When I first saw this title, I was not exactly sure what to expect. But from the opening splash page of The Shadow Glass #1, I was hooked. How could I not be though? This is a story set in historical London, filled to the brim with dark magic and devilish secrecy. Aly Fell’s attention to detail is absolutely captivating throughout this entire issue. Page after page, I sat in awe of his artistic talent, both in his colouring and in his linework. And while his writing could use some minor adjustments, the overall quality was very surprising.
As stated before, Aly opens with this gorgeous splash page over the Thames in London. This is honestly one of the best pages I have seen in a long while. And it wasn’t the detailed skyline in the background, or the beautiful water with ships afloat, or even the castle in the foreground. No, what Aly used to reel me into this world was the little details: the autumn leaves on the castle roof, the puddles of water, and the broom leaned up against the archer tower. Those are the kind of subtleties that elevate this book above mediocrity. The rest of the issue falls from this page alone. Now, not only does Aly set up these immaculate stages for each scene, but he also does a great job with the characterization of the cast. The faces for every individual had such raw emotion, and the same is to be said for their body language. This kind of art is important for the medium.
His other great tool for storytelling is in his colour palette. Using bright, vibrant, colours at the beginning contrasted perfectly with the following scenes during the séance. And his neutral tones gave the impression that the busy London streets were filthy. Probably the best panels, as far as colouring goes, were the dusk scenes with Rose and her father. He cooled the story down drastically, and the night sky was very beautiful.
While the art for this issue was flawless, the writing was a bit sporadic. Aly’s narrative was solid. It is clear that he has this world built, and knows exactly where he is going and why. The benefit to this amount of work is shown in the pacing. The speed in this issue was perfect. There were no scenes that felt rushed, or milked, which is incredibly enjoyable.. And he also used the action of turning the page as a good jumping point between scenes. This is a common tool used, so maybe in the future Aly could test out more creative techniques.
As I have stated many times before, dialogue is one of the trickiest parts of any comic book. When used properly, it can be your best friend, but for most new writers it is their downfall. When Aly first introduces us to Thomas, he opens with an awkward self-descriptive speech bubble that feels out-of-place. That entire comment could have been omitted, and the story would not have changed. He recovers immediately after this, though, with the following scenes during the seance. Taking advantage of the doctor’s spell incantation for a well place information dump was a clever move. I also thoroughly enjoyed his sequence of pages without any dialogue at all, because sometimes all you really need is the art. However, during the banter between Rose and her father, things became muddled and redundant. At this point the only thing Rose said for 17 pages was “father?”. I know it was the theme of the issue, but at some point it was just tiresome. My suggestion for a quick fix is to remove the “father?” phrase entirely. Aly could easily use a pining, or confused, close up shot of Rose to get the same information across to the reader. This problems are nothing detrimental now, but if left unattended they can ruin a great story.
All in all, I was very astounded by this read. Aly is a fantastic artist, and his twenty years of experience in the animation industry has definitely paid off well. This story is captivating, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Everyone should get out there and request their local retailer for this book. And if you cannot do that, definitely snag it online. I give The Shadow Glass #1, 4 out of 5.
STORY BY Aly Fell
ART BY Aly Fell
COVER BY Aly Fell
PUBLISHER Dark Horse Comics
RELEASE DATE Mar 23rd, 2016