The entity summoned at the end of The Shadow Glass issue two struts about and casually puts other characters in their respective places. This makes up most of the issue. The being (she‘s either a demon or angel) is too clever and genre-savvy to simply start dressing her conjurers down. She has every character figured out and she plays them well. It's unclear if she has elaborate, inscrutable plans or if she simple revels in the game of intimidation.
The Shadow Glass is still positioning its characters for some unknown purpose, so it can feel like the story is spinning its wheels in the narrative mud. There are several moments where the tension threatens to break, but only holds because someone in the issue just decides not to progress. It feels a bit like the story is paced to fit the modern trade paperback standard of six issues. And that's fine, so long as the narrative isn't rushed or hobbled by the format. I’m saying I have concerns. As our players are headed toward disaster, I hope we don't have to sit through a cascade of preventable momentum-killing side tracks or, conversely, a mad dash toward an unsatisfying finish. That concern aside, this issue works well as an apparent turning point.
This issue doesn't paint protagonist Rosalind in a particularly positive light. It has the atmosphere of a horror movie, in that you're watching your POV character give in to their base urges, making very stupid choices. Ultimately, Rosalind’s naive and limited ambition allows her curiosity to run wild. The entity shifts its appearance to better accommodate the desires of its summoners and her seductive moral ambiguity cuts right to the core of Rose's dissatisfaction, distrust, and generally adventurous nature. Eventually she comes to Rosalind wearing rebelliously masculine clothing, pawing at the young woman and promising the world. And our protagonist exhibits so little guile in dealing with her situation it's a bit frustrating.
Aly Fell uses this narrative turning point to indulge in some exquisite eroticism. And it thankfully avoids feeling voyeuristic or exploitative. The moment in question is frightening and intoxicating, illustrated in a way that highlights how the characters are affected on a personal level. And, though this event's impact on the larger narrative feels easy to predict, I think the inexorable pull that brought the book to this point plays into the story's wider purpose.
Great fiction tends to transcend its genre to express something poignant about being human. In that respect, The Shadow Glass is less about breaching supernatural veils and more about the almost universally terrible transition into adulthood. Issue three in particular is frank and beautiful in its depiction of the terrifying confusion of awakening sexuality.
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The Shadow Glass #3 Writer/Artist: Aly Fell Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 5/18/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital