Everything that makes Shadecraft such an engaging and heartfelt and gorgeous series is on full display for the concluding issue of the first story arc and the first book of the series, with a heavy focus on family. As previously stated Shadecraft truly embodies everything that is the best about comic books as a medium thanks to a beyond amazing creative team. Hopefully, there will be plenty more of this amazing book in the future for us all.
From the very beginning, it was clear that one of the major elements of the story of Shadecraft, which went beyond the supernatural nature of shadows or the high school setting, was that of family. The Lu family and how they cope with what is happening to them and their relationships have been the heart and soul of this book and that doesn’t change with this last issue of the story arc.
It’s only fitting that this final issue of the arc, which also happens to be the final issue of the book for the time being (more on that later), puts all the energy into the family as they rise up to rescue their captured member.
There are so many heartfelt and relatable moments in here as Joe Henderson dives deep into the relationship between mother and daughter and between siblings here. Zadie Lu’s mom Melinda seemed so standoffish and distant at the start which was attributed to the perceived loss of her son Rickie. It often led to butting heads between the two, but the revelation of Melinda’s own shadow powers and how she’s had to try to keep them under wraps really changes the audience and Zadie’s view of her.
Watching this family risk everything from each other while also being there to help one another through their dark moments definitely tugs at the heartstrings. Honestly, I could read a book about this family and their interactions for a good long time. It’s supernatural and fun and dangerous and touches on a lot of great things but the warmth and realistic family moments just make it endearing.
Not only is it a delight to read for the great family moments and story, but it’s also a gorgeous delight to look at on every page.
Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela put their everything into each and every page whether it’s a more mundane regular life moment or a big bold shadowy action piece. The emotions/body language are clear and distinct upon the faces of each character, and there are clear differences (wrinkles and marks) in the faces of the adults like the mother and agent Owens compared to the flashback views of themselves. It’s a small touch to some, but it is not something always seen in comics that treat all adults and young people as if they are timeless in ageing/looks.
The nighttime and government base setting of the issue really allows the coloring to play around. As there are the normal night colors mixed with shadows but also a lot of brighter reds and greens and other colors that pop out in different scenes that add such a surreal quality to everything that is happening. There are even some pages that play with a bright light that is appropriately bright looking but also still allow us a good glimpse of what is happening.
Simon Bowland continues to nail it with the lettering, from the shadowy words of Ricky to the perfect usage of font changes that really sell the feeling being given from the dialogue. There aren’t a lot of instances of SFX usage in the issue, the lack of which sometimes is best with some types of stories, but the few that do exist are not only perfectly placed and rendered but have a great impact.
Shadows of course play a huge part in this series, but the way they are depicted is just so fluid and dynamic. It’s not just a black or grey blob or blur, but they are semitransparent at times with a liquid-like state. It allows the shadows to flow around the page in such intriguing ways. The monstrous shadow moments that Ricky has in the issue are downright terrifying while beautiful at the same time.
Truly the last few pages and the usage of full black pages before a revelation and conclusion was a truly great touch. For a brief moment, I truly thought something was wrong with my tablet as I turned the page and found nothing but blackness. Very well done.
As noted above, this is not just the end of the first story arc/first ‘book’ of the series but also the last issue for the time being. Henderson notes at the end of the issue that this book is self-financed and was worked on during the pandemic, at a time when the comic industry was in a bit of an upheaval. Because they didn’t know how things would go (both in the industry and with this series) many involved took on other projects they are working on currently. The industry has stabilized, as much as anyone can while the world still is in a pandemic, and the book has been received quite well.
This isn’t the end of the book or story overall, just an end for the moment as they take a break. Hopefully, the time for the next parts of the story come sooner rather than later, because this book truly is a grand delight.
Shadecraft #5 is now on sale in print and digitally from Image Comics.