Don MacPherson and Randy Lander
explore the galaxy, and they not only discover new
lifeforms, but the weird and fascinating
storytelling of Michel Gagne in Zed.
Michel Gagne may be
a Canadian like me, but he's been all over the
world working as an animation artist. But with his
independently published comic-book series,
Zed, he takes his readers to other worlds
and inside his oddball imagination.
Gagne sent us the
first three issues of Zed to take a look
at, and I'm honestly at a bit of a loss as to how
this title, not to mention its creator, has never
appeared on my radar before. Though the series
boasts an unusually conflicted tone, it is without
a doubt a professional and entertaining piece of
published by Gagne International
written & illustrated by
Zed is a small,
young fellow from the planet Gallos, and he's one
of that world's finest inventors. As he shows off
his latest invention to the masses gathered on
Xandria (the planet that's home to the central
government in the galaxy), something goes wrong.
Zed is forced to flee the disaster area and
returns home. Though his people welcome him, the
rest of the galaxy isn't so thrilled with him,
especially a bloodthirsty general.
What about the
loudest band in the universe, and the important
role they play? If you're getting the sense that
Zed is a somewhat strange and far-flung
epic, you're getting the right idea. The story
takes us from a worldwide genius competition to
planet-level destruction, all viewed through the
eyes of a young (albeit very smart) alien boy.
in animation comes shining through in his work on
this book. The characters all boast simple and
usually cute designs. They're thoroughly
expressive. There's something of a Dr. Seuss-esque
quality to his design work. Though his linework is
simple, there's a sense of the surreal at play
that seems to keep the reader off balance. The
settings and backgrounds often boast a creepy
organic feel. For a black-and-white book, there's
a nice depth to the visuals, thanks in no small
part to the varied and layered grey tones.
You're right to
mention Gagne's animation influences, because I
get the sense of animated storyboards as much as a
comic out of this book. Though the designs are
fairly simple, as you say, they are plenty
expressive. In addition, the scenes of planetary
destruction, or a galactic war fleet, are exactly
as big and impressive as they should be. Gagne
also impressed me with the covers, which look for
all the world like exciting and dynamic old-school
There's a cartoony, innocent
quality to many of the characters, the plot and
the settings, but at times, there's an adult
intensity that creeps into the story. Gagne
injects brief moments of morbidity into an
otherwise light story. The image of the cute
little guy on the covers contrasts almost
violently with apocalyptic explosions.
of morbidity? After what was a somewhat light and
funny introduction, I kept expecting the finale of
issue one to be revealed as a nightmare sequence.
Zed starts out as something of a cute
all-ages book, but it quickly turns into a lot
more. Gagne has a dark sense of humor that is
actually very funny, perhaps best personified by
the initial reaction to Zed's experiment gone
wrong. However, it was at times a bit hard to
chuckle given the extremely dire situation and
personal tragedy that Zed has had to endure.
Overall, though, this darker-than-expected tone
really worked to the book's advantage, focusing my
attention on plot as much as character. I'm
especially intrigued to see the story of what
caused Zed's experiment to go wrong.
disappointing characteristic of this book is that
it reads extremely quickly. It's low on dialogue
and high on larger panels, so one flips through
each issue with a bit too much ease.
Honestly, I think that's
symptomatic of the animation-style storytelling,
which you and I both found to be an asset. Though
the story does a great job of showing what's going
on, it does sometimes feel like we're being
treated to lush scenes when some quicker
storytelling might have sufficed.
quality of this book stands out as its greatest
strength, due in part to the fact that it grants
the title a genuinely unique atmosphere. That
unsettling shift back and forth from innocence and
darker elements means this isn't the all-ages book
it appears to be on the surface, but it does make
for a weirdly mature and fascinating read.
For more information about
Zed, visit http://www.gagneint.com/.
and Don comments about this review, or discuss
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