I have always enjoyed stories that drop you right in the middle of the action. The creators don’t try to pander to or coddle the audience; you have no idea what’s going on, but keep up and you’ll catch on. It cuts down the exposition and drags you right into the action. However, this is a difficult balance because if the audience is left in confusion for too long, they will become frustrated and give up. Kuzimu by author and artist Brett Uren successfully walks this fine line.
The comic follows Pt’eros, a reptilian humanoid being who was once a man, in his exploration of a purgatory-like world. He is new to the world and does not understand it or the other creatures that occupy it. He is running scared until he encounters a being in the form of a human girl. She tells Pt’eros he is destined for more, having a connection between life and death. While trying to follow his guide, Pt’eros finds himself dragged into religious gang wars, managing to make enemies with both sides.
Interspersed throughout the comic are scientific notes, memos, and even an investor pitch for I.D.E.A., an experiment that involves traversing through dimensions and has mysterious, untrustworthy, potentially extraterrestrial benefactors. All of the notes are by Professor John Knightsbridge, who seems to have gone rogue with his experimentation with I.D.E.A., which led to his mistrust of the project’s benefactors. Pt’eros’ little girl guide seems to be working for one of these sides, while there is a tactical-like team in the purgatory world that seems to be on the opposing side. Which side is the benefactors and which side is Professor Knightsbridge remains to be seen.
In addition to religious sects, extraterrestrial life, and scientist hunting Pt’eros, there is Jose Zempa, a mercenary that looks like a Mexican sugar skull with a sentient chest cavity that seems to be the cancer that killed him in the mortal world.
Above the derelict city reside Magog and Gog, two beings that look like Aztec gods, but whose names are more traditionally associated with Armageddon. These two see the world for the purgatory it is and can see the path of fate laid out for everyone involved.
The art is incredibly detailed and colorful. The dead are all tantalizing grotesque, Pt’eros’ guide is glowingly pastel and ethereal, and, my favorite, the murderous religious zealots that dress in yellow full body latex suits with butterfly rorschach masks.
The locations are distinctly varied, ranging from the destroyed Kuzimu to the white Matrix-like infinite space of the potential mysterious benefactors to Eastern Africa and modern day New Orleans. The speech bubbles are also quite distinct, using color, lettering font, and even shape of the speech bubble to differential between groups of characters, even matching the characteristics of the characters. This is especially helpful when the dialogue is from a character not featured in the panel or even shown clearly in the entire comic. The one point where this becomes a bit confusing is Magog and Gog’s matching speech bubble styles, but it is cleared up fairly quickly. I also liked the use of different panel styles throughout the comic. They are aesthetically beautiful and are a visual representation of the confusing that Pt’eros is feeling and the distorted world that is Kuzimu.
Kuzimu is intriguing and keeps you guessing, but does answer some questions by the end. However, it definitely leaves more questions than answers. While there is a lot going on and a lot of characters to keep track of, stick with Kuzimu because it is worth the initial confusion and it lends itself to a second read.