Wednesday 1 July 2015

Ugli Studios Presents #3 Review (Jason Lenox, Joseph Freistuhler)

After nearly two years since their last publication, Jason Lenox and Joseph Freistuhler are back with Ugli Studios Presents #3. This comic is a collection of four stories of varying length with fantasy and horror themes. 

The first one is Lords of the Cosmos: Chapter 1 - Umex Rising written by Dennis Fallon and Jason Palmatier with pencils by Lenox. It’s about some distant world that’s kinda like ours but a bit more fantasy-oriented. We see the alien royalty, its buildings, landscapes, lots of generic, bland sci-fi/fantasy stuff, and then we’re introduced to Umex and his many disciples. I gather he’s the Bad Guy - maybe anti-hero? I don’t know. 

Seeing the dozens of disciples introduced - an image, a name, and a few words about them, repeat multiple times - is a bit like reading a pack of Top Trumps cards. What’s the story supposed to be? Why are we being introduced to so many “characters” at once? I appreciate Lenox has put the effort into the various designs but come on guys, this is super boring! How are we meant to care about them, never mind remember them? Use the space to instead establish a tone or a plot or develop just one character - provide a reason for the reader to look for the next part. This first chapter is sloppy table-setting and nothing else. 

The next story is A Song of Words written by Tauriq Moosa with art by Jason Lenox again. It’s a baffling two page story about a guy meditating in a library while a floating lady appears and then mental stuff happens. It’s a bit like reading a metal song. I was totally lost. 

Joseph Freistuhler writes and draws The Vault, the best story in the comic. Set in the final days of WW2, some American GIs go looking for Nazi gold in a vault and discover cosmic horrors. 

It’s a lot more coherent than the story I remember seeing in Ugli Studios Presents #2 so Freistuhler’s developed as a writer - you can tell what’s happening here. It’s just… meh? The story’s not terribly interesting and feels like it’s been done before - Nazis and the supernatural should be a horror sub-genre! I’m not really sure what Freistuhler was going for with this story. What were we supposed to feel at the end? It’s still very surface-level writing with no real depth. It’s better than the Top Trumps story and… whatever the hell that second one was, but it’s still not great. Art’s still decent though. 

The final comic is a one pager printed on the back cover: This is a Sad Comic written by Brendan Hykes with art by Jason Lenox. It’s even more throwaway than the second one. A dream sequence/fantasy-esque/abstract rendering about high school friends taking drugs and killing themselves? Alright… 

Ugli Studios Presents #3 is amateur comics through and through but hey, they’re trying! They’ve got some fans as a few people backed their Kickstarter that led to this comic and that’s cool. Quality-wise though, I’m not convinced they’re a collective that’s found their voice yet. They’re a little too unfocused and rough around the edges to say they’re worth checking out. 

Until #4 appears in probably another couple years - keep creating!

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