Shadecraft is a darkly gorgeous series that never forgets the basics of the human experience as it builds a solid and lived-in world that has more and more to offer with every single turn of the page. This book grabs your attention and never let’s go as it centers around solid heartfelt relationships between characters in order to better bolster the supernatural aspects. This is a must-read type series for comic book fans.
Every good teenage story focused on a young person with amazing abilities needs the training moment, where their mentor shows them the ropes. Story tropes are often tropes because they are things that work and are the best ways to tell stories, but you take them further when you put your own spin on them. There have been many iconic situations like this through the decades, and Shadecraft #3 follows suit but does so in its own unique ways.
It’s very often said of creative endeavors that something gets better with every episode/issue/etc, and it rings extremely true with this series. Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, and Simon Bowland have built this entire world and the figures that populate it, and even with still so much to go they have made it solid, developed, and lived in. Everything is distinct and has great characterization and reason for being, nothing feels extraneous or happenstance. Events seen in prior bits come back in new ways and missed tidbits are revealed as the story progresses.
At its core, the series rests heavily upon the relationship of Zadie Chu and the shadowy manifestation of her brother Ricky, but the introduction of Special Agent Angela Owens adds another solid leg for the series. Mentor characters are far too often old white men in most things or just older men in general across stories, but Angela is not only not an older man but she is a younger Black woman mentoring a young Asian woman on her extraordinary powers. It’s a very welcome dynamic both for representation reasons and because it’s different than most of what we have gotten before.
Garbett and Fabela make this world stand out as it’s so vivid and detailed and feels real at every single turn. Every use of Zadie’s power is uniquely darkly gorgeous to behold, and even the shadows that aren’t from her powers are 100% more intriguing than most of us ever find shadows. There is a whole sequence in a carnival where Zadie points out all the creepy shadows made in such a setting and it was something that more often than not most of us would give no thought about.
Bowland completes the wonderful imagery with solid and vivid lettering that flows so easily between the normal and shadow speak. While also helping carry and deliver so many of the great emotional beats that can be found within this issue.
The entire team just works together so smoothly and together creates something that truly transcends most other similar type stories/series.
What always makes a project focused on teenagers dealing with extraordinary things stand out is not forgetting that it’s a story about teenagers. Sure, all the powers and spooky or powerful stuff is intriguing, but the stories that hit home those awkward and emotional and tough years of our lives resonate more. That’s not lost in this series as everything about Zadie’s powers are directly tied to her emotions and trying to control them, which is quite a feat when it comes to teenagers or just humans in general.
Overall, this series is a fun ride from the first to the last page every single time full of humor, pain, darkness, emotions, teenager stuff, family, and so much else. Only to leave things in a gasp-type situation at the end each time where some giant cliffhanger situation reveals itself. Making one wish that the month would hurry up for the next one.
Also, a joke about a piece of pop culture that the kids of today don’t recognize when quoted to them is a bit that is always hilarious despite how old it makes me feel at the same time.
Shadecraft #3 is now on sale from Image Comics in print and digitally.