By Oliver Gerlach
The Chimera Factor is one of many comics based around Barry Nugent’s Unseen Shadows books, a spectacular self-published multimedia empire covering novels, audio, and comics by a wide range of creative teams. The Unseen Shadows website lists 17 separate print comics plus a webcomic, although it’s a little hard to find information on The Chimera Factor itself due to the link on the website directing to the wrong comic. Before reading The Chimera Factor I had never heard of either Unseen Shadows or Nugent himself, and the scale of this project was quite a surprise to me. So, as a disclaimer, I’ve never read any other part of this fictional universe, and therefore all opinions here are coming from the perspective of someone completely new to Unseen Shadows.
I don’t know exactly how much Nugent curates the creative output of his legions of creators, but The Chimera Factor stands out by its cover alone as being a bit different to all of the other comics in the series; where all others choose cover designs that fit fairly well with the rusty baroque Unseen Shadows logo and branding, this has a very simple design that doesn’t really match the logo and leaves it looking a bit haphazardly pasted over the top. From the cover design, this is certainly not the Unseen Shadows comic I’d be most likely to pick up first; it’s by far the least engaging and exciting cover design of the series.
The inside of the book is, thankfully, a lot more interesting, despite having some of the same problems persisting throughout. Opening the book is a very straightforward (and very helpful) introductory page that sets out who all of the characters and shadowy organisations are; something that’s definitely needed for such a sprawling fictional universe. It’s a well-assembled page that serves to make it clear what sort of story this is going to be: one filled with sinister organisations struggling for power and control of various mystical artefacts. That’s a premise I like a lot, and it’s exactly what this comic delivers in its relatively lean 80 pages.
By the end of the book I’m still not completely certain what’s going on with some of the organisations involved, but the recap page gave enough information for that not to cause problems during the book, and I suspect that if I had read any other parts of the Unseen Shadows universe I’d have a better understanding. Read on its own terms, this delivers a fun conspiracy adventure series that feels like it wouldn’t be out of place in something like The Secret World. It’s engaging and entertaining, and most of the characters are strong and likeable to at least some level.
The art has a lot of good points; Woods has very nice clean linework and his anatomy is fantastic. There’s a wide range of body types on display and all the character design is very strong, as is the design work on various creatures and devices. The problem lies in the colouring, which is very poor. As far as I can tell, Woods colours his own work, and it’s a shame that he lets himself down so much. There’s a bizarre lack of shading throughout most (but, for some reason, not quite all) of the book that leaves it all feeling very flat and lacking in depth. This makes the characters seem like they don’t really exist on the same level as the background, removing all sense of movement and dynamism. It all looks sort of floaty and pasted together, much like the cover does. It’s a shame, as most of the individual character art and backgrounds (with the notable exception of an Aztec temple that genuinely looks like a cardboard cutout) is very good. There’s one extensive flashback scene that’s just uncoloured lineart, which is a neat idea for rendering flashbacks and, in this case, looks substantially better than the coloured majority of the book.
The Chimera Factor is a fun read with some disconcerting artistic issues, and I’d be interested to look into more of the Unseen Shadows stories, although not without reservations. It’s enjoyable enough, but the premise is better than the execution.
The Chimera Factor
Writers: Richmond Clements
Artists: PL Woods
Letters: Paul Mclaren
Publisher: Batten Press