Book Review: Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

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First off, my rating system: I rate a comic in 4 different categories on a scale of 1-5 ⭐s

The categories are:

Story - Is the plot engaging? How well does the plot and characters support the theme? How well does the writer use point of view to tell the story? How has the writer used symbolism? Is the conflict and resolution satisfying? Was the story paced well? How does the writer use the narrative to set the mood? And is the mood consistent with the them?

Characters - How are the characters developed? Do the characters have clear motivations? Do the characters behave in a believable way? Are the main characters relatable, and if not, is it intentional? Do the characters have a rewarding arch? Is the dialogue character appropriate?

Art - Does the design/style of the art support the story? Is the panel layout easy to follow? Are the compositions used to emphasize key moments? Is the color in harmony with the line art? Does the artist use color to support story elements? Are the poses, action moments, and quiet moments done in an appealing way?

World - How believable is the world? Does the genre support or play against the story/characters? Are the locations sufficiently built out? Have the creators infused the world with culture? How are they at using geography to build out the world?

Rating system:

⭐: Abysmal

⭐⭐: Underwhelming

⭐⭐⭐: Good

⭐⭐⭐⭐: Excellent

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Perfection

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

  • Paperback: 272 pages

  • Publisher: First Second (April 1, 2008)

  • Language: English

This book came recommended by a friend and was described to me as an artist’s way to process and understand what his friend was going through after finding out his son was diagnosed with cancer. I came away from this book loving the art, but not being too impressed with the story.

The book is about a family consisting of a father, mother, and a son who live out in a quaint cottage in the countryside away from civilization. Very early in the book three shadowed beings show up on the hillside and it’s implied that they are here to take away the boy. Acts 1 and 2 play off that ominous beginning with the parents reacting each in their own way.

But the 3rd act takes a left turn. It was unexpected and kind of ruined the book for me. Spoilers ahead: In act two a slave trader is introduced. He is the worst kind of human who sells women to other evil men. In act three the three shadows go after an evil man, and I thought it was this slave trader, but it wasn’t. It seemed odd that they would set up that character, even go so far as to show his slave escaping and killing people, and then never return to that storyline again.

In act two we meet a character who steals the heart of the father. When I realized in act three it was this man that the Shadows were after, I thought it made ok sense...but then I didn't like that the 3 shadows are susceptible to earthly influences like alcohol. Kind of felt like they should be more “grim reaper,” and less “girls just wanna have fun.”

The different reactions from the parents was satisfying. That's what sucked me into the book. I felt most engaged when the father was trying to get them on the ship and the dilemma he found himself in. Like, if this book is symbolic of your child getting cancer you might not know how to navigate working with hospitals and physicians, and insurance companies and what not and that could get really frustrating and make you desperate.

Visually, this book just knocked it out of the park. Pedrosa's use of ink is next level. There was just so much atmosphere in his panels. And the decision to make most of the pages 4-5 panels meant you could savor some of the art a little more. Also, I thought the font was perfect. The world felt rich and lived in. Dangerous, and unforgiving too. Which made the father's choice to move his family out to the forest all the more understandable.

I liked the book and would recommend it. It’s a great example of using no traditional looking comic art to tell a very serious tale.

My overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Story: ⭐⭐⭐

Characters: ⭐⭐

Art: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

World: ⭐⭐⭐

You can purchase the book here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WNXC1c

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You can purchase the book here on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WNXC1c