FORE Shadow

Posted: Tuesday, September 5, 2006
By: Steve Saville

Cover of FORE Shadow Writer(s): Vin Varvara, Jemir Johnson, James Schafer
Artist(s): Victor Claudio, Corwin Glenn, Matthew Wilbekin, Hank Summers, Bill Young
Publishers: Creative Elamentz (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $4.95(US)

Fore Shadow is the latest offering from Jemir Johnson’s Creative Elamentz studios, an 80 page anthology containing six tales [5 comic and 1 prose] covering a wide range of standard comic book fare [super heroes, super monsters, zombies, extreme violence etc.]. The quality is just as diverse and ranges from the exciting through to the confusing and confused.

The anthology kicks off with Dream Work an, "I woke up and it was all a dream•or was it" style story. The basic premise here is based around the main character, the successful and comfortable lawyer Terrell Jacobs who is haunted by dreams of his exploits as a night time super hero. The question posed is what is the real world and what is fantasy? The art work is fairly rudimentary and the lack of sufficient gutters in the action sequences is just plain confusing.

Artist Matthew Wilbekin shows real promise but further study of just what features really contribute to a visually successful comic would bear dividends. In particular the way that gutters are used to enhance visual clarity and how frames need to be broken sometimes if one wishes action sequences to really come alive. In Dream Works too much of the action is restricted by an adherence to an orthodox use of frames.

For me the highpoint of this anthology is the second story The Queen of Voodoo. The main character here [Retribution] has previously featured in his own graphic novel and was therefore familiar to me. It was personally interesting to see how he has developed. Retribution is a victim of voodoo and walks a path between the ‘normal’ world and the voodoo realm. The anthology really sparks to life with this story.

I had reservations after reviewing the graphic novel but here I was totally convinced. This shorter story is far more focussed, the writing is tighter and the narrative development well paced. The earlier graphic novel was just too long and tended to wander, here the tightness and brevity results in a far more satisfying read. The artwork of Hank Summers is also far more appropriate than previous portrayals. The wide variety of angles helps create a real dynamism to the story. On the topic of art work I must mention that Summers has given us some damn fine zombies in this story.

In short I feel confident that Retribution as a character of note and worthy of merit has really arrived. All is good then•well no, the ending is disappointing.
This story deserves a better ending than a confused character wondering what the heck has just happened. You see Retribution old buddy we were wondering that and we were kind of hoping you might be able to shed some light on the matter.

The third story is titled Feral Night and features Howler a werewolf. Again a character and storyline that both show promise but the narrative needs tightening. The arrival of the second creature is just not dealt with in a convincing manner and once again we have an ending where the main character is left scratching his head in confusion. Comic writing is extremely difficult it always pays to have the storyline read by a completely fresh set of eyes just to ensure that what was intended is actually conveyed. Howler is a great character but an ending that states, "I don’t know what that was but it wasn’t the creature I was looking for•" does no one justice.

The next stories are titled Mind Games and Urban Celtic both are urban tales of the criminal underworld and both suffer from flawed narrative technique, especially the later which does not come together with any consistent coherence. I was critical of Retribution about six months ago but I am the first to now admit that the character has well and truly arrived. I am sure that the process was not easy for the creators and lets face it this is all only my personal opinion but it does provide evidence of just how the skill of creating a satisfying comic can be achieved.

I am assuming that most of the creators on show here are fairly young and I hope that the development of the Retribution character will should provide the necessary inspiration for improvement. Overall the writing in this anthology fails to do justice to the characters contained within the stories. As for the prose story, well it’s OK but hardly spectacular. In fact it is fairly standard in style and subject matter. I think the opening line of "They exploded through the door with purpose and evil intentions." says it all really...

In a Word: Inconclusive.

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