2.27.2012

The Dark Zack! Empire Strikes Again

Ugly People! #2 (Self-Published by Zack! Empire): I was really happy when Zack! contacted me about sending in a review copy of the new book, because I always enjoy reading his stuff. Overall, things are improving in terms of production values. The slightly oversized package is attractive and has good print quality. I’ll confess that I was a little disappointed to see the stark front cover, all of the title info is hidden on the inside front cover, which I felt was a step back from the first issue that had it more prominently displayed. The sheer number of typos was a concern in the last issue, and it remains so here. It’s definitely improving in terms of volume, but the same types of mistakes are systematically being made with apostrophe confusion between plurality and possession, the dreaded your/you’re distinction, and many missing vowels in the spelling gaffes (for example, “intresting” and “definitly”) being sprinkled throughout the book.

The first entry features probably my favorite character, Big Daddy Bacon, who is a pretty vile cat who uses and abuses his friends, and is most concerned with how many chicks (usually co-workers) that he can slay. It’s obviously puerile, but you can’t say it’s not entertaining with the sheer glee with which he conducts himself. When it really gets good, the funny is even superseded by mocking the very stereotypes it purports to function with. You have to get over a small logic hole in this (why would Big Daddy Bacon owe his employer any money if they’ve already been docking his pay for some time for the meals he takes?), but once you do his oblivious indignation is really priceless. For some reason, I enjoy the supporting character “Lonewolf,” perhaps because he reveals how Empire’s crisp pencils allow you to glean all of the character’s personalities from their aesthetic alone (his women are particularly striking in this regard). It’s true of the whole package, the gritty, dirty, slimy background details of the environment in a place like the “C**T HUNT,” the gentlemen’s club they work at, looks and feels as skeevy, grimy, and smelly as you’d imagine it to be. You also have to admire the honesty with which Big Daddy Bacon sometimes operates; at times, we’d all like to interject to a coworker “Listen, I’m already bored with you, so let me get to the point.” Ultimately, BDB is duped into working as a bounty hunter in an attempt to make some quick cash, which sets up the forthcoming installment of this story nicely.

For me, the Big Daddy Bacon entry was certainly the headliner, but there are a couple more also-rans. “4 Months” features recurring character Jerkface, who desiring more creative output, seeks “motovation” (misspelled like that every time it appears, which is often) to come up with some story ideas to create periodic comics. The gag seems to go on a little too long without much funny, but does culminate well when the torn-in-half “To-Do List” guy begins critiquing the panel borders and scene transitions of “Completed Page” guy. This one has a wry sense of humor that gets right to the heart of the act of creation in this medium with some good old fashioned meta-commentary. “Kitchen Magic” is the last of the trio in this issue, and is an extended infomercial style piece featuring (I think) “Lloyd Rivers” (spelled as “Lylod”), who manages some great quips like “That’s not rugburn, it’s herpes!” He offers a series of coffee maker recipes including sweet tea and instant noodles that promise the delicious “favor” of “tomotos.” I keep harping on the typos, but they really do tend to derail what would otherwise be an abrasive wise-cracking character who makes you laugh as he insults you in the process. Similarly, all three blurbs in the back for forthcoming issues make we want to read those issues, but all three ads also have typos in them! Argghh! I want to edit these comics. They’re funny, but the typos are not. With some editorial guidance, this would certainly rate higher than Grade B. www.itszackempire.blogspot.com

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