A few weeks ago, I reviewed a Beatles audio comic that was pretty good. That made me interested enough to pick up another iPad comic from the same publisher, ROK Comics: ZeZi: The Story So Far, which is about a rap group from Birmingham, England. I had never heard of Zezi, so while the Beatles comic evoked nostalgia, this was exposing me to something new. However, the Beatles comic also had a rich assortment of archival material to draw on; this one, not so much. Even so, the comic could have been a lot better.
ZeZi: The Story So Far, which is free, looks like pretty much every bio-comic in the world, with passable full-color art and a story that picks out a few significant moments in the group’s history without really tying them together. Like the Beatles comic, this is an audio comic, with the members of ZeZi themselves reading their lines. But there is much less to it. The comic is only seven pages long. The audio does include plenty of ZeZi’s music, which is good for setting the scene, but the info boxes just contain fan-magazine type information about the band members. And while the videos in the Beatles comic are interhesting archival material, the videos for ZeZi are simply minimally animated versions of the panels. An actual video of the group in action would have added a lot.
This comic also falls into one of the pitfalls of audio comics, which is that they are more like people reading lines than acting. The actors bring a suitable amount of inflection to their lines, but in dramatic scenes, such as when headliner BC Da Bossman’s father is shot, voices alone don’t convey the drama of the scene. One would expect screaming, sounds of people rushing around, and sirens, but the only sound effect is the gunshots. Some things are better left alone, and this scene is one of them.
At the end of the comic the reader is brought to a page of links, none of which seem to be actually live, but touching the page brings up a ZeZi video, “Away.” Readers also have the option to purchase a ZeZi single and unlock an exclusive video. I didn’t like the fact that the price wasn’t revealed until you actually click to buy, but as it was only 99 cents, I went ahead and bought it. The purchase pops you out of the app to iTunes, and there doesn’t seem to be any simple way to get back to the app afterwards; you have to exit iTunes and re-open the app. This could have been better integrated. And while I won’t squawk about something that cost me only a dollar, the production values on this video were noticeably worse than those of “Away.”
Another annoying aspect of this video is the product placement. ZeZi shills for Oval Vodka, and it was hard to escape—one of the band members mentions it as his favorite drink in an info box, and the last page of the comic is basically an Oval ad—a drawing of the guys standing around drinking, with a bottle of Oval prominently displayed in the center of the picture. And in the video, two of the members of ZeZi are rather showily holding bottles of Oval.
So, it’s a free comic and you get what you pay for. In this case, I got about 15 minutes of entertainment out of it, and now I know about ZeZi—or at least, I know the authorized version.
A former book editor and newspaper reporter, Brigid Alverson started MangaBlog to keep track of her daughters¹ reading habits and now covers comics and graphic novels for Comic Book Resources , School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Robot 6, and MTV Geek. She also edits the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. Brigid was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards. Send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org