A look at some graphic novels by local artist and writer, Zint.
More compact but entertainment-packed graphic novels by Malaysian writer-artist Zint and published by Gempak Starz this week, with the emphasis on somewhat unusual friendships/alliances.
There’s a salaryman who meets a punk rocker and becomes one himself, an X-games exponent buddying up with an unconventional warrior-monk(ey), and a hacker/virtual reality defender who becomes pals with a kooky bunch of high school students.
The trappings of this follow-your-heart tale might be a challenge to accept for the more conservative-minded, but the passion of the main characters for their chosen field – punk rock – is strongly evoked and cuts across many boundaries.
Cal, a downtrodden bank clerk, finds his calling in life after meeting punk rocker Zes. Eventually, he breaks free from the shackles of his salaried, bullied existence and forms the band Nailhead with Zes and an enthusiastic girl drummer named Chee.
They refuse to bow to the demands of society and the music industry, and start performing in public for free – which gets them arrested by J. Jonah Jameson. Well, at least a cop who’s drawn like ol’ JJJ.
Said to be based on Zint’s own experiences, Hero is full of characters who defy convention, who go up against the world and the odds in pursuit of their dreams. Like 2 Dudes (see below), it also features a more grounded/practical character paired with a freewheeling, freeloading rebel who can seem a bit overbearing initially. (Hmm, so which one were you, Zint?) Once their friendship hits its stride, though, the story becomes that much more interesting.
Strikingly drawn characters and varied panel layouts keep things flowing nicely, visual-wise. The punk rock aspects of the book are perhaps the shakiest, and the song lyrics seem out of sync (something lost in translation, perhaps). But the characters are likeable and it’s nice to see how things turn out for them.
2 Dudes & 2 Dudes For Life
Set in Zint’s slightly left-of-centre Malaysia, this two-book “teen saga” is about the unconventional friendship between Jerry, an X-games fanatic, and Slay, a ... tattooed warrior. To put it mildly.
In Slay’s own words, he’s “50% handsome, 50% badass, 100% b*lls-to-the-wall awesome”. They meet after an X-games tournament that Jerry wins, when Slay saves him from a beating at the hands of the resentful runner-up and his gang.
That begins their friendship, with Slay promising to be besties with Jerry in return for some X-games lessons. Somehow though, their friendship takes a back seat to their interaction with a never-ending stream of supporting characters.
They travel around the country, sticking in one place long enough to set things right, picking up “strays” (as Obi-Wan Kenobi might call them), before moving on.
2 Dudes has some zany moments as well as some heart-tugging bits that seem out of step with the misadventures of this mismatched duo, but the overall tone of the comic is easy-going and I found myself getting quite absorbed in the stories.
2 Dudes For Life continues the story of their travels, with the Dudes and their posse getting mixed up with an Ipoh graffiti gang known as Street Monkey. This stuff isn’t always politically correct but it’s consistently readable.
Winning characters and some funny, OTT action scenes make this series my favorite of the batch reviewed here. For the RM10.50 price, these volumes offer a lot more reading time and pleasure than your typical RM13+ mainstream US comic.
This tale is set in a near future land where virtual reality landscapes are the battlegrounds for sanctioned and renegade hackers kitted out in slick cyber-armour, with the fate of governments and corporations in the balance.
Slash is one such sanctioned hacker, although he has a “day job” as a harassed high school student. He possesses martial arts skills and even seems to know the Vulcan nerve pinch, but Slash is usually content to play the victim.
There’s a reason too: he is something of a savant, with no idea how he acquired his crazy-mad hacking skills or where he came from. This mystery unravels gradually during the course of the story.
The cyberspace adventures are presented as brief interludes to the real-world tale – as they should be – and mostly consist of Slash duking it out with enemy hackers.
Whenever he’s out of the Matrix, so to speak, things revolve around his schoolday escapades, making new friends (even if one or two of them have strange persecution complexes), and eventually confronting the mystery of his origins.
I didn’t find this one quite as absorbing as the other Zint books handed to me for review. The riddle of Slash’s past does add a welcome twist to the story which otherwise seemed to be getting into a bit of a rut by that point.
- These and other books by Zint are published by Gempak Starz (www.gempakstarz.com) and available at bookstores nationwide.