

Staff: Trevor Talbott, Scott Meier, Peter Raymond, Jessica Jimerson

Overview:

Shine on your magnificent bastards.

Review:

Alright so Trevor Talbott, the creator, shot me a email regarding his KS backed comic. Like normal I am going in blind (to try to remain objective) so I have not read any sort of intro or summary. With that being said, lets jump into “Eclipse”!

So the artwork is really trying to be professional grade. A lot of indie comics don’t think enough about the color pallet they are using for a comic, but this one a lot of thought went into it. The style seems very “DC” (which is good for the most part) and I definitely get the modern superhero vibe from this comic. The artist (the line artist in particular) doesn’t draw heads or faces as well as bodies it seems. Sometimes we get characters with really heavy jaws, oddly placed eyes, and they seems to have two expressions- teeth grit or lips closed. The eyes are almost always WIDE OPEN and while I think it is a stylistic choice, I don’t think it lends anything to the visuals (kind of makes the characters look like dolls). Also, page 20 had some really good example of dynamic movement and the way you can layout your panels in a creative way (hats off you ya’! It deserves a special mention).

One thing that I liked was the way they handled having a (slightly) autistic dad in the story. They didn’t go all “comic made for the express purpose of beating us over the head with a message ” on us, but they did show the problems it presents. This is the hallmark of really good writing. At first I was honestly going to write this off comic as one of the dozen “generic superhero” comics we’ve all see in the indie space but- goddam was I wrong. This is a comic with heart, some fantastic characterizations, well thought-out dialogue, and by the end I really could identify with it.

I gotta say I liked the references to other comic characters (The “Menacing Bulk” and the “Crimson Bat”). This was written by a comic fan for comic fans, I can tell you that much. There are lot of little inside references. The costume design for the protagonist REALLY reminds me of Nightwing (particularly the New 52 version) and a lot of the visual tricks they use with good ol’ Dick Grayson pop up (multiple iterations of the same character on the same panel in different positions to show fluid acrobatic movement).

To be honest, I wasn’t a huge can of the antagonist. When you hold him up next to such a well written protagonist he doesn’t really stand up. Hell, I was kind of sad when we had to go back to present day and see scenes without the protagonist’s father who was much more interesting to me. Then again, if it had not progressed the story, I probably would have criticized the patience. The saving grace of the villain is that you get some good character development at the end of the comic and it makes me think there is more to him than that. He seems to be being set up for something bigger.

If I have a gripe it is that we don’t get too much actually happening in the peasant. We get an intro followed by an extended flashback (that gives context and character development), and finally a little ending. The main character is pretty much in the same situation he starts in, though we get some world building. I don’t know if that is a bad thing, and maybe it is my American need for instant gratification, but I don’t get a big payoff. Like I feel there should have been a big ol’ fight at some point that really shows us what this hero can do (present day).

Overall though, this is a stellar comic. I can recommend it sheerly on the strength of writing, but the art is worth a glance too. It goes into some unexplored territory and is very clever in the entire overall presentation. Give it a read!

Metrics

Art: 5/10 (Nearly pro grade)

Lettering: 5/10 (Didn’t notice it so that means it’s solid)

Plot: 8/10 (Back story is great)

Novelty: 7/10 (Pushes some boundaries in terms of the treatment of Autism)

Overall: 6.25/10

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Penny Palabras

Penny Palabras

Staff: Kelly Matten and Waker farrell

Overview:

Wonderful creepy pasta in comic form.

Review:

Ok so today’s main dish is Penny Palabras, a supernatural story by James B Willard and Patrick K Beavers. We are given a brief introduction that describes a girl (Penny) who is terrorized by a paranormal entity known as “the straw man” and she seeks to find a way to free herself from him. It’s a pretty novel concept off the bat and I’m psyched to get into it! Lets dive into, Penny Palabras (Episode One: The Spectacular Revolver).

Let’s start with the visuals. The art is a drag grayscale that uses a lot of negative space and rough lines. It’s very fitting with the theme and is a stylistic choices rather than a demonstration of the limits of the artist. Mix that with the almost handwritten typography and you have a wonderful visual presentation. There are a few limits brought on by the art style and things I wished they had find a way around (some of the dark grey dialogue bubbles have their edges lost against other areas of dark grey due to a lack of stroke for example). That being said, the art is not professional grade but I almost doesn’t want professional grade with a comic like this. It fits too well. It’s dirty and messy, just like the story.

The story is narrated from the perspective of an odd little girl but before you start shouting “gothic-Alice syndrome!” she defies the cliche. Penny is one of the few female protagonists who doesn’t seem to be just a pair of breasts and hips, she is more than that. I could have seen this character being written as a male or female, but I get the feeling that if Penny had been a guy it would have been a much more “emo” comic. Instead Penny is tough yet still sensitive enough to be vulnerable and have problems.

There is some clever writing that match the clever visuals. The story is very engaging and they make use of both the visual and literary aspects of the medium (example: talking about the skull faced man you can see in the moon while moon is right there). There is an art to that and it’s well done here. It leaves us on a cliffhanger, asking more questions than it really answers, and while as a reader that bothers me a bit- it works. It snags you hook-line and sinker and pulls you along for a ride. Penny Palabras doesn’t fall into the trap of a lot of first issues where it just hammers you with exposition. No, it establishes things pretty quick and actually progresses the tale by page 24.

All and all this is a fantastic little comic. Right now it’s donation for the first issue and I strongly suggest you pick up a copy if your into the horror, supernatural or even just plain mystery genres. Totally worth a read.

 

Metrics

Art: 5/10 (Not pro but it fits the theme)

Lettering: 5/10 (Sloppy and inconsistent)

Plot: 7/10 (What can I say? I love well written female character.)

Novelty: 8/10 (New and creepy!)

Overall: 6.25/10

Link to Product