Shadows on the Grave (2016) #5

Shadows on the Grave  5

Creator Richard Corben’s got some co-writing help again on this issue of Shadows and it doesn’t work out. The whole issue just never quite works out, including the Greek epic, which bums me out.

The issue starts okay, with a one-page romance comic gag. Nice art too. The issue’s got excellent art from Corben throughout—including some great art on one of the stories—but it’s not enough to compensate for the slight writing.

The feature stories are all eight pages, which is a Shadows no-no. Corben does much better when he varies the length for what the story actually needs. None of the four features are balanced well this issue. It’s such a bummer.

The first story is about a guy who gets lost in the rain in rural America, pulls up at a stranger’s house, demands the old lady put him up for the night. Now, elements of that narrative have already appeared in Shadows within the last couple of issues. What’s the house’s secret, will the rude dude survive, and so on. It’s a mad-libs Corben horror strip.

The following story is the exact same situation. It feels very familiar—the protagonist is a shitty nephew gone to swindle a rich aunt (same setup as a story… in the last couple issues). When he gets there, his aunt’s got a secretary who makes him wait to see her, which gets the guy curious enough to snoop. Disaster ensues.

Beth Reed co-writes both stories. The first one’s better than the second, but the second is where it’s clear what’s going on. The script’s trying too hard to fit the “formula,” which seems to be because of Reed. It doesn’t make sense for Corben to write “more Corben” but with a co-writer.

I did just have the thought maybe a few writers used the same prompts from Corben. If so, those stories obviously should’ve been presented together and with context. This issue’s entries would still be lesser compared to whenever they appeared before, but the book wouldn’t seem repetitive, at least.

The third feature is Corben solo writing. A blind woman is in Africa trying to find a cure from a remote, hostile tribe. If Corben establishes the time period, it wasn’t forcefully enough I remember, but hopefully, it’s sometime in the mid-twentieth century and not today.

The art’s phenomenal, with Corben illustrating from the point of view of the blind woman, which is incredible stuff. The script’s just okay—the plot’s underwhelming, and the twist is creaky—but the art makes up for it. Though it’s still a bummer. The first story didn’t work out, the second story didn’t work out, the third story didn’t work out.

Surely the Greek epic will come through.

Incomplete. The Deneaus chapter gets an incomplete. It’s eight pages too, which is way too short. Corben rushes the opening hook, which brings the Greek gods into the story, but then the main action is about the shitty prince and his shitty king dad. Corben pads around it a little, but the whole story is just their villainous banquet.

It doesn’t hurt the story, big picture-wise, but it does stall it out and bleed momentum all over the road. Some exquisite art on it too. Just not the story.

I once worried Shadows would be a “one good issue, one bad” situation. Now I hope there aren’t any more of these troubled issues before this wraps up.

Unsuccessful Shadows is still successful comics, of course, so the issue’s time reasonably well-spent.

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