For those of you not playing along at home, Zuda Comics is still going strong, with a new set of comics every month to be tested and voted on by the masses. Aside from the handful of previous winners' comics I follow, I try to check out the new ones to see what strikes my fancy. I see one every two or three months that I like at all, and about half of those are received well enough to continue as an ongoing work. There's one this month that I quite enjoy and, so far, looks like it's being well-received, so I thought I'd mention it here.
Dwight MacPherson came up with the idea for Sidewise when his son asked him what "steampunk" was. He developed the character Adam Graham, who's accidentally sent back in time to Victorian England. However, he quickly realizes that it's a different England than he'd read about in history books, as it's populated with tanks and robots and chemical lasers. Although it does give me some vague recollections of the TV show Voyagers!, it's mainly limited to the use of the timepiece as a teleportation device and the kid-out-of-his-own-time notion.
MacPherson's story so far (each Zuda competitor only gets eight pages to work with initially) is solid, and provides a clear set-up, establishing the main characters, their relationships, and the overall setting. I've read enough of his work now to come to expect a certain level of quality, and he doesn't disappoint here.
The art duties are handled by Igor Noronha, whose work I am wholly unfamiliar with. The storytelling is clear, and handled well. There's some nice touches with the art (Ms. Hopping running along the wall, for example) and the basic designs work well enough (I do like the vague resemblance Mr. Wells has to Frankenstein's monster). I might suggest, though, that Noronha hasn't completely absorbed the steampunk aesthetic yet.
I think there are two things working against Noronha here. First, his backgrounds do little to establish location. Aside from a single gaslamp, there's little to suggest the scene takes place in 1902; the buildings and backgrounds are very non-descript and lack much detail. The coloring does help somewhat, with a hazy sepia feel overall, but the buildings, when they're shown, could be almost anywhere/when. The other aspect that doesn't seem to be helping is... well, let me provide an example...
The panel on the left works, I think, because we see a reasonable amount of detail in Ms. Hopper's gauntlet and sidearm. There were lots of unnecessary fiddly bits with Victorian era designs, and that shows up here. But in the second panel, the decreased size of the figures doesn't allow for such detail and the same character looks like she could've have stepped right out of Halo. Granted, the tinier figures don't allow for as much detail, but it seems to me that there's only just enough in the larger designs to convey the point and the smaller ones, combined with the aforementioned backgrounds, make many of the scenes a bit too bland to qualify as steampunk.
Now, I was about to qualify that by stating that the story seems to work well otherwise, so it might be fine to just simply not define it as steampunk in the "classic" sense of the word. But, as I thought about it more, I realized that it really DOES need to be a steampunk story and the art really DOES need to convey that. The reason being that the protagonist comes from a technologically advanced society already (they have time travel) and the story needs to show a greater contrast between him and the place he's landed. He doesn't come across as out of place enough visually, precisely because the Victorian/steampunk aesthetic is too muted.
That said, I still think it's a good start to a story and one in which I'd like to see continue. Further, it far outshines the other Zuda competitors this month. But don't take my word for it, check out Sidewise for yourself!