I’ll be honest, I’ve been ducking a Zenescope review for a while now. No offense to the publisher, but I’m just not a fan of comic book cheesecake (the practice of dolling-up female characters in an unnecessarily slutty way), which is pretty much the dedicated remit of Zenescope. Look, I’m not saying that T&A doesn’t have its place in comics; sex, after all, can be a powerful weapon. However, when it’s done simply for the sake of doing it, with no narrative justification, it becomes heir to that most sullied era in comic book history: the 1990's. And that, my friends, this dude shall not abide. In fact, most Zenescope books revel in a very 90's idea of creativity, with sinewy art taking the lion’s share of the load ... and the provocatively-titled book Screwed is really no exception. Saying that, apart from the usual glaring issues, which err on the side of misogyny, Screwed is not as bad as you might expect.
Like most Zenescope books, Screwed takes as its basis a classic literary story and interjects into its lead a scantily-clad “hot chick,” for whom jaunty, bouncy hijinks ensue. In this case, the story plundered is Frankenstein, as we are introduced to a nameless amnesiac woman with a sewn-together, yet (of course) voluptuous body. Her budding misadventure begins as most do: by being thrown against the wall by the throat. Her attacker is also of the Frankenstinian variety, but this hulking gentleman, who has a penchant for wearing other people’s faces over his own, is, in contrast to our heroine’s appearance, appropriately menacing.
From there, we follow Francesca-stein as she seeks to discover who she is, why she is being pursued by monsters (who appear human to the reader, as well as to everyone else in the story) and what exactly is up with this jigsaw body, which seems to be supercharged whenever she comes into contact with electricity. Throughout her escape from the hospital and her company of pursuers - which includes a shadowy doctor-type and the FBI - we see her cast in some salacious situations. Whether she finds herself in a compromising scene that looks a hell of a lot like demon rape, is drenched with water orFWAM-ed by a white van, we also get plenty of shots down her ample undead bosom. Way to fit type, Zenescope!
Speaking of which, almost from the outset, Screwed is laced with the sort of (literally) breakneck action that is typical of the publisher, and in that, it’s actually pretty great. In short order, we see someone getting his face ripped off, the same guy getting super-kicked through a window and someone else getting stabbed in the face with a syringe. Our heroine also “Stonecold Stunners” a guy to death, which I’ve long thought was possible and plan on incorporating into my own fighting repertoire. The not-so-subtle reference to Mary Shelley that follows, just in case you weren’t able to ... “piece together” ... that this is a Frankenstein story, is funny, but not very clever.
The main problem with this book is not the story, which enjoys solid pacing and an at least somewhat interesting plot; instead, it is with the painfully ham-fisted dialogue. The main baddie, for example, suffers from a lazy Joker pastiche characterization with cringe-worthy, forced situational black “comedy,” while another character - the smirking irksome FBI agent Simon Beckett - relies too much on tired, predictable “Simon says” quippage. But hey, let’s be honest, you’re not here for the writing, you’re here for the jiggly, buxom art! Well, unfortunately, even that fails to impress.
For a publisher that is so focused on anatomy, there isn’t much stock put in making these characters’ postures anything less than stiff and ungainly. The more visceral elements of the book, like the demons and the big zombie huntsman, are well-realized and gory, but that doesn’t make up for the book’s shocking lack of varied facial expression and realistic movement, making the majority of Screwed feel awkward on a few different levels.
If you’re a fan of Zenescope books, you’ll walk away happy after reading Screwed, because this is pretty much more of the same. Personally, I think that’s a shame, given what I honestly believe this company could accomplish if it sought to rise above its misguided commitment to cheesecake kitsch. It’s really not a bad concept for a story and some of its beats are really fun, but this will never become anything more than the comic book equivalent of a late-night basic cable slasher-skin flick. If that’s your bag, then hey, by all means ... get Screwed.
Creators: Tyler Kirkham, Keith Thomas
Writer: Keith Thomas
Artist: David Miller
Release Date: 6/5/13