Shadows on the Grave (2016) #4

Shadows on the Grave  4

Okay, so this issue’s the best so far. In addition to the three strong stories (with guest writer Jan Strnad again contributing, this time a better tale), the issue’s got three one-pagers. Inside covers, back cover. Basically a pin-up punchline with a small panel setting it up, Mag the Hag narrating. They’re all good. The one-pagers are all good, the opening story’s awesome, the Strnad collaboration’s good, the Ancient Greek entry’s fan-flipping-tactic.

The opening story is about a pickpocket at the circus. He’s trying to score, but there’s just not much visible cash floating around. Plus, he keeps seeing this particularly creepy clown decoration all around the place. The pickpocket’s industrious, though, and he’s not going to give it up, even if he has to get his hands bloody. Richard Corben’s art and his pulpy script set the tone for the whole issue. Lots of darks for people (and clowns) to get lost in, but also bright refuges in that dark.

It’s a great little tale, eight pages. Two eight-page stories, double that count for the Ancient Greek story. It’s the right formula, especially since—in theory—Corben could connect the one-liners. But Shadows is definitely hearing me from the future as far as story lengths. This issue’s perfectly balanced.

Strnad’s story involves a bodybuilder frustrated at repeatedly losing to an Arnold Schwarzenegger analog. The bodybuilder hears about some special steroid and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it, regardless of cost to his soul.

It’s a more straightforward story than the opener, instead concentrating on some outstanding art from Corben. The story gives him some strange opportunities to (no pun, it just happens to be the story’s title, too) flex.

Then the coup de grâce, chapter four of Deneaus. It hasn’t been collected by itself, which is a shame. I’m very interested in how it’d read in a sitting.

This issue has Lustea, the Amazonian in love with dopey Deneaus, getting to the other side of the same island he’s questing on. She’s hanging out with her ninja friend, who takes her home to her village, where they talk ominously about things for later in the story. Not this issue matters, except magical weapons. They can’t miss. It’s important before the end of the chapter because Corben’s not wasting any time getting to the cyclops fight. Deneaus and his royal rube charge have their showdown with the great beast.

Ancient Greek soldiers versus cyclops, with a bit of comedy but also ultra-violence, apparently perfectly fits Corben’s very particular set of skills. There are black nights and bright days in the story, both incredibly full (and contrasted in a way similar to the opening circus story). The action is fast and fierce, and the comedy is sardonic. Excellent writing from Corben. This entry fulfills and surpasses my hopes for the Greek epic.

Shadows finishes its first half on a series high. It’s such a good issue.

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