“The Zaucer of Zilk #1”

The Zaucer of Zilk #1 of 2
(w) Al Ewing, Brendan McCarthy
(a) Brendan McCarthy
(colors) Len O’Grady
IDW Comics, 3.99, 32 pages

And with the following words, co-author and scripter Al Ewing sets us off on a journey….
“And not forgetting you, dear reader—about to take the first step into the strange universe of Zilk and shape it with your eyes and mind into something personal to you and you alone. From this point, we can’t follow. You’re on your own”.

One of the things that continues to amaze me about the comics medium is when a story reminds me that there are truly no limits. The no limitations aspect of comics is by no means novel as even in turn of the century comics such as Windsor McCay’s “Little Nemo” (a strip over 100 years old), imagination and creativity ran unbound, and still holds incredible influence on a number of mediums. Unfortunately, much of the mainstream comics market continues to just skate the edges of imaginative possibility, probably due to not wanting to scare or intimidate people by being TOO out there. But after consumption of such comics over a certain amount of time, one grows hungry for more. Part one of A Zaucer of Zilk feels the wanting in all the best ways. While I could talk about many aspects of the comic (keeping in mind there is still an issue to go), I want to focus on two points of interest in this first installment: The exploration of context in comics, and a commentary about how we ingest our information.

The idea of context in comics

Let us back up and consider the quote from Al Ewing I opened the review with. Ewing and McCarthy want you to enjoy Zilk on the level they are creating it, but they are asking the reader to take ones time and find the things in it in which the reader wishes to connect. Often in comics scholars, reviewers, and creators all agree on the same thing: that the medium is unique in that it provides the reader with their own vessel for filtering the imagination through, and that comes either individually with the images and words or together; It is not about creating instant imagination, rather it is about presenting a world that one can get lost in, finding the initial images and words and then letting ones own mind fill in perhaps the gutters twixt the panels or even the actions implied off page. Those implications also extend into the “shaping” Ewing mentions, and I cannot help but see at this point in my life the “shape” of the creators taking time in the story to make the reader think about what perhaps a societal ill currently is.

A commentary on how we ingest our media

Late in this first installment, the Zaucer, who has set out on his quest, has to travel in-between the realities in order to get where he is going. The in-between is :

“…where the cloud drifters gather.Toothsome fellows indeed! Oh, they seem harmless enough–cloud potatoes. Filling their days gazing lazily into the infinite  dimensions dotting their fluffy paradise. But they hunger deeply for entertainment…and as consumers they feel entitled to a piece of what they watch”.

Each toothsome creature floats on an isolated cloud bank (think about e-clouds), propped in front of compact screens ( tablet sized devices) scrolling, watching and making commentary upon what they see, with a handy beverage nearby. The world whizzes by them, the paradise of bright colors and infinite possibility, but yet, they stay attached to that which is just directly in front of them, living and commentating upon the realities (reality tv perhaps?) they are viewing, realities they believe are the “sort of things we like to watch here—Action! Danger! not a load of dreary nonsense”.

Is this a correct interpretation? Maybe. That is the beauty of what McCarthy and Ewing suggest we get from Zilk, that it is everything or nothing for us, it all depends on the mood you are in or perhaps when you read or re-read it. And make no mistake, The Zaucer of Zilk will hold up for many, many reads.