‘Shards: Volume 1’ - Graphic Novel Review

Superheroes. Death. Good versus evil. In the comic book world, it’s often you might find all of these characteristics within one comic book. What happens when someone, or a group of people in this case, decide to focus on individual components to make a story interesting and develop enough depth to be curious to see what happens next? In Hiatus Studios does just that with their anthology, Shards: Volume 1.

This graphic novel collects six unique stories offering complex storytelling, while introducing dynamic relationships among a diverse set of characters. This Kickstarter-backed project provides a behind-the-scenes look of the studio itself, and also has individual videos for each of the short stories presented within this collected works. This truly presents readers with an opportunity to find out the motivations from the creators, while exploring what types of stories they want to share with the world.

The artwork from this collection changes style from story to story. The first, "Longshot," presents similarly to an opening episode of an animated television series. This story follows Wardell in a world where superheroes compete in a sports arena, as he deals with the fact he isn’t on the big stage. There are wonderful background colors and animated sequences that make this story come to life, with a mix of sincere moments between characters that immediately want you to find out what happens next.

As that feeling hits you of wanting to see where "Longshot" takes you, a completely different tale emerges, and the cold sensation builds on the back of your neck as “Death” comes in play. Winter showcases a life of unendingness, because Death no longer goes down that path – instead, of wondering what will happen in the great beyond, life continues and decisions must be made around such immortality. The look of this story has a Sin City feel, with darker tones throughout making the main character’s long, bright white hair stand out even more. She also carries a sullen, carefree attitude, which doesn’t seem likely to change, until someone attacks her. Then, look out! The story is ready for the next chapter at that point, and so are you.

With the first two tales of this collection being the shortest, "Rise" is the longest and with good reason. This futuristic fantasy dives into its enchanting lore, while examining the internal struggles of a kingdom and the looming threat of darkness. Unfortunately for the characters, this darkness doesn’t just mean the absence of light – evil, demonic creatures wait there, as well. "Rise" deals with not only fighting evil, but learning to trust others and understanding a person’s loyalty. This is done beautifully within the framework of a conversation between the young Queen, “Zak,” and her General Adofo; it provides a sense of balance to the surrounding chaos in their lives.

This anthology is a win. Some of the stories place you smack dab in the middle of the plot, while also including some very questionable clothing choices in the snowy mountains, but the overall effects have you wanting more, especially when a shocking moment can cause you to ask, “Did that character just die?” These stories will keep you on your toes, and when you want more of them afterwards, it’s the perfect sign of finding a must-read and wondering when the next chapters will come out.

This graphic novel includes a glimpse of "Cache," a story featured in the next collection, Shards: Volume 2. It also contains some material suitable for a more mature audience.

The creators of this graphic novel are:

    Pip Reyes ("Longshot")
    Kimberly Moss ("Winter," "In Place of Honor")
    Raf Salazar ("PuG")
    Matt Ng ("Strays")
    Don Aguillo ("Rise," "Winter")
    Digo Salazar ("In Place of Honor," "Cache")

Shards: Volume 1 is now available to purchase.

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