‘The Shadow Glass #2:’ Comic Book Review

Be it pin-ups, Steampunk, or channelling Alphonse Mucha's art nouveau style, Aly Fell's art is versatile and breathtakingly beautiful. It comes as no surprise that the Elizabethan era clothing of doublets, collars, flowing cloaks, ruffles, and flourishes have been expertly illustrated by Fell in his first comic book series, The Shadow Glass in which he also created the cover and wrote the story. The second issue (of six) is out this week from Dark Horse. 

The Shadow Glass stands out from the other titles stocked at the local comic book store both in artistic style and subject matter. In a recent popOptiq interview with Fell, he mentioned that he had intended to create with the traditional medium; however, due to a time constraint, he did them digitally. His method has not diminished how stunning the illustrations are that exude attention to detail. All of his characters are recognizable from one page to the next and from issue to issue. He keeps continuity of each character's actions. For example, Thomas holds a goblet of wine in his left hand and later lifts the glass to his lips with his left hand. And, Fell is a slave – in a good way – to light source, so his shading of shadows remains true.

The majority of the story in issue two unfolds in Dr. Dee's home, and Fell keeps the panels and page layouts fresh and interesting. Fell's establishing shot communicates tension from the turned backs of Dr. Dee and Rosalind to the reader and the foreboding figures framed in the doorway to the study. This leads right into a close-up reaction shot of Rosalind meeting her biological father for the first time. Further in, Fell uses three panels across the top third of the page as Dr. Dee remembers the first time that he and Thomas tried to reach the astral plane. The tentacle appendages slither across the panels, breaking up Dr. Dee's face and framing Rosalind's mother. The grey and muted colors work well and set them apart from the rest of the page. And in one of the few exterior panels, where Rosalind is in her traveling clothes walking away from Dr. Dee's home, Fell uses an eye-level shot of Rosalind walking straight towards the reader. The pink blush of the house and the greenery complement Rosalind's outfit - the shading of the pleats exquisite. And one page further, Rosalind's arm and upper body are silhouetted through her blouse in the setting sun. There is poise and grace as she reflects on what she has overheard.

Fell is one of those rare and fortunate talents in the industry who is an artist and a writer. He weaves an absorbing story that lingers in the mind after reading once or multiple times. Well written, Fell conveys a lot of story via the smooth dialogue between his characters, but without an overabundance of text. The characters are engaging. In the same interview, Fell said hat he knows what he likes to read and “it's generally not stereotypes or tropes unless they display a degree of self-awareness.” Rosalind is young, intelligent, and a forward thinker who does not want to be confined by social mores of the time. Because of the freedom she has been allowed, she engages in activities of the mind and the physical body which would be traditionally considered masculine pursuits. She is flawed as a result of that freedom and of long-ago tragedy. Fell went on to explain that his focus is to tell a story and in the case of The Shadow Glass, revelations that Rosalind uncover, intertwined with the horror and occult elements make this series a captivating tale.

The inclusion of Dr. John Dee, a prominent thinker of the Elizabethan era, adds an intriguing, real-life person to the mix and provides an opportunity for the reader to suspend disbelief. In fact, Dr. Dee sought knowledge through his study of mathematics, astrology and magic, especially later in his life, so his secret meeting with Thomas and Master Talbot in this issue may have mirrored his research with Edward Kelley. While he had an interesting life, the crux of the story does lay with Rosalind.

Nate Piekos is back on issue #2 for lettering duties, and, again, the text is clean and easy to read. He utilizes smaller font for whispered and under-one's-breath dialogue, rather than utilizing thought bubbles and captions. He limits the captions primarily to Thomas' flashback. The location of the speech balloons do not obscure panel images and actions.

The Shadow Glass is a riveting, character-driven story with the main protagonist, a young woman whose world is being turned upside down. The historical setting of Elizabethan era is conducive to the occult/horror aspects of the tale, and the accompanying visuals are stunning. Without question, Fell is artistically gifted, but he also proves he can spin a fascinating tale with an engaging female lead that readers will be interested in her story. 

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