Zuda Comics: Round 2 (DC Comics/Zuda)

dev_hell_thumb.jpgDC’s webcomics initiative sees a dramatic improvement in content in its second round. Now if they’d just do something about the way you have to read them…




FC; free online at www.zudacomics.com

Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire (W / A: Paul Maybury)

Araknid Kid (W / A: Josh Alves)

Art from Pray For Death.Avaste Ye (W / A: Kevin Cygan & Daniel H. Irving)

The Crooked Man (W / A: Gabriel Hardman & Corinna Sara Bechko)

Development Hell (W / A: Carlos Ruiz)

Frankie (W / A: Manny Trembley)

The Mundane Overrated Misadventures of Spudman (W / A: Rory McConville)

Ponbiki Z (W / A: Alberto Rios)

Pray For Death (W / A: Nicholas Doan)

Word of Power (W / A: Marc Sylvanus)


Technology is wonderful. Advancements like dual core 2.33 GHz processors, 3 GB RAM capable computers, and high-speed broadband internet connections allow people to do great things from high-resolution video editing to seamlessly fast web browsing. What all this technology can’t do, however, is make Zuda Comics a pleasurable reading experience.


With the second wave of their webcomics olympics, DC has fixed one of the two major problems with the previous edition. The content is dramatically improved, the comics leaps and bounds better than last months’, but the format is still terrible.


Art from Frankie.All of the comics are flash-based and they’re first presented embedded in a web page. In this format, they’re too small to read, so users must either use the zoom tool or go to full screen mode. Zooming just makes the text readable while still keeping the viewing window small. Unless you have a giant monitor, this isn’t a very fun way to read comics. The full-screen mode, however, presents painfully long loading times. Why does it take between 10 and 30 seconds to load one page? It may not seem like a long time to wait for content, but with a comic, it’s a large enough gap to destroy any suspense and do a great disservice to even the best comics.


Another inexplicable ‘feature’ with Zuda is the navigation. Readers can advance page-by-page, or skip directly to the first or last page. There’s also an option to skip forward or back ten pages. A completely useless feature considering the fact that all entires are eight pages. With this kind of logic, it’s astounding that Zuda’s content has improved, instead of the whole site falling apart under the weight of poor planning and even worse implementation.


Now, onto the meat. Last month, Zuda presented a barrage of mediocrity with a few standouts. One of those standouts, the werewolf-infused western High Moon by Dave Gallaher, Steve Ellis, and Scott O. Brown, won and is now a featured comic. While High Moon was the most predictable and standard of last month’s best, it’s no wonder it was chosen to advance. While it’s not the most gripping comic, it has potential for action, suspense, and plot twists. The art also does a lot to keep the story dark and interesting.


Art from The Mudane, Over-rated Adventures of Spudman.High Moon seems destined for print. And right now, Zuda seems torn between print comics on the web and web comics attempting to get to print. The four more traditional comics all present something different, making them hard to compare to each other. Frankie is a bizarre, fantasy horror comic with great art and a mildly interesting story from Sam Noir: Samurai Detective artist Manny Trembley. Pray for Death is a bloody, noir-inspired comic with amazing artwork and wise use of color. World of Power seems equally influenced by Asian comics and rock music, making it a very fun read. The last of the old-style comics, The Crooked Man, draws heavily from 1930s newspaper comics, creating a modern day Terry and the Pirates.


While the comics mentioned above are enjoyable, the newer-style comics make Zuda more interesting. Typical DC readers might not be turned onto the webcomics style, which is why it’s great to see six selections on Zuda bringing subversive-ness to the masses. (That is, if any masses read Zuda.)


The most obvious web-style comic this month is Avaste Ye. Seemingly drawn in MS Paint, it follows an ex-corporate employee whose mid-life crisis leads him to pursue a pirate’s life. The art is incredibly simple, but the writing is sharp, making it one of the funniest Zudas yet.


Another bizarre comic this month is The Mundane, Overrated Misadventures of Spudman, a thoroughly strange mildly amusing comic with nice-looking late 80s/early 90s style art and colors. While it’s fun to read, it comes off as a comic that tries a little too hard to be wacky.


Art from Development Hell.A comedic opposite of Spudman, Development Hell (drawn by PLAYBACK:stl’s own Carlos Ruiz) presents dry, niche humor in a universally enjoyable way. The comic follows two design specialists as they meet with clients, play video games, and rant about Web 2.0. The humor all rings true, and while not everyone will get the jokes, Development Hell is the standout comedy of the second wave of Zuda. I’m not saying that because Carlos works for Playback, but because this episode has what may very well be the best Drudge Report joke out there.


Not all new-style comics presented this month are meant to be funny. Two of them, Ponbiki Z and Araknid Kid have jokes, but focus on aliens and superheroes, respectively. Pinbiki Z is almost too slow-paced for Zuda’s 8-page format; the story barely gets going before it’s all over. Araknid Kid, on the other hand, wraps up a nice adventure, but leaves the door wide open for future installments. The art is also fantastic. It’s cartoony, lively and cute.


Art from the Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire.Araknid Kid would be the cutest comic offered if not for Adventures of Maxy J Millionaire. Maxy follows a tiny, living doll that’s a reference to Maurice Sendak’s work in both name and appearance, so of course it’s a precious comic. But the fact that it’s adorable doesn’t make it childish. Maxy leaves his home in disgust over sex only to find out the real world isn’t as innocent as he expects. It’s a great coming of age story that seems more suited to a graphic-novel than a traditional comic book.


The dramatic improvement in content shows that at least someone over at DC has the right idea about Zuda. Now, if only that person could convince the tech team to make an operable format for the site, everything would be great. | Gabe Bullard

Read the latest round or entries for yourself at www.zudacomics.com!

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