Something For The Weekend...Zed

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Zed #1 “Trouble on Xandria” introduces us to a whole new galaxy, the cultural and fiscal hub of which is a planet called Xandria. We check out Xandria just as it is about to host the Nob-L Prize ceremony for ten inventions. The first invention is from a cute little alien called Macku, from the planet Arcunna. He’s invented this nifty spaceship that can turn on a dime, and travel astronomical distances in mere minutes. Pretty good stuff, hey, and the audience are well impressed. After a short intermission, filled by a song from the loudest band in the universe (Krah), it’s Zed’s turn. Zed is an even cuter alien, from the planet Gallos, and he’s invented some contraption called The Energizer. The theory is that this invention can charge up simple rocks into battery cells, effectively providing free energy for all. Nice idea, except it all goes hideously wrong (including a nice decapitation scene of the previous inventor) and Zed barely gets away with his life.

Zed #2 “Xandria No More”…well, you can guess what happens to Xandria after Zed’s invention ran riot… Zed returns to his home planet for the post mortem (in more ways than one), there’s a bittersweet amusing moment as his short legs let him down on the approach to the Emperor’s Palace. Meanwhile the rest of the galaxy is in shock after the destruction of Xandria, and General Maxuss of the refinery world, Metalia, is ready to take advantage. Pinning the whole blame on Zed, he leads a battle fleet in search of revenge.

Zed #3 “Condemned” shows the planet Gallos standing behind Zed as Maxuss approaches, but he breaches their defences with ease. In the midst of all this, all may not be as it seems, as new information comes to light regarding Zed’s mishap – and possible sabotage? Meanwhile, Zed contemplates his future morosely, and wonders whether to take the simple way out…

Michel Gagne is the driving force behind Zed, the story of the misadventures of a cute little alien; it’s his first major comics work, but he brings with him the background of training in animation, plus experience of working on numerous animated and live-action films. Zed started life as an animation concept, but Gagne rapidly decided to attempt the comics route instead, based on a long-seated desire to self-publish comics plus a seemingly ideal project that had engaged his enthusiasm.

The animation background of Gagne and origin of Zed come through very strongly in the series, there is little attempt to subvert the form of comics, or push the boundaries of what can be achieved with panels and layouts; every panel border is rigid, very little of the art bleeds right to the edge of the page – the overwhelming feeling is of structure, of form, essentially of sticking to the animation template. This is not necessarily a bad thing, after all Gagne needs to learn how to walk in comics before attempting to run, and at the very least it makes each page very reader-friendly; the whole thing is pleasant on the eyes and suitable for all experiences.

Another couple of areas where his animation experience comes to the fore are the narration and the backgrounds…in that there is too much of the former, and not enough of the latter. Background are virtually non-existent, the action is all focused on the characters, you are supposed to concentrate on them, so whereas in animation you may have a static backdrop, maybe an introductory scene to set the context of the action, which then fades into the, er, background, as the characters take over. The narration, on the other hand, can sometimes be intrusive – when the narration in issue one says “Inside the stadium, the crowd anxiously awaits” and the accompanying picture is of a crowd inside a stadium, anxiously waiting, you have to wonder why the narration was there at all. Hopefully Gagne can trust his art to carry the story more in future episodes.

The final thing to talk about is the format of the book, which varies from issue to issue (all is explained well in the lettercol of #3). #1 kicks things off in style, with a nice thick card cover, and solid, clean white interior pages, a very impressive package indeed. #2 is rather a disappointment, then – the cover feels thinner, the pages are more flimsy, and it feels like something important has gone. Fortunately #3 returns to the highs of #1, and as this is the proposed format for future issues, the comic appears to be in safe hands.

Overall this is a recommended read, contact Gagne and get a price for a pack featuring all three issues (you may get a good deal on the trio), and prepare yourself for an undemanding, yet thoroughly enjoyable and pleasant to read romp…which does have the occasion serious undertone running through it – Zed’s contemplation, especially.

Zed #1-#3 available from Gagne International Press, 2829 N. Glenoaks Blvd., #106-PMB210, Burbank CA 91504 for $2.95 each for #1 and #2, $3.50 for #3. Check out their website at http://www.gagneint.com/ for more information.

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