A quick history lesson and an odd note to start things off. Umbral 1 – 7 were reviewed on this very site, each month it got glowing reviews until it just stopped getting reviews, probably because after seven months of yelling “this book is great read it” they figured you either knew it was good and already bought it, or just wanted everyone to shut up and move on. Either way, there are only so many hours in a day to read and write reviews so why not share the time with other books? That is the history lesson. Now for the odd note, I haven't read Umbral since issue #1. This means I have no frame of reference of the eight issues I missed, I don't know what happened, and really just remember bits and pieces of the book I read about a year ago. So let's jump right in, shall we?
Our heroine, Rascal is in semi captivity alongside the wizard Dalone as they are suspected to be spies, maybe, possibly, I mean there's a slight chance. Really they are asked to not leave the city they are in because if they do odds are death or real imprisonment would follow. This allows the duo to work on helping control Rascal's powers, and also explore the city a bit while also giving new character Jomes (their “guard” and tour guide) some development.
A lot is shown of the characters even though not a lot happens plot wise, this feels like a hold over issue while building up the tension. And yeah there is some reveals that completely go over my head since I don't know who is who exactly, but I can feel they are important because of how the characters react. I am still pulled into the plot even though I don't know the details, the story and art work so wonderfully I don't NEED to know everything to enjoy it and feel the stakes get raised.
Which is what I enjoyed about the comic. This is issue 10 of a comic, and part four of an arc, and I was quickly able to jump on board. Sure there are spots missing as I'm not an avid reader, although I am going to be catching up since the first trade is in stores and has been on my shopping list for a while, the creators still did a good job of making a good comic that was part of a bigger story. It was well done and just pulled me in.
A lot of that was the art, which is rich and expressive. The world feels fantastical and magical and yet still grounded and real. Scenes are allowed extra time to breath and let them move at their own speed. There is a page where someone is walking into a body of water, and each panel they go deeper and deeper, and it just feels powerful because it moves slowly. You feel the steps and time move without anything being forced or bored.
Something I'd like to point out before finishing this up, after the story ends for the month, there is a letter from a teenage fan. A teenage fan who sees a lot of herself and her friends in the protagonist Rascal. There can't be much higher praise than that, and while not part of the comic per se, it speaks greater volumes then I ever could. We as an industry keep asking for more diversity in the audience and characters of comics, and Umbral is supplying both. That needs to be recognized, this is a comic with a strong, young, female protagonist who is treated like a strong protagonist first and foremost, and it is being appreciated by the audience she is most like. End, review on letter's page.
While I read this with only issue #1 as a history, I wouldn't recommend this as your entry point. Go buy the initial trade, it comes very highly recommended by the writers here. But, as an individual issue, #10 was a good comic. If you like fantasy and want something new, pick this comic up.
Scribe: Antony Johnston Illuminator: Christopher Mitten Printsmith: Image Comics Bounty: $2.99 Commencement: 10/29/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital