Two-in-One Review: Zed

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.

Don:
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.

Randy:
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 work.

Zed #1Zed #s 1-3
published by Gagne International Press
written & illustrated by Michel Gagne

Don:
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.

Randy:
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.

Don:
Gagne's background 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.

Randy:
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 Kirby.

Zed #2Don:
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.

Randy:
"Brief" moments 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.

Don:
The only 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.

Zed #3Randy:
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.

Don:
The dichotomous 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/.


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all contents & TM Don MacPherson, Randy Lander, except columns which are & TM their authors