Crozonia #1 (2005)

I want to be crazy about every independent comic I read, just out of general principles. I love the idea of creators taking it upon themselves to create something unique that’s near and dear to their hearts, often at great financial risk to themselves. That’s certainly the case with Jim Su, the creator and artist of this new color comic series. Su has been living in the undersea world of Crozonia since he imagined it during high school, over ten years ago. As Su says in his creator’s note, this "comic book has been loved, nurtured, and really, really slow cooked."

So I almost feel bad saying that the comic left me cold. There’s a different sort of bar I apply in my opinions of independent comics. We all know that most Marvel and DC comics, no matter how well written or drawn, are created mainly for a paycheck. That doesn’t mean that the creators don’t do fine, professional jobs on their comics; instead, it means that money is their prime motivation for working on that particular book. Chances are that Su will lose money on this lavish color presentation that represents his heart
and soul, so in my mind he deserves the benefit of the doubt, a little bit of extra goodwill going into the comic.

I just had trouble really getting involved with the story that Su presents. Maybe my problems lie with the sequence in the first four pages, an under-explained chase scene with some bizarre submarines and odd military characters. I’m all for comics that begin with the story in the middle of the action, but I found it confusing and off-putting to read such a bizarre and mysterious scene. Who are these people and why were they undertaking their adventure? Just a little exposition would have gone a long way.

Cut to a kind of alternate universe New York circa 1948. We known it’s New York because we see the Chrysler Building, but it’s not our New York because it’s clean, there’s a modern-looking complex on an island in a harbor in New York, and there’s a bridge behind the Chrysler Building that I’ve never seen before in photos. We meet Matt Stark, a young man working as a gofer but aspiring to a career in writing pulp novels. One night, walking home from a seedy bar, Matt finds a beautiful, young, green-haired girl in the water. Thinking she’s drowning – and forgetting he’s a bad swimmer – Matt dives in to help the girl. From there he finds himself in an amazing undersea kingdom where a great war is happening. Our girl is, of course, on the side of good, and we can imagine that in future chapters Matt will be at the center of the war effort.

This all could have been a fun, rollicking pulp adventure, but the story doesn’t quite live up to its promise. Su might be too close to the story to see the places where his comic has rough edges. The bridge behind the Chrysler Building is an obvious example. Another is a trident that’s referred to as the "Triton of Poseidon." Is the use of the wrong word intentional or is it a case where Su didn’t quite come up with the right word? And of course, why does Matt dive into the water in the first place if he can barely swim?

What overcomes all my complaints are two important factors. One is that Su is very creative. He produces inventive layouts that move the story ahead in interesting ways. The sequence that shows the girl using a mechanical mermaid’s tail is inventive and clever, and the world of Crozonia is intriguiing. Perhaps more important is the sincerity that Su brings to the table. Every page shows Su’s dedication and love for the world he created.

In the end, that’s the reason I recommend this comic. There may be better comics out on the stands, but few that show their creator’s passion as much as this one does.


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