Sunday, February 1, 2009

Random Reviews: Zot!

It has been awhile since I reviewed any comic books on my blog.  So I figure what better way to be relevant than to review a comic first published in 1987?

Zot Of course Zot! is not just any comic book.  It is an early effort by comic writer and artist Scott McCloud, who is most famous for his amazing comics about comics: Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics.  Reading these books changed the way that I looked at comic books forever.  They have even caused me to be a bit of a comic book evangelist; I feel that the potential of comic books has been squandered in this country and the medium dismissed as "kid stuff".

Despite this, I never sought out Scott McCloud's earlier works.  I am not sure why.  It might be that I was sure I was going to be disappointed in it.  I held his scholarly works on the subject of comics in such high regard that I was afraid of finding out that the emperor had no clothes after all.  It helped that his books were long out of print and hard to find.

When the black and white issues of Zot! (1987-1991) were compiled on one easy to find trade paperback, I figured I finally had run out of excuses.

I shouldn't have worried.  The stories focus on Zot, a young Flash Gordon style adventurer from an alternate universe set in the "retro-future" of 1965, and Jenny, a typical teenage girl from our world.  Technology from Zot's world allows the characters to travel between the two dimensions.  The comics are a mixture between the high adventure in Zot's world and the smaller, more personal stories on Jenny's.

This premise sounds pretty typical for a superhero comic.  What makes it special is the care with which Scott develops his themes.  Jenny is not a true pessimist, but she has to deal with all of the little disappointments of living in the our world.  Seeing Zot's "perfect" world throws these problems into sharp contrast.   On the other hand, Zot can't help but see the best in both worlds.  It's not that Zot doesn't see the bad, it's just that he believes it is outweighed by the good. 

In short, Zot is a character driven book, but it is a book about little changes, rather than big ones.  The action sequences are mostly superfluous, except in how they affect the characters emotionally.  It's hard for me to think of another book like it.  The best I can come up with is Marvels, but even that comparison comes up short in the end.

I guess I would just recommend that you check it out yourself!