Archeologists of Shadow: A Review
by Robert Leichsenring
Welcome, true believers. It's time for another round with me. And I'm happy to say that I can bring you something different for today, with regards from our Master, The Tano!!
Today we have a review of a book from Septagon Studios called ARCHEOLOGISTS OF SHADOWS: THE RESISTANCE.
First things first: yes, it's written "archeologists" (as opposed to the correct spelling of archaeologists), I have no idea why, but it seems to be on purpose. We'll just let this one slip through, shall we?
So where do we start?
The world has been changed drastically by an unstoppable event or plague (there are no hints to what exactly happened) that slowly transformed everyone from organic life forms to mechanic ones. The process is called "mechanization" and seems to take days or weeks. There are only a few organic humans left, and they're hunted by the government, which is ruled, of course, by fully mechanized beings. It is a rather clean steampunk future/parallel earth; it is very hard to determine right now if there even is a connection or if it is a completely fictional world with no ties to us, without digitalization. Everything is mechanical, from transportation to animals.
We meet two lost humans, who are getting closer to full mechanization, on a train heading to Saint Peter, a kind of holding facility or prison. After government agents control their level of mechanization, they receive one last warning: to not resist the process or to end in Saint Peters. This leads to this pair to jump ship and escape into the "real world", as it seems they have been born on the train.
I'm not going into too much detail regarding the story, as there is enough to discover on your own. Let me say that the concept is intriguing and has a certain hook that makes you want to read more. It's very rich with motives and reeks of religious and liberal subtext, which doesn't have to be bad. There are a great many details in the conversations and of course in the art itself.
The art, yes, that is what makes this book stand out from most mainstream titles. It is not drawn by hand; everything is animated by, as the publisher assures, a team of several artists from around the world. Some of you might have seen books like this — JAKE THE DREAMING comes to mind — and know the strange look and colors of this genre. It is definitely beautiful. The world looks great and believable, buzzing with life in all its mechanized forms. I already mentioned the details, something I really enjoy in a book, so yeah, you can just stare at the splash panels and just see what you can find.
Let me be clear here: the designs are great, the life forms, vehicles, elevators, houses, and even the plains outside of Light City all look amazing. Truly amazing. I enjoyed close to every panel.
But with this, we come to the downsides of AoS, of which there are plenty.
I know it is part of the story that every living being turns into a mechanized organism, but it makes it nearly impossible to connect with any of the characters. You just read about them, look at them, but you don't feel them. If this was done on purpose than kudos for such a ballsy move, because not a lot of people would pick up on the next issue without a bonding process.
The art is not really helping on this. I read a digital copy on my tablet and maybe it's an issue with that (although I've never had such issues before), but the faces of the characters always seem unfocused and hard to see. The colors of the rest set a nice mood for a Final Fantasy-esque advendture (that's what the
world reminds me of), but it also kills the emotional mood in the same instant.
It is also hard to distinguish the characters from each other, since no colors are used except for tones of grey and yellowish-brown, and this makes you confuse the characters all the time, especially when no names are given, or if they are given, you don't know to whom they belong.
Okay, I'm not new to the comic business, I've been reading for over 20 years, I write a bit by myself (I know that it is hard, really) and think that I have a good grasp of what's going on in a book after the first reading (except when DC does an event or stuff like 52; they lose me normally after the 2nd issue), but AoS makes me wonder the whole time what exactly is going on. There is a lack of physical direction and location (a map would help), the dialogue is swinging from amateurish to acceptable, and for an oversized special I have to wonder why nearly nothing gets explained.
Teasing is fine, but it only works if you throw me more than one bone over the 50 pages you have the first 4 chapters running.
So I mentioned it above, the dialogue is really something in this book. The, also abovementioned, lack of emotion and connection to the characters is deepened by the fact that the dialogue feels forced and unnatural to me. Again, maybe it was done on purpose? To alienate the reader and make him feel likethe main characters feel? As partly humans in a emotionless world full of Mechs. Possibly, yeah. But like I said before: it does not make me want to pick up the next issue. I just don't feel it.
So, the art is still the biggest plus I can find for the story. It has a very unique feeling to it, and everyone who really enjoys steampunk should at least take a look. It feels fresh and cool and combines some nice ideas. I am turned on by the whole mechanization, I mean everything has levers and wheels and shit, no computers, no nothing, and even the animal life gets turned, which makes for some nice panels (we do not see the actual process though).
But after a few pages the trick gets old and we do see the same concepts all over again, with little variation. The splash panels are cool and do look awesome, but that does not save the overall fatigue you get from the colors and the monotony. It feels like watching a CSI Miami marathon with even more muted colors. A bit more diversity on the color set would have been appreciated.
Also, but just a minor point, the paneling is not really moving the story and feels like they're just there because, you know, a comic needs panels.
Little tip: no, not really.
Okay, when I look up and read this, I feel like the good is definitely outgunned here, but wait! It's not a bad book, don't get me wrong. It is seriously flawed, yes, but I still enjoyed the read and the concept. There is potential here, especially for the lovers of the weird and strange, and everyone who is a concept fetishist. You can easily fill the gaps with your imagination and let it run rampant. There is a nearly 50 pages sketchbook attached if you get the digital comic, which is quite a lot of fun and shows the strength of the designs. For art fans, this is a nice cookie on top. I'm sure a lot of the fellas from the computer persuasion would find it interesting what you can do with computers instead of Googling porn and spending all your day in the ICS.
This is the real selling point of this book. It's what my ex-girlfriend/love of my life (it's complicated) would call bubble gum for the eyes. You have something to chew on for a long time, but it has no real taste, except for in the beginning. And sometimes that's not bad. Come on, I watched all three Transformers in the cinema and don't regret it.
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book, but if any of you found something in this article you liked, then give it a shot.
We all know how hard it is for the small publishers and creators. And for a first (I have seriously never heard of Septagon Studios before) it could have been worse (It's still no FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E.).
There is not much more to say.
I'm signing out.
Robert "Nemo" Leichsenring
You may view ARCHEOLOGISTS OF SHADOWS: THE RESISTANCE here.