Shadecraft continues to throw in truly engaging and world-altering twists and turns while never once losing that core emotional family tether that makes it such a strong series. The art is still beyond gorgeous as the emotion is felt on every single page and the way that shadows and colors are played with elevates everything to beautiful new levels. Shadecraft truly embodies everything that is the best about comic books as a medium thanks to a beyond amazing creative team.
More often than not, the best stories are those that continue to propel characters and their world forward rather than keeping them in a static sort of status. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with stories that keep things mostly static/status quo but there is definitely something often far more engaging with stories that keep you on the edge of your seat with new revelations. Shadecraft #4 is one of those types, very much so.
Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, and Simon Bowland had a very intriguing first three issues that not only setup Zadie Chu and her supernatural shadow powers, as well as her shadowy brother Ricky, but also built a very interesting high school/teenage drama like setting for her to inhabit. They very easily could have kept that going and focused on stories that just worked in a teen drama/high school setting with Zadie learning her powers and Agent Owens being a mentor to her.
Instead, they took that solid foundation and threw in the next giant curveball which takes all that we already knew, and put it in a whole new light.
This move was not only one that opens up a whole slew of potential future directions for the story but serves as a really great way to bring the rest of the Chu family into the story. In the first three issues, Zadie and Ricky’s parents filled a bit of the role that parents tend to fill in many teen stories, both foil, and ally. Now they have a deeper back story and more in common with Zadie and are full participants in the story because of the ties between Owen and Zadie’s mother.
All of the new revelations and growing world are once more wrapped up in a gorgeous package that Garbett, Fabela, and Bowland continue to deliver. Recently I read Marvel Comics’ Loki: Agent of Asgard series from a number of years ago which Garbett was the artist on. The artwork there was really fantastic but it’s clear how much Garbett has continued to evolve his craft because the difference from then to now is like so many levels even greater than the already great that it was at the time.
There is a scene partway through with the Chu family at dinner that uses the same panel setup eight times across two pages. Rather than it just being a static image with the dialogue just changing and the shadows beginning to emerge before the panels change, the team goes a bit of a different route.
The emotions and body language shifts within the subsequent panels are spot on as Fabela begins to draw the colors back slowly as the shadows emerge and Bowland begins to add little flairs (bolts, italics, etc.) to the dialogue as tempers flare and emotions run hotter. It’s the typical parent and child fight mixed with the supernatural done in a truly fascinating way.
Those coloring and lettering flairs and choices from Fabela and Bowland are clear across all the pages as they really give their all to help sell what is happening. There are nice shifts not only with the bolds and italics but also with the size of fonts that Bowland uses to denote emotional and tone changes. While Fabela makes some minor tweaks to colors when the book shifts into flashback mode for a few pages, making sure it’s got that memory/flashing back type of style we think of when it comes to media portrayals.
Perhaps it’s something that was being done but just mentally wasn’t being noticed as much till now, but it feels like far more comics are choosing to go with a lot more close-up style shots rather than always sticking to full group or establishing shots. Whether it is becoming more common or was always there, it’s a nice touch either way. It allows for a showing of the aforementioned emotion and a chance to really feel that emotion, especially from this art team.
Every single piece of this series continues to get better with each issue. There is no predicting fully where this ride will be going and that’s what helps make it so engaging.
Shadecraft #4 is now on sale in print and digitally from Image Comics.