Review: The Shadow Glass #1

The Shadow Glass has a lot going for it. It's a tale that manages to grab your attention with both its premise and execution. The book is excellently paced, seamlessly told in three roughly equal parts. After being introduced to the titular Shadow Glass as well as witnessing this book's brand of magic -- all beautifully and skillfully fitting within the first third of The Shadow Glass -- we're introduced to the swashbuckling student of John Dee, Rosalind.

The Shadow Glass #1Rosalind is your typical precocious young woman, above the grime of her surroundings. Set apart from others by her look and demeanor. She dresses wildly inappropriately for her expected gender role. In fact, she looks like an Assassin's Creed side character. This is actually quite appropriate given her special origin, an origin full of intrigue and betrayal, drama, tentacles, and tragedy. She seems very fond of her sword, as well. The books final moments indicate she's need it.

Aly Fell's illustrations are most obvious among the comic's positive qualities. The delicate and detailed art works well in building a world that characters inhabit rather than simply appear within. I can't attest to the accuracy of the costuming or architecture (or the flowery speech, for that matter) but it all comes together with suitable detail from frame to frame. And the page to page consistency of Fell's art can't be understated. Fell uses hatching with restraint, applying the technique only when appropriate to the scene, leaving most of the book very clean and, well, just pretty. Each character bears unique physical features and gestures as a well as particular dress and hair styles. A lesser book would need to exaggerate these qualities to ridiculous extremes to help you distinguish between individuals. Or, less interestingly, a similarly realistic rendering of human forms could be stiff and boring. Here, the art gets out of the writing's way and, when appropriate, the writing allows the art to speak.

The Shadow Glass #1 is an excellent opening issue. It displays an infectious understanding and appreciation of the comic medium that can't be denied. The storytelling takes familiar hero's journey concepts and, without mindless referential self-indulging, crafts a genuinely engaging narrative. I only hope future issues can keep to this level of quality.

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The Shadow Glass #1 Writer/Artist: Aly Fell Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/23/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital