REVIEW: In Shadows – Book 1 (2022)

A Graphic Novel by Hubert & art by Vincent Mallié

I was in the mood for a fantasy story today, and with perfect luck I stumbled on the newest comic from Europe Comics, In Shadows – Book 1. The book is based on a script by Hubert Boulard, known just as mononymously as “Hubert”, who passed away in 2020 with this being one of the last things he was working on before his passing. It was picked up by Vincent Mallié and put together into this wonderful volume today. It tells the story of a disgraced knight that is given a chance at a second lease on life, only to be thrown headfirst into more trouble than he could ever imagine.

“Arzhur, a disgraced knight, has taken on a new mission to restore his honor: save Princess Islen from the Black Castle. The only problem is, the mysterious Islen doesn’t want to be saved…The reluctant pair must nonetheless cross the kingdom—pursued by a trio of sinister witches—in hopes of finding refuge with Islen’s father, the king. But will their secrets catch up with them first?”

This is a relatively short read, but good value for money and time considering the lush, gorgeous artwork and intriguing storyline. The entire time I was wondering what “the real story was” considering the motivations of some characters seem somewhat iffy, but I can’t imagine we’ll be seeing a total “we’re actually the bad guys” climax, but who knows. Fans of things like Disney Princess stories might get a kick out of this for the simple reason that it plays around with some of the “princess tropes” we see in a lot of folklore. Yes, Islen can speak with woodland creatures great and small, but in this world that includes dragons and other monstrous beasts.

I enjoyed that the juxtaposition of the more mature things in the book (i.e gore, fighting, court politics) are mixed in with a “normal” fantasy world and don’t overtake the book with bleak dreariness. I have found that the HBO series Game of Thrones has somewhat tainted every modern fantasy story into being aesthetically and thematically similar, which is a true shame. That isn’t a blemish of that properties name by me, but I wish more writers would avoid jumping on the bandwagon. Luckily, Vincent Mallié avoids this and does his own thing which makes this book that much better.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book – it has wonderful art, an interesting story, and looks to be heading in a direction I was not expecting. Assuming Book 2 comes out before too long, I will be very excited to see where the story goes. It doesn’t really break any rules of what the fantasy genre is all about, but it has enough of an atypical sensibility that it’s not really derivative either. Europe Comics have published some great fantasy books as of late including Thorgal, Vesper, and The Lost Ages, all of which is well worth a look if you like this genre.

if you are interested in this book, click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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