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It’s been a long time since the last issue of Z-Girl: Odyssey came out, and while I’ve never raved about the title, with this issue I realized I missed several things about it much more than I thought I would. I still have my nitpicks and more critical critiques, but as long as you read the last two issues, Z-Girl: Odyssey is one of those indie titles that stands out. The artwork is a breathe of fresh air, and while the story can be confusing and boring if you fail to get invested Z-Girl will keep you awake with some funny quips and horrifying visions.
There are three storylines going on at once. In the past, previous tiger members are searching for their latest addition, an imprisoned sorcerer. In the present, a girl imbued with a tiger spirit is following the path to embracing her spirit and in the main story Z-Girl and the tigers travel to the Paradise of the Immortals to find a tablet mysteriously linked to Z-Girl’s past. After another vision, Z-Girl decides it must be her destiny to find the tablets and stop whatever evil is brewing – and there is a lot of it!
So, to start off with a nitpick, I would have appreciated a short recap in this issue. The character descriptions are a nice feature, but I still had to go back a bit and refresh myself with the last two issues to keep track of the story. While a preview can be seen as an unnecessary luxury for people who have been reading since the beginning, it would be a nice grab for new readers. If you have not read the first two issues of Z-Girl, pick them up first before reading this issue… after you read my reviews of Z-Girl #1 and #2 of course.
The story continues with more flashes to the past tigers and another tablet-based present day adventure. The flashback takes great steps towards setting up the past, but by the end of this issue it feels like there is still so much more that could be explored. In the main story, we have another scene with the director and his associate which feels in parts like recycled, with the director quipping and than rubbing his nose in frustration. But again, we thankfully avoid techno-babbling scientists and are instead given much clearer dialogue. The third bit with the new tiger is very short and gives off one of the two cliffhangers in this issue. More of a balance needs to be had between the stories. All of them have potential, but right now they seem to be in a battle for panel space. The third story with the new tiger could’ve been dropped altogether, but it’s too late for that now. Hopefully there is a stunning twist involving that story – or at least an inception with the main plot coming soon.
It’s almost impossible to remember characters names, especially the more complex ones. The tigers also continue to be indistinguishable, with the exception of Black Tiger, and that’s only because he takes part in most of the dialogue with Z-Girl, who is by far the most entertaining and funny character in the book. I rarely remember she’s a zombie. Though the fact that she looks more like Mystique than a zombie could have something to do with that too…
While Z-Girl: Odyssey does have some creative elements, it’s mostly in the design and not the story. I don’t think I’ve appreciated Kirk Manley’s artwork and now his colors as much as I have now after reading months of DC Comics waiting for the third issue of Z-Girl: Odyssey. There are still quirks in the artwork that I don’t care for which appear to be a staple in this series, like the over shading of faces, and some questionable faces (specifically a terrible disproportion between Z-Girl’s eyes in one particularly painful panel), but the style is really growing on me. In the main story, there is a great sequence where Z-Girl has a terrifying vision, which uses some great dark imagery and is the most intense moment in the history of the mini-series. The character designs continue to be a very unique mish-mash of creative ideas. What I like even more are that the backgrounds are rarely neglected. This does make the miniscule number of times the background is lacking more apparent, but at least we’re never subjected to the dreaded uncreative speed lines, with one exception.
In this issue, artist Kirk Manley takes on the often underappreciated task of coloring this issue, instead of the colorist on the last two issues, Euan Mactavish. Like Mactavish, I love how the colors look like they were actually colored and not computer generated like most of the artwork seen on the market. Both also have the great ability to make skies enjoyable to look at with wonderful shading techniques. Manley, for example, has a gorgeous yellow and brown blended sky (which doesn’t sound the least bit appealing or realistic in text) outside the Paradise of the Immortals. Yet ironically, while I can compare a lot of features about how Manley’s colors are similar to his predecessor Mactavish, these colors are given much more of a chance to shine thanks to the always present backgrounds, unlike the previous issue which had a lot of solitary colors hovering lonely behind the characters in the panels. Overall, the colors turn out to be better than in the last two issues, mostly thanks to the artwork since the coloring style surprisingly mimics quite well Mactavish’s coloring style.
The artwork and colors are what make this book stand out for me. Other than Z-Girl’s lovable kick-butt and laid-back joking attitude and her intense vision, most of the characters in this issue are forgettable and could use more time to be developed through dialogue. More focus needs to be put on one storyline, but as a mini-series this will be a difficult feat since it has already hindered itself with three very distinct stories that need to intersect soon (next issue, please?). This series is shaping up to have some great artistic moments and a very likeable heroine that could catch on with many readers – hopefully more then just that can be developed in the future, if not by the end of this five issue mini-series.
The creators of Z-Girl will be at NYCC, booth 2161! Check out their preview video of Z-Girl: Odyssey #3 below!