Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garrett
Colours: Antonio Fabela
Lettering: Simon Bowland
Release Date: 31st March 2021
When we are children, our parents teach us not to be afraid of the dark, that the monsters and terrors we imagine shrouded in shadow don’t exist. But what if they’re wrong? Zadie Lu and her friends are about to find out just how wrong when the shadows of their home town come alive with murderous intent.
I like this story, and I honestly wasn’t expecting to after reading the blurb on the Image website. For me, this first issue of Shadecraft appears to be very heavily influenced by the works of John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and there’s an interesting mixture of the feel of the 1978 Halloween film and 1996’s Scream in the setup of the characters and the world they inhabit. I was also reminded of Cullen Bunn’s writing, particularly Harrow County, and something of Scott Snyder’s Wytches.
Zadie is a regular teen with the usual hang-ups, problems with dating, and high school horrors to deal with, but also must contend with the tragedy of her brother being in a coma and under round the clock care at home. This provides a great vehicle for playing on psychological torture as much as supernatural horror, and I can see this being used to manipulate the characters moving forwards in the series.
Character wise, Zadie’s group of friends are the fairly typical group of, if not exactly misfits, then certainly those taunted by the “popular kids”. We don’t really get much interaction with those popular kids in this issue, but what we do get certainly leaves us wishing for something horrible and messy to happen to them. Zadie’s family are again typical, with her father really reminding me of Sailor’s father Charlie in Wytches, whereas her mother seems to be very cold. That said, I can’t imagine what the stress and trauma of having to provide constant care for a son that will likely never recover from his coma would do to someone.
I like the idea of using shadows as the antagonist, as it’s one of the most primal, unexplainable and human fears you can experience. I’ve recently been re-watching the X-Files and saw an episode that explored this idea (albeit using Dark Matter as the ultimate cause in this case), and there are many other stories that explore the idea of a bogeyman hiding in the shadows but there aren’t many I can think of where it is the shadows themselves that are the monster. We are instinctively afraid of the dark, or if not necessarily the dark then certainly shadowy depths that could hide something. I know as a very young child there was an alcove in my bedroom that always seemed unnaturally darker than the rest of the room at night and it used to terrify me, and I guess it’s the same type of fear that I get in deep water, if you can’t see into those inky depths, you have no idea what might reach up and pull you under… We’re not so much afraid of the shadow as what it might conceal.
The artwork in this issue is pretty good. The lighter moments are captured well, there are some nicely done moments where the facial expressions carry the panel, something which can often fall flat in the wrong hands. The “shadows” themselves are awesome, the way they’re depicted on the page is very reminiscent of Tyler Crook’s work on Harrow County. I love forests and woods; I walk them regularly as I’m lucky enough to have several nearby that I can visit, but a wood at night is another beast entirely. At night, everything is claustrophobic and close, and the smallest rustle of a leaf, a worm making its way across the forest floor at night is surprisingly loud as leaves and twigs crackle in its path. Towards the end of this issue, we get some really good depictions of how claustrophobic the woods can be at night and there is a great sense of things closing in on Zadie as we come to a satisfyingly tense end to the issue, and an interesting reveal that, again, reminds me of Harrow County without being derivative.
Obviously I don’t have the benefit of having seen the whole story yet, but for me, this sits in what I would class as YA horror, the PG13 end of the market. However, that isn’t to say that “mature” horror fans can’t also find something to enjoy in this series.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek