Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zuda Review: Physikon

Physikon by Alexander Drummond Diochon

What's to Like
Physikon offers up an interesting story concept that leaves the reader at first concerned for the apparent tragedy that inherently follows the protagonist wherever he goes and, later, perplexed as to whether his entire story is a trumped-up hoax. Diochon does a worthy job of keeping the reader off-balance and in a way that maintains curiosity for what may come. It's an effective strategy for the Zuda competition in that it may elicit votes from those who enjoy the ideas enough that they want to see the story continue.

The art is nicely executed and very pleasing to the eye, with a cartoonish quality that contrasts with the dark tone of the plot, yet somehow paradoxically energizes the isolation displayed by the protagonist during the extended flashback. Particularly striking are the panels in the flashback that bring into play symbols of death in an almost surreal manner. Diochon's use of grim reapers, tombstone shadows and disembodied hands is masterful and leaves the reader with a feeling of the morbid reality faced by the cursed narrator. Those are the panels that persist in memory hours after reading Physikon, and that is a compliment to the talents of the creator.

What it Lacks
There are a number of potentially viable plot strategies available to those aspiring to win the Zuda competition, but the two most common are the recap and the "middle-of-the-action." Physikon goes for the recap, to me the less effective option, but Diochon skillfully uses four full screens for a nicely accomplished, faded flashback sequence that truly engages the reader and pulls real emotion for the main character. However, this is framed by a sequence that sets up the flashback and accompanying narrative with a tale told by the protagonist to other potential cast members revealed near the end of the submission. This part of the work muddies the story so clearly presented in the flashback and, frankly, occupies too large a portion of the eight screen allotment. An entire splash screen is utilized as an underwhelming reveal for the other characters, when that space would have undoubtedly been more effectively utilized for images evocative of the emotion so pervasive during the flashback. Basically, everything that worked in the recap was nullified by the rather cumbersome effort to introduce all the ancillary characters and get their names into some of the word balloons while establishing a somewhat confusing link to the narrator.

My Zuda Rating
3 Stars. Fascinating core concept and great art weighed down by an over-done framing mechanic.

My Vote?
No. Simply not in the top tier of this month's entries.

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