|Zed: Volume 1|
by Michel Gagné
Gagné International Press
Imagination is funny / it makes a cloudy day sunny...
That line from a Frank Sinatra song came into my mind the minute I started reading Zed. The exact minute. No matter what one's views regarding the small press happen to be, I doubt anyone can say that imagination is a category in which Michel Gagné is lacking..
Normally, I'm rather hesitant when looking at a book produced solely by one person. Part of it is jealousy - creating visual art baffles me. Also, sometimes such works fall short of expectations; it seems very rare when someone can do both well.
The fact that Gagné seems capable of effortlessly meshing both talents is both frustrating and spectacular. The art by itself is worth the price of the graphic novel. Gagné's animation background translates well to the printed page. The space scenes alone are mind-boggling, and make me think of old-school rave flyers from my younger, miscreant days. In other words, he creates visual feats that I have not witnessed without heavy pharmacological influences coursing through my body. The work is just so beautiful, at times, that it defies words. However, Gagné's animation background is a hindrance in some cases. Some panels are beyond spartan - some background scenery could have punched them up a bit. Still, the animation-style art is what grabs attention. The characters, ranging from the adorable Zed to the monstrous Maxuss, have a simple expressiveness, with clean lines reminiscent of True Story, Swear To God. In fact, Gagné's skill at having a character's appearance indicate a great deal about his personality is remarkable.
The plot itself is also highly imaginative. While, at its inception, it seems to be a straight-forward look at a young alien inventor, it quickly takes turns that throw such a notion out the window. Gagné balances humor and tragedy throughout the tale, making the reading sublime. My only negative comment to the work is based significantly on personal taste. At times, Gagné's captions are completely redundant. Coming from a literary background, I've had "Show - don't tell!" pounded in my head like a mantra, and it remains there since my college graduation. In a medium where words and pictures synthesis to form a cohesive whole, showing and telling at the same time throws the flow of the book off-kilter. For example, in one panel, Zed faces a Hamlet-esque moment where he contemplates suicide. The caption reads, "...the trauma of the terrible incident has made him nearly suicidal." This is accompanied by a thought balloon: "What's the point of living? Maybe I should just end it!" The same sentiment, expressed in caption and in panel, grinds the pacing of the work to a halt. Similarly, the "trauma of the terrible incident" phrase could be eliminated, as the reader understands how terrible the incident must be if Zed is nearly suicidal. But aside from that nit-picky criticism, the story boasts a great style and flow.
If this review has seemed overly subjective, it's because Gagné's work is so fresh and exciting it would be hard notto have a personal reaction to it. Gagné blends sophistication and simplicity well. Despite appearances, the book isn't geared toward children, but adults should enjoy this a great deal. And, as the ending is left rather open, I'll certainly be picking up Volume 2 as soon as it becomes available.
-- Ed Cunard