It would probably come as no surprise that I consider the Internet to be the future of the comics industry. A combination of escalating costs and a shrinking market has badly hurt the print comic industry; indeed, if not for several spectacular movie successes, I suspect DC and Marvel would already be bankrupt. It seems only natural to me for more comics to follow the route of Phil and Kaja Foglio with Girl Genius, presenting the comic online to draw in readers and offer graphic novel compilations to those readers who want the comic in print.
Thus when DC Comics decided to launch Zuda Comics as its webcomics division, I was somewhat interested. However, when it was obvious this was just a mechanism to draw in webcartoonists to draw for them, rather than posting existing DC Comics online to drum up added business, I lost interest. And while I occasionally received requests for reviews from several potential Zuda comics, I held off on reviewing as the comics had not reached what I consider to be critical mass (over 35 updates) when I’ll consider reviewing them. (The few times I’ve bent the rules on this policy inevitably result in the comic going on hiatus soon after.)
One of the comics to emerge from the competition and get a contract to continue its storyline is the science fiction/post apocalyptic comic Gulch, which follows the story of Clarabelle Dust, a spoiled rich socialite and terrorist striking out against the world that had given her everything on a silver platter. It is this dichotomy that first attracted me to Gulch; of a young woman who has everything and yet lashes out at the world around her out of a sense of guilt and self-loathing that she has so much… when so much of the world has nothing.
The world of Gulch is an interesting mixture of delusions or fantasies (with Clare often living in a green lush world until she’s forced to interact with those around her), biological weapons (I lost any sympathy for Clare and the revolutionaries when they turned a small dog into a biological bomb to kill dozens of people at a boutique, as well as an exploding pig dropped from a highway overpass), and naturally a good dose of government corruption and decadence. Considering the story takes place in the year 2092, the world appears fairly familiar, with buildings and vehicles that don’t look out of place in the early 21st century (though considering the story takes place after the world went to pot, I suppose the lack of flying cars is understandable).
Interestingly, Gulch has avoided the information dumps endemic to far too many comics. While this leads readers to muddle through and piece together what’s going on from snippets in the comic, it can also leave those readers used to having everything explained on a silver platter confused as to what’s going on. While we hear of instances of “police brutality” (Clare mentions killing a cop who was beating up on a bum), we don’t really see any instances of brutality or oppression. As such, it’s difficult to garner much sympathy for this revolutionary movement, outside of the fact they care enough for their own that they try to rescue a captured comrade.
Given more time, it’s likely that Gulch’s story will be fleshed out better. We may be given a glimpse of the world outside of the artificial island of Torros, and of the apparent collapse of civilization that is hinted at in the comic. However, when you consider each “season” of Zuda’s contracted comics run for 60 updates, I have to wonder if we’ll be given that opportunity. An added problem lies in the use of Flash to navigate through the comic; with DSL I would suffer load-times of half a minute or so. I have to wonder if the comic would be worth reading for readers on dial-up. Still, if Matt and Gabe White are able to increase reader sympathy for the resistance and expand on the reasons behind the terrorist attacks, then Gulch would be well worth reading, rather than the curiosity it currently is.