Comics Features

REVIEW: A Tale of Shadows #1

Written by Jason Wittmer

A Tale of Shadows is a fantasy comic series which saw its first issue released earlier this year. Created by Lyndon WhiteTyler Wilson, and Paul Clark-Forse, the debut first issue was championed by a successful Kickstarter campaign. Whereas comics from independent distributors oftentimes struggle to juggle all of the demands of a premiere issue – such as establishing the characters, setting, tone, and story – “Something From Nothing” does not succumb to these problems, for the most part. Though there are still some kinks that need to be worked out, Book 1 of A Tale of Shadows is a promising start to what is expected to be collected as a five-issue series.

If I could describe this story as a mashup of two more well-known properties, I’d argue it’s in some ways an amalgam of Kingdom Hearts and Game of Thrones – and I mean that as a compliment. A Tale of Shadows casts a young loner named Felix as its protagonist. We first meet him in a dark, foreboding forest in which he’s being chased by nightmarish animals that are dripping in some sort of putrid, purple ooze. While Felix is able to flee from the creatures with the aid of some tech-based weaponry, we soon learn that this is not our protagonist’s first brush with trouble. His hometown – Wavefront – has been decimated. The cause of its destruction is the primary conflict for the first issue.

We flash back to three days prior when Wavefront was still standing. Their society is evidently faith-based; the townspeople are seen congregated in a massive coliseum, listening to the teachings of a preacher as he vehemently tells his people of his disgust for the mechanical creations of Dirac, another elder of the society. It’s in this scene that the reader is first exposed to the major themes of the series. In a place void of technology, how do people react to its introduction into their society? The preacher exclaims, “We are being separated from our true course. These ‘machines’ they build, they are not natural. They are not godly. They weaken our very souls!” Needless to say, not everyone agrees with the leader’s anti-technology beliefs.

Anyone living in the 21st century is well-aware of the societal issues caused by technological innovations. With smartphones and the internet, for example, never before has information been so accessible to the average person. Technology has in many ways fostered connection between individuals on a truly global scale; however, it has also inadvertently led to those interactions becoming less meaningful or substantive.

The strength of A Tale of Shadows is that it is unafraid to explore a theme that is more relevant than ever. The weight of the themes explored resonate in every page and nearly every panel. Whereas Felix and Dirac are enthusiastic about the prospects that the Sprectromitizer may be able to offer, the spiritual leaders of Wavefront think otherwise. Despite the protests, the first issue ends with Felix turning on the enigmatic machine. Almost immediately, Wavefront is consumed by the same oozing, pollutant waste that was seen in the opening pages. It’s clearly a metaphor for the detrimental effects which technology can have on mankind, in this case literally polluting the city.

I’m fully on board for the premise which has been established in the first issue. I’m interested to see where it goes from here, though I do have some reservations. The lack of explanation for what exactly the Sprectromitizer was intended for is, in my opinion, problematic. Dirac, its creator,  states earlier in the issue that it is designed to entertain; yet, in the end, it leads to the utter destruction of an entire city. Is he lying? Is he more nefarious then we’re initially led to believe? Though this is certainly a possibility, I don’t think this series is likely to introduce a “mad scientist” as its primary villain. Instead, “technology” as an over-arching concept seems to be the primary antagonist. I don’t think this would be a problem, if only we had a better idea of the reasonings behind the machine’s creation. Was it intended for good? What went wrong? As of now, the only way in which a person has “misused” the technology was by turning it on. If the series is going to succeed as a thorough examination of the relationship between humanity and technology, then the creators should explore how the introduction of the machine “corrupted” the townspeople.

As far as the artwork goes, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. There’s some stellar illustrations here, don’t get me wrong. The backgrounds depicting the invading darkness once the machines have been turned on, in particular, are truly a sight to behold. Some of the characters, however, are a bit too underdeveloped and sketch-like for my liking. While the primary characters are given some depth in terms of their portrayal, much of the extraneous characters do not have faces or any discernible features to distinguish them from others. The population of Wavefront is felt in numbers, but the background figures are largely one-note. Let’s hope the series continues to pull some of these figures from the outskirts and develop them into true characters in future issues.

Book1TaleofShadows-Darkness

The first issue of a new series is always a daunting experience. Luckily, the creators of A Tale of Shadows hit all the right notes and effectively set up an intriguing storyline that is sure to bring readers back for a second serving. The technological allegory is ripe for exploration, but the writer does need to give the readers some more exposition so that we can have a better understanding of the mythology in this world.

Lastly, a Kickstarter campaign for Book 2 is set to conclude on November 23rd, so hurry up and support it while you still can!

What did you think of A Tale of Shadows? Are you intrigued by the struggle between science and spirituality? Is technology beneficial to society, or a detrimental evil? Sound off in the comments, or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Jason Wittmer