Friday, August 01, 2008

35th Leg: Kristy Versus The Zombie Army

Comic: Kristy Versus The Zombie Army
By: David Tekiela

Setting and Elements: Surreal Reality, Modern-Day
Content Type: Horror, Action, Adventure

Art Medium: Inks, Digital Colour
Art Style: Cartoonish, Manga influence is heavy.

Is About: A girl named Kristy who hunters Zombies. And other evil things.

Frequency: Fridays
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation:
The layout of the page is neat and professional. It's black, and I love the teaser image for the latest page.

I really am forcing myself to keep my expectations low for this comic (this is based on its concept). After the phenomenal Dr.McNinja, I'm bound to compare whatever stop I make after that unfavourably against it, and I do not want to do that unfairly. I know... I'm human, I'm biased no matter how I try not to be, but that doesn't mean I stop trying.

From the title of the comic I'm morbidly curious on whether I'm going to be disappointed or not. Every superhero/horror comic nowadays seems to have the obligatory army of undead zombies and hero/ine battling them. I've reviewed a few in my past journeys. I may have been away from webcomics for almost 3 years but I'm still jaded to that concept thank you very much.

So if I am THIS pessimistic why did I even come here?

Well, Dr. McNinja recommended it by linking it, that's why. That, and I really want to see if this creator can bring in something fresh and new to a concept that has been worn threadbare. You never know. Besides, it's part of the Dayfree Press, so I assume there must be something!

And with that note, I clicketh the archive button...

The Concept:
Kristy is the daughter of two apparently famous heroes who hunted zombies, and I presume, other forces of evil. She attends the Nightshade University of Higher Learning, a school for Hunters of Zombies and such stuff. The comic follows her adventures as she follows her parent's legacy.

The Art:
The art for KVTZA starts off shaky, as most comics are wont to do. I really like the use of color in the strips, especially how it felt like it wasn't colour slapped on to black and white art. I was sorry to see them desaturate into black-and-white in the later pages.

The art style is distinctive, a cross between cute-cartoony with a lot of influence from manga, particularly in the over-exaggerated expressions whenever any of the characters have some strong emotion.  Sometimes this is a good thing, but when used wrongly and overused in particular, it stops being effective and becomes annoying.

I have to say I really do not like a lot of the character designs. The protagonist Kristy in particular, suffers from a very bland design. Partially due to this, I, as a reader, was absolutely unable to garner any semblance of liking or interest in her, which is a portent of doom for any webcomic. 

I couldn't help noticing a trend... The objects David seems to excel at drawing are anything other than humans. The Master Panda is well done, the Rock Person, Oswald is downright adorable... but when I see the lackluster human depicted next to them, it just doesn't gel. To further stress this point, I cannot help but notice whatever shortcomings the artist might have in drawing people, he is more than capable when it comes to backgrounds and scenery. There were quite a few pages where I just stopped reading and was amazed and how beautifully and artistically simple some of his background work is. 

The Writing:
...confuses me. It infuriates me because there is so much of it and so little substance at the same time. Most of all, it drives me nuts because it doesn't compliment the art, instead it barges in, overwhelms and smothers it.

I think there's a story behind this... and there might be a plot somewhere, I'm just trying to make sense of it. 

I can say without any hesitation that the writing is the very glaring weak point of the comic. In fact I have a dilemma because anything I write about the writing would be qualified to go in the "Problems" section.

Anyways, I will detail the problems with writing here, and any that are in the realm of both art and writing I will pop into the section after this.

Let's start with characterization. The eponymous Kristy is supposed to be a headstrong, independent, courageous girl who has reformed and now dedicated to hunting down the evil zombies. Every now and then a secondary character mentions how special she is, but the problem is from the point of view of this reader she doesn't do anything that seems worthy of the respect given to her. She talks to much, whines too much, thinks too little, monologues too much...

..gawd, don't get me started on the monologuing. This had me pulling my hair out at one point. For some reason Kristy feels that it is necessary to recap in a monologue, the events of the last few pages every few pages, ala old newspaper comics. If she doesn't do it, the narrator does it for her. And it will always be in this cheesy-advert epic sounding wall-of-text.

Unfortunately this is not a newspaper comic, it's a webcomic . When you read this in one shot it's not only redundant... it's absolutely a chore. And the word "chore', let me remind you... rhymes with "bore".

Back to the characterization... my other bone to pick with it is it's also inconsistent. You have an apparently bad-ass Kungfu Panda Master (Oh come on you knew that was coming) whom the writer spends time to set up and how much of a zombie killing machine he is. Yet he gets taken out in an embarrassingly cliched "I throw myself in front of you to take the blow for you" anti-climax. Arrrgh... What's the point then?

There are numerous characters that are introduced for no apparent reason, and more often than not their actions make no sense. Kristy herself makes no sense.  Let me give you an example of what I just said: 

  1. In the beginning Kristy receives some mystic orb from her parents that she's supposed to protect at all costs. 
  2. Hordes of evil zombies show up and take it (and almost kill her in the process). 
  3. She recovers from a 5 month coma and swears she'll get it back. 
  4. She goes off to train with KungFu Panda Master (who has another apprentice i might add) in a bid to get it back. 
  5. Meanwhile bad guys discover it is a fake, assume she swapped the orbs, and swear to get it from her.
  6. Bad guys attack Kristy and Panda Master, disappointing panda fight cop-out occurs. 
  7. Bad guys realise Kristy does not have the orb. The oh-so-great panda master gets taken prisoner since bad guy is so lazy he can' t be bothered looking for it any more and needs to blackmail Kristy to do his work for him.
  8. Kristy does his work for him and tracks the REAL orb down. Apprentice 2 doesn't even merit an appearance . You'd think he'd be worried about his master too or something. Apparently not.
  9. Kristy meets guardian of the orb, who despite knowing the bad guys won't keep their word, will give the orb to Kristy if "she defeats him in battle". 
  10. Eventually Kristy gets the orb and trades it in for the Panda Master.
  11. Bad guys attempt to betray her, orb guardian shows up and throws his sword to her and disappears again.
  12. Kristy manages to hurt the bad guy, bad guy retreats and gives back Panda Master.
  13. Bad guys get away with orb.
I think most of you will see my problem with this... did we forget point number one? The annoying thing is that she doesn't even seem to show any hesitation on what choice she has to make. No "ok Panda life VS Really Important Thing Dead Parents told me to guard with my life for the good of the world... what do I do?" She just blindly follows the path unwavering like a non-human automaton. Maybe because the script says so. I don't know, but I cannot identify with Kristy. At All. I cannot even begin to understand her thinking.

So uh... we've just touched on characterization, behaviour and dialogue... what about the plot?

It seems to consist of lots of cliches that feel like they've been borrowed from miscellaneous movies. There's whole parent's legacy thing, the Special One onus given to Kristy, the whole quest for an item of power, having to rescue friend by hunting for that thing bad guy wants...? 

And the fight scenes. I like comics with action. I love action. But there is action and there is repetition. This is repetition.

It did cross my mind that KVTZA might actually be a parody of all the cliche films and comics that do the same thing... but it doesn't feel like a parody comic. It feels dead-serious. There is an occasional moment of humour, but none that really have me laughing. It leaves me con-fuddled.

I don't like writing negative reviews and I really don't like not being able to praise something that has obviously shown so much effort put into it. But at the same time, I am not a PR officer for webcomics, and I do owe it to my readers to be honest.

And I truly believe I do owe it to David to at least try and explain what it is that didn't work out for me, so he can learn from it.

This is my train of thought at one point:

Ping: Hm, ok, violence... fight scene... oh another fight scene... fight scene... 
*More fight scenes*
Ping: Hokay... why is she narrating exactly what she's depicted as doing in the panel? Surely it isn't necessary to describe slicing zombies with chainsaws on a panel that shows her waving around a bloody chainsaw and slicing zombies... 
*Much more fight scenes Later* 
Ping: ...If I see another character who's grinning say "Grin" and a character running with the sound effect "Run!" and a punching combatant say "PUNCH!" I'm going to kick something... Oh god it's another monologue recap... not another monologue recap!
*Even More fight scenes later*
Ping: This whole thing doesn't make sense. How many more pages of this left? Oh no... another obstacle... she's going to fight again. It's not even interesting fighting. Please... Kristy just shut up and fight and  don't keep narrating your fight. PLEASE! HELP!

To summarize my meandering diatribe, the main problems are thus:

  1. Too much fighting, too little substance
  2. Plot makes no sense. 
  3. Characters make no sense and do not behave in a consistent manner. They are overly dramatic about things they shouldn't be and totally ignore things that they should.
  4. Please stop narrating the action scenes. They're action scenes, not narr-action scenes. 
That's the main ones I can think for the moment. It's a pity, because so much more could have been done with this concept, and instead of something new it just feels like a rehash. 

Once again, I am left to wonder if this was intended to be a parody. The whole thing reads like this parody page of bad action I did for How Not to Run a Comic a few years ago: How not to Do an Action Scene. It's so similar in spirit its uncanny.

Ok I'm convinced this is a parody comic now. It has to be. Given the similarity of the art here to the Rat Creatures in Jeff Smith's Bone, it has to be.

In all fairness, the comic starts improving towards the end.  And it does seem that David is learning to "Show, not tell"... Behold! A page without text or narration!

I guess time will tell whether KVTZA is salvageable. I do apologize to David if I seem too harsh, but these are my very honest impressions of the comic from the point of view of a first-time reader. I hope he finds them at least a little informative. In the meantime, I'm going to get my flame-retardant suit.

The Next Leg:
The first choice I picked, "END" seems to be a broken link, so looks like Sam and Fuzzy gets the next leg! 

1 comment:

  1. If someone wrote a negative review of one of my efforts, I couldn't ask that it be more constructive and respectful than you are to this comic.