Ugli Studios Presents is creator-owned fantasy/horror/sci-fi anthology book. Its inaugural issue contains two different shorts, each co-written by Jason Lenox and David Paul and drawn by Mr. Lenox. For a point of reference think; The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, etc. – these are short, succinct stories that present a self-contained tale with some sort of unexpected plot twist or surprise ending. I must confess; I’ve seen every single episode of the original Twilight Zone series and I’ve even read a lot of the original scripts – so to say I enjoy this mode of storytelling would be a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately, as a reviewer this also means I have a high bar set for people to be able to compete with the likes of Rod Serling, Ray Bradbury, etc. That all being the case – I’m here to support and drum up interest for independent comic creators – so I’ll be tempering my sky-high expectations as much as possible while still being a discerning commentator ;)
Onward to the meat:
The first story in this anthology is titled “Through the Eyes of Grizelda”, which is a tale of black magic in a fantasy setting. I was a bit confused by this story, to be perfectly candid. The context seemed a bit ambiguous, a bit hard to grasp and I wasn’t entirely oriented into the narrative by the time all hell broke loose in the story. The titular Grizelda is a feline familiar for a necromancer… but she’s also a princess and a mistress and… I don’t know, it was kind of fuzzy and I was at a loss as to what she truly “was” for the majority of the tale.
I think the thrust of the story was that there was a great battle and the cat decided she enjoyed her entitled cat-life so much that she turned into a giant demon cat to eviscerate the necromancer’s enemies. From what I could glean it seemed I was being presented with an analogy for explaining a cat’s moody disposition (or maybe I’ve just been on the internet to long): the cat wanted things her way, so she just fucking did it her way. Sounds like a cat to me. In that sense I was grinning while I read the story a second time, whether or not this was the intention of the creators, I do not know.
The art was nicely detailed, albeit a bit stiff in a few scenes. Generally though, it looks quite nice and the action set-pieces are convincing and large.
“Through the Eyes of Grizelda” was a bit too unfocused for my taste and seemed to have no really obvious level of intrigue. Overall it was still, despite its shortcomings, entertaining; yet I definitely found it to be the weaker of the two stories in the book.
Which leads us to story number two: “The Great Vermin”
Now this one was much better; much more controlled and concise, more akin to a quick one-two punch as opposed to the first story’s wild, frenzied attack. “The Great Vermin” is a classic set up with a good twist/reveal at the end. Everything moves quickly and is told economically. The art looks much more natural and loose, directly due to this, it’s immediacy makes it more convincing than the art from story #1.
I don’t really want to speak of the plot too much as it would be a disservice to those who will read it, so instead I’ll just say that when I mentioned my Twilight Zone affinity earlier, I originally drew the parallel because this story was still fresh in my mind. It completely works and would have made a great episode of said show.
Great set-up, great pacing and great payoff – this is exactly what a five page story should be.
Overall this book was enjoyable and the care and time that went in to creating it is palpable. We should all be supporting creators such as Jason Lenox and David Paul, because it is evident through releases such as this that they are sharpening their pencils into the future tools of rebellion which will help to free us all from an insidious industry (how’s that for a mother fucking jacket blurb!). Independent creators can release quality looking comics created wholly on their own terms, and the career professionals should keep an eye out; for the days of a vast, reassuring gulf existing between the haves and have-nots has been shrinking with alarming rapidity; the cost of entry and the tools of mass production are now ubiquitous for most and as such, the independent reclamation of the medium is certainly at hand.
But I’ll still buy Batman books.
Overall Ugli Studios Presents #1 is a lot of fun and shows great promise of things to come, both on and off the page.