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Shadow Chronicles #1

Posted: Monday, November 17, 2008
By: Shawn Aldridge

Robert Heske, Chad Jones, Neal Marshall Stevens
Diego Yapura, R.B. Silva, Rafael Ortiz, Jorge Blanco, Chandran
Studio 407
EDITOR's NOTE: Shadow Chronicles #1 is in November's Diamond Previews and is currently available for pre-order.

Shadow Chronicles #1 is less an anthology and more a preview book. It contains previews (each roughly 10 pages) for three future series; The Night Projectionist, Nether World, and Demon Squad. Each has it's own slant on the horror genre.

I must say, unlike some preview books, there is some substance here. I do admit I was expecting self-contained short stories, but nonetheless the stories here serve their purpose -- giving you enough to know whether you'll want to pick up the series themselves. Each story also has a natural cliffhanger ending.

The first story is The Night Projectionist, a vampire story set inside an old movie theater. A group of movie-goers hoping to watch a marathon of Dracula movies find themselves locked in with a group of vampires. The 10 page preview does a good job of setting up the series. It gives you a bit of back story with story, starting off in Hungary in the year 1709. It then jumps ahead to present day, introducing the major players and setting.

Heske's writing is nice and crisp. It never feels forced or rushed in that "How much can I shove into 10 pages" way. The dialogue feels natural and never clunky. He does an excellent job of setting up tension and subplots that will play out in the series itself.

Artist Diego Yapura has an excellent style for this story. It has elements of old school EC Comics, while maintaining a modern feel. Along with colorist Jorge Blanco, he does a good job of setting the perfect mood for the story. All the non-character elements, i.e. backgrounds, are well detailed with no shortcuts taken. Solid rendering throughout.

Overall, the Night Projectionist entry did exactly what it should in a case like this -- make me interested in reading more of the story. It teased the premise and characters enough for any reader to make the same decision. It was definitely the most solid of the three.

Next up was Nether World, an alien zombie space opera, written by Chad Jones with art by RB Silva. A small group of humans are sent to an alien planet to investigate the death of every living thing on said planet. A reluctant scientist and her partner are pulled into the mission.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this one quiet as well as Night Projectionist. That's not to say it was bad or poorly done, just not as strong. Unlike Projectionist, this didn't give a solid indication of what the overall conflict would be. I would have had no idea that zombies would be involved had I not read the synopsis, which I prefer not to do. Just having read the story itself, I would have assumed it was more a mystery -- What killed an entire planet?

Beyond that, it wasn't a bad read. Jones does a good job of setting up some tension/conflict, both internal and external, for the main character, Emily. She's a pacifist by nature, a scientist by trade, and now a "soldier" by force. We're given enough of her back story to know her and care, which is a difficult thing to do in in 10 pages. He also does a good job of not going overboard with the tech-speak, which is the downfall of many a sci-fi writers.

As for the art, it was a bit too inconsistent for me. In places it was great, in others not so much, at least as far as character rendering goes. The overall storytelling, on the other hand, was fine. Panel layouts were nice and never confusing.

I do think the premise could over up some fun and interesting takes on the zombie genre. My problem is that I'm not sure this preview gave me enough to want to see if it happens in the series.

The last story in the book was Demon Squad, the story of a covert ops group specializing in the paranormal. The team is made up of mercenaries, mystics and scientists. This one was the weakest of the bunch for me. Though it did a decent job of setting up the premise of the story, I felt the art and dialogue sometimes undercut the overall execution.

Writer Neal Marshall Stevens seemed to force too much of the dialogue. Too many of the one-liners came out rather clunky. As Kenny Rodgers said, you have to know when to show them, know when to hold them. They just didn't feel natural. I will give him credit for pacing the story well. Never felt as if too much was trying to be conveyed in too little space.

The art by Rafael Ortiz was overall nice. Good storytelling. Nice layouts. But there was a bit of inconsistency in the faces and some poses seemed a bit awkward. One character in particular I couldn't tell whether it was a man or woman.

Again, their was enough of the premise here for a reader to make a determination as to whether to buy the series or not. I just wish the dialogue and art had been a bit more solid.

Overall, Shadow Chronicles #1 is worth a read. It's a good teaser for the future series. There's enough substance here to make it worth a look, as none of the stories come off as simple trailers. It reads as a collection of first issues, and at $3.99 that's a pretty good deal.



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