Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sunday Revue February 8th: The Shadows Over Innsmouth

 Ladies and Gentlemen!  We Cordially Invite You!

Join us for Afternoon Tea and some Light Vivisection at

 The Shadows Over Innsmouth

Ahhh. A light brunch. A cup of tea. Oh, and a quick game of Disembowel your Prey! Jolly good!
If the creators of Downton Abbey and Call of Cthulu were ever shoved in a room together and told to write, they'd probably come out with something like (but less amusing than) The Shadows Over Innsmouth. In this small town where things are not quite as usual,  you get a sense that all the REAL people are the monsters.

The creation of Seth Witfoth, The Shadows Over Innsmouth can be found lurking here

Our main character of interest is Jaunt. He's a dandy of impeccable and charming manners. He's a Dapper Dan. He's also a Dimensional Shambler who will walk through worlds and, if he's vexed, gut the offender with his bare talons.

There's a very strong sense of Britain-reminiscent black humor in this strip, mixed with a little noir humor; a sense that the clever investigative humans who keep snooping around are more entertainment for the monsters than anything. In fact, the way the 'people' and the 'monsters' are portrayed makes you start to question who the real 'people' are. There's regular Lovecraft mentions and references; one character even says 'I ain't grown gills yet'. You also get a strong sense of plots unfolding, of things moving unseen under the surface of events. Machinations, manipulations, plots and intrigues are seen just out of the corner of your eye, and that brings a thrill up your spine...and a grin to your lips.

The Rating

The Shadows Over Innsmouth earns itself a very respectable 7; well done, chap, but you may want to work on your stroke, wot wot?

The Raves

 This isn't just another monster movie, folks. Here the monsters have very real motivations: boredom, the need to feel purposeful, wanting a drink and a card game with the blokes...and wanting to be safe. These guys come across as people, and that's a good mark in my book.
In addition to clever dialogue, there's quite a lot of clever design in Shadows. This  comic uses a mechanism I particularly enjoy of, when a character of a new species is introduced, a sidebar with a book illustration of said species is shown.

 There on the page is the fearsome beast, and there you see the rather woebegone Jack. I enjoy the way the mechanism makes you subtly question your assumptions on the subject of men and monsters. What really makes a monster? Fangs and claws, or behavior?
In fact, subtle wit and well-paced plot are probably this comic's strongest points. The characters are clever, wryly cynical and really charming (even when they're up to no good). The hints of dark plots unfolding like weeds lends a nice spice to the storytelling brew.
The art shows real promise, and shows a nice grasp of pose and very adept deployment of action and splash panels. A slightly marine color palette and deft use of a grunge texture throughout add just the right touch of 'vintage'. What exposition is used only serves to emphasize the feel of a movie or novel of the 1920's, and politely steps aside when it isn't needed.
 The story is much like a perfect English Tea; simple, graceful and nicely timed.

The Razzes

While I admire Shadows' work at making us take a deeper look at monsters, it needs to look a little closer at its human characters. They're not nearly as nicely drawn as the creatures, and the difference is somewhat jarring. While the creatures in the story are nicely drawn and well-rounded, the human characters are drawn in a style that makes them look flattened and washed out, especially around the face. The bodies and proportions show a good grasp of anatomy, but the faces need some work, especially in their expressions, which come across rather stiff and boxy. Women characters in particular aren't quite right around the face. The creator mentions in his notes that this is something they're working on, and to give them their due I did notice and admire the steady improvement on human expression from the first page to the last.
The line work is occasionally a bit pixillated and shows some need for improvement, but that too is improving as the comic goes on. Practice makes perfect! I'll be interested to keep reading this and watch it steadily improve.

The Revue

All around a jolly good read, especially on a dark and stormy night.

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