Shadecraft’s first issue is a pitch-perfect blend of fantasy horror and teenage coming of age drama that hits it out of the park with every single page and panel. Gorgeous and terrifying imagery and moments blend together in a way that almost cannot be described and have to be witnessed as they are.
Teen dramas, even one with supernatural elements, are a dime a dozen most times, especially in our modern era. Some can stand on their own or above the rest, while others are good, but tend to fit the mold alongside the rest of the lot. Image Comics’ Shadecraft is one that stands well above the rest.
Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, and Simon Bowland waste no time at all with this first issue, diving right in and creating a deeply compelling, character-driven and stylistically gorgeous story that grabs on and never lets go till the last page. It is no surprise really since this is the same team that was behind the very popular Skyward series that wrapped in 2019.
As the title semi-alludes to, the series overall motif stands around shadows. Not just the shadowy monsters that plague main character Zadie Lu or her newly gained shadowy protector, but also as Henderson states in the back material “the ones we live in, the ones we cast, and the ones that follow us no matter how hard we try to escape.” Tied to that they don’t shy away from the fear that the creators had in following up Skyward, and the theme also speaks to this book being born of the shadow of that series and having to find its own way out of that shadow.
Books, and really any media, focused on teenagers are often really hard to pull off because the creators often have not been teens themselves in quite some time. A lot of the readership of comics tends to be adults themselves too. Yet it is very clear when a book is truly able to hit the right notes in this regard.
As someone that works with teenagers for a living, the voices and personality and much of the actions of these characters are very spot-on in their presentation. With the exception for the whole shadow beings part, the way that the shadows follow us through life in how others treat us is true. The pains of being a teenager and the painful navigation of high school are piercingly apt.
Garbett nails every single page no matter if it is just the characters at school or at home or talking, but especially the dynamic and terrifying pages full of shadows that feel like they might come right off the page to pull you into them. Fabela enhances that feeling with his coloring which easily slips from the brighter aspects of life right into the spooky, sometimes slowly and teasingly getting darker and scarier as the pages turn. This is highly aided by the work of Bowland on letters, seamlessly incorporating the sound effects into action panels in the best storytelling way.
There are panels and pages, including a truly gorgeous and terrifying double-page spread, that are the type that are just beyond words and should be framed to be put on display for everyone to see and marvel at. This is a book that just sings and should prove to be a fulfilling read as time goes on.
Shadecraft #1 is now on sale in print and digitally.