In its first issue, Shadow Service presents an interesting blend of fantasy and thriller elements. Cavan Scott’s script gives us a look behind the scenes at the darkness that could be taking place in every back alley and behind every closed door in the big city. Gina, our lead character, is sassy and confident, but that persona is balanced out with more than enough self-loathing to make her relatable even as we see her doing some unreal things.
There are moments of horror here that play out in unexpected ways. In particular, the fate of one character during a flashback sequence is particularly effective. Corin Howell pulls off some interesting body horror imagery during this scene without having to show much in the way of gore.
In fact, one of the most interesting things about this first issue is the vagueness of how all of the magic seems to work. The reader is given some interesting visual cues, but nothing that ever flat out tells you what is happening. While that sounds like it could be a frustrating experience, it actually adds to the sense of intrigue. This book seems to be mostly about showing, rather than telling.
When the sticky stuff does happen, however, Howell does not shy away from it. There are some wild visuals in the last third of the book, including a sequence that feels like a marriage between the goofy physical horror-comedy of Army of Darkness and the mortal fear of Hellraiser. Through it all, Triona Farrell’s colors ride the line between sickly and stylish. The visuals are all super fun and imaginative, yet still appropriately creepy.
Gina is an interesting character who seems to be conflicted as to why she does the things she does. One gets the sense that she simultaneously hates her job and wishes she were doing more. It’s an interesting contradiction. However, the forward momentum throughout the story comes at the cost of not quite getting to know our protagonist, at least not yet. Aside from the previously mentioned flashback, there’s a lot we don’t know about how she came to be in this line of work and just what she thinks of it. There are also several different concepts that are all introduced at once, including multiple types of magic, which can occasionally make the reader feel like they’re not fully in on the plot.
Still, what we do get from Gina here is that she is tough as nails. Her facial expressions and narration tell us that she’s absolutely no-nonsense when it comes to taking care of business. Even though we haven’t gotten to know her very well just yet, it’s a pleasure to see her on the job. There’s a moment where she freezes a perp in mid-air and just kind of tells him how it is that makes me excited to see what she could be capable of.
The lettering by Andworld Design throughout also gives the reader a good feel for each of the characters. The incantations have a distinct look to them, as does the dialogue for Eddie the Rat, who may already be my favorite character of the series. Sound effects also have an appropriate feel to them, with crunchy edges for the more physical altercations and slippery-looking designs for the more bloody sequences.
Overall, this is a solid introduction to a new series that raises plenty of interesting questions and introduces a colorful cast of characters. This first issue is definitely worth a look for curious readers who dig a good supernatural procedural.