Shadecraft Volume 1 is published by Image Comics, written by Joe Henderson, art by Lee Garbett, colors by Antonio Fabela, and letters by Simon Bowland. Zadie Lu is your run-of-the-mill teenager. She has her struggles like everyone else. A family that is strained by the effort to care for her comatose brother, a best friend she just kissed due to a misunderstanding, and shadows that appear to be coming to consume her. You know, all ordinary high school stuff. But if you can believe it, Zadie’s life is about to get even crazier.
Comics featuring high schoolers that struggle with outlandish situations while trying to maintain the illusion of normal life has been a popular concept in comics since a particular nerdy kid from Queens got bitten by a radioactive spider. With a story setup that harkens back to so much of comics history, any new entry in the medium looking to stand out in the market has to deliver something truly special to be seen. Happily, Shadecraft Volume 1 delivers that something special. And it all begins with its amazing lead, Zadie.
From the book’s opening panels to its closing page, Zadie manages to steal the show with her mix of charm, strength, and awareness of who she is. It is this last element that makes her stand out the most from so many high school protagonists. While Zadie throws her fair share of angst-fueled tantrums throughout Shadecraft Volume 1‘s five issues, she is fully aware of when she is at fault. That doesn’t always mean she has the emotional maturity to fix what’s going wrong, but just seeing a teen character who can acknowledge someone else can be right before the situation is completely screwed is a nice change of pace. While Zadie’s self-awareness helps her character shine, it also does a tremendous service for the narrative as well.
Zadie, you see, is being chased by shadows. They come alive and take terrifying forms, only being thwarted from claiming the young lady by the timely arrival of bright lights. While the unwillingness of those around Zadie to believe these strange attacks are anything more than manifestations of stress and pent-up anxiety are understandable, the fact that Zadie isn’t the walking disaster that most stories like this would pick for their lead lends Zadie even more sympathy from the reader. Zadie feels like the sort of person that would be able to acknowledge if the situation developing around her were merely figments of her imagination.
But while Zadie is the star of Shadecraft Volume 1, I don’t want to downplay the strength of both the larger cast, as well as the overall narrative. The supporting cast in Zadie’s story is written wonderfully by Henderson. Rather than simply using them to deliver time-worn tropes, each character feels real, as they respond to their view of the ever-evolving situation. And a special shout out to Zadie’s amazing dad. One of the best parental figures I’ve read in a story for quite some time. It’s clear where Zadie gets some of her best personality traits from.
Just as the cast surprised me with how the story developed them, so too did the overall story. Where this book takes Zadie on her journey completely surprised me on more than one occasion. By the time I reached the book’s ending I almost couldn’t believe it had been a mere five issues of comics. Despite the curveballs the narrative delivers, the reader is never jarred out of the story by the various surprises that await.
The wonderful story of Shadecraft Volume 1 is delivered with the help of a first-class visual presentation. Garbett’s linework brings both the mundane and the extraordinary elements of this book to life. And while the presentation of the monstrous shades throughout the book leaves the most striking visual impression, the part of Garbett’s art I enjoyed the most in this book is the light touch the artist utilizes with the characters and emotions of the book.
From the emotions to the character designs, Garbett manages to imbue the world of Shadecraft with a look that makes the story memorable, while never coming across as over-the-top. Zadie’s unique look, for example, allows her to stand out, but never feels like something out of the ordinary for a teenager to wear. It takes a special kind of talent to make the mundane notable. And while a lot of the credit for this design goes to Garbett, one must also acknowledge colorist Fabela’s wonderful choices in the color design for this story. Their use of colors follows the line art’s lead in managing to create eye-catching looks and moments, while not resorting to overly drastic color schemes.
The lettering does a great job of delivering the tone and personality of the story’s many characters. It utilizes some well-chosen designs for certain unique characters and manages to guide the reader through the book excellently. This allows the reader to simply sit back and enjoy the tale.
So, when you bring it all together, Shadecraft Volume 1 takes what initially sounds like an all too familiar setup and manages to deliver something exceptional. Great characters, story, and art come together to deliver the opening chapter in what I hope are many more adventures for Zadie and company.
Shadecraft Volume 1 is available now where comics are sold.
Shadecraft Volume 1
Shadecraft Volume 1 takes what initially sounds like an all too familiar setup and manages to deliver something exceptional. Great characters, story, and art come together to deliver the opening chapter in what I hope are many more adventures for Zadie and company.