Well, I'm sure some of you have had a chance by now to swing by Zuda Comics and check out some of the new material they've got. I made a point of reading through all of them to see what's working and what isn't, and generally see the execution of the various ideas noted in the original solicitations.
As of this writing, there appear to have been a little over 3,000 people who've stopped by to actually read the comics. The most widely viewed so far has been Alpha Monkey and the least viewed is Leprenomicon, which has less than half of AM's viewership thus far. I think this is reflective of the basic concepts presented, as it seems to follow what people were saying excited them thematically before the actual launch.
More interesting -- and more relevant to the contest aspect of the experiment -- are the votes cast thus far. Not everyone who's viewed the comics have voted (it appears that only about 2% of viewers have actually voted so far) but there are certainly some titles that seem to be pulling out to an early lead. Most notable is High Moon with the most votes, followed by Dead in the Now and Battlefield Babysitter. Also worth noting is that High Moon has the largest percentage of votes per views, suggesting that it's not only the best of these comics (in the eyes of viewers, at any rate) but also the most satisfying in terms of delivering on the promise of the original solicitation.
There are, it seems to me, some very clear and obvious factors working in High Moon's favor. First and foremost, readers are dropped right into the story. Some of the comics, such as Raining Cats and Dogs, have started off slowly by only giving readers some expository background. That's a difficult road to take in the short form of webcomics, and I think the patience required for such a story will prevent it from being successful in this decidedly finite contest set-up.
Another factor working in High Moon's favor is that we're given several characters (and indeed, they are already characters, not just bodies with names attached to them) to work with up-front, without over-burdening us with an excessively large cast. The Dead Seas and The Enders only give readers two characters each, and there's not much in the way of characterization so far -- plenty of action, but not a whole lot to identify with. Granted, there's not boatloads of characterization in High Moon yet either (we're only eight pages in to any of these stories, after all) but the actions and dialogue speaks to who we're dealing with right away.
On a more technical note, it strikes me that the most successful of these comics so far with regards to storytelling and narrative are the ones who have the writer and artist as separate entities. I personally find this curious in that I'm usually drawn towards works with fewer creators. I tend to prefer the singularity of vision that comes with doing the whole thing oneself, and I find myself here seeing that the writer/artist combo does not seem as effective here -- either because the artist's scripting is stilted or the writer's graphic storytelling is clumsy.
I think the delivery system is worth remarking on as well. The comics are presented within a Flash player created (presumably) especially for Zuda. Launching any given comic will give the user a new page with the first image of the story on it, and a small toolbar allowing the user to zoom in or out, page through on a screen-to-screen basis, or jump directly to any individual page. The user also has the option of blowing up the image to take up the entire screen -- and this is, in fact, necessary to read some of the smaller text in some comics. Interestingly, there are notes early on that reference keyboard commands for the menu options, but I could not get them to work on Firefox for Windows.
The full-screen format obviously allows readers to see more detail in the comics, and can provide for a fuller appreciation of the artwork going into it. I'm not sure how many people are opting for the full-screen over the partial screen, but I know I only opened it up to full-screen when it was impossible to read the text at the smaller side -- as was the case with High Moon. I'm left to wonder, then, whether that works in favor of a given comic or not. Those comics who used larger fonts, making it easier to read when at the smaller size may have contributed to my not liking those stories as much simply because I wasn't looking that closely at the artwork.
I have my personal favorites on Zuda so far, but I'll continue to read all of the stories for the time being, at least to see how the various creators work on the project over the longer term. Obviously, doing eight pages is considerably different than an extended series of pages over the course of a whole month. We'll see how things go, and I'll probably report at least once or twice more as the contest progresses.