Friday, August 7, 2009

Zuda Review: If You See the Hills

If You See the Hills by Sal Field

What's to Like
If You See the Hills represents a departure from most Zuda submissions in that it lies outside the expected genres that tend to dominate comics, both on the web and in print. Coming of age or bored teen angst stories not set in a superhero-verse are just not typical comics fare. In this submission, however, Sal Field elicits some real emotion for his characters, primarily with a few lines of poignant dialogue that deserve recognition. Screens 5 and 6 feature an exchange between Katja and Sasha about why she likes joining him on the roof, and he frustrates her by offering some sarcastic reponses. Their back-and-forth in this sequence, and especially her ultimate answer to her own question, is cute and very warm. Check it out.

What it Lacks
While there are the aforementioned endearing moments in this work, they are an exception as compared to the rest of the interaction that comprises this entire comic. The rest of the dialogue feels stale, even predictable as these teens gripe about parents and school and their crappy hometown and miscommunicate because of over-reliance on cell phones. The final little twist based on cell phones and intended to get a laugh from the reader ... it just isn't funny. Not even cutesy. Not even a little bit. All this adds up to a story that is very dry aside from a fuzzy two-screen success.

On to the art. For a comic built on a foundation of personal interaction and nuance, the characters are almost facially expressionless. Shifts in mood and situation are accompanied by adjusted looks from the characters that are so subtle or simply absent, that the reader is left relying almost totally on the words to determine how the characters feel. That's great if you're reading prose, but this is supposed to be a comic. The words and the pictures are supposed to be synergistic in their combination. In If You See the Hills, there are several instances in which the character images seem to have been copied and pasted from one panel to another, with little or, perhaps, NO changes. See screen 4, panels 3 and 6. See screen 3, ANY panels including Sasha - heck, any images of Sasha throughout the comic aside from screen 5, panel 2, wherein he actually closes one eye. If there were more attention paid to, and variety included in, the facial expressions of these characters, there would be less distraction due to the roughly crafted and, honestly, neglected backgrounds.

My Zuda Rating:
2 Stars. The extra Star is purely out of appreciation for the really thoughtful dialogue on screens 5 and 6. Otherwise, we'd be looking at uno.

My Vote?
Um, no. See above criticisms.

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