A timely modern fable set in a fictional world divided along lines of science and faith, the second volume of A Tale of Shadows explores its opposing doctrines with intelligence and style. Kudos to the creative team for addressing the minor issues in Book One and presenting an even stronger chapter this outing.
One of the most valuable aspects of crowdfunding for comics is the ability the platform affords creators to apply feedback to the next volume of their series. In the case of A Tale of Shadows by Lyndon White, Paul Clark-Forse, and Tyler Wilson, building on the strength of their first self-published volume by applying feedback from fans and critics has allowed them to avoid the dreaded sophomore jinx.
When last we visited the town of Wavefront, our hero Felix had just activated a mysterious engine that threatened the fragile balance upon which the isolated community depends. The audacious act prompted an escalation in the largely rhetorical war of words between the religious zealots known as the Men of the Way and the rebellious free-thinkers of science and reason, the Sciencestitions.
In Cause and Effect, Wavefront finds itself mired in a war of ideals, as science and faith collide in the wake of the rising of the Black Sun – a mysterious phenomenon that threatens to blot out the sun and plunge the little town into darkness and ruin. Felix allies himself with the Sciencestitions, who seek to leverage the event to foment rebellion against the fanatical Men of the Way.
The creative team covers a lot of ground here, but succeeds in presenting a smoothly-paced, balanced installment that moves the plot forward while providing greater depth of character and more refined world-building. The people of Wavefront are allowed more of the spotlight, giving the series’ fictional setting a greater sense of verisimilitude.
Clark-Forse rises to the expositional challenge presented by this issue with spot-on dialogue and narration. Although there is a tonne of integral story information to convey to readers and shifting perspectives to balance, the delivery never feels forced or rushed. Events unfold logically with concision and pep. The reader never feels overwhelmed by the escalation of the stakes represented by the emergence of the Black Sun, although they do feel caught up in the simmering tensions that accompany its appearance.
White and Wilson do a phenomenal job in depicting the undercurrents of fear and anger raging through Wavefront’s typically peaceful citizenry. Jarring angles and jangly line work underscore the emotional intensity of the town’s plight, infusing the book with a palpable sense of impending doom. The artists take full advantage of their fantasy setting, using gorgeous, kinetic double-page spreads to provide a sense of scope to the proceedings.
Yet despite this grander sense of size and reach, Cause and Effect remains rooted in the conflict facing the folk of Wavefront. Even as the town struggles to navigate the philosophical divide plaguing the community, as represented by the dueling factions of the Sciencestitions and the Men of the Way, it is (as ever) the little guy who pays the price.
Second issues can be daunting: popular and critical expectations tend to be higher, regardless of how successful the first installment turned out. With this second volume, A Tale of Shadows not only reinforces the solid foundation laid out in the first book but drives the plot forward with higher stakes and a wonderful, synergistic interplay between words and pictures.
Paul Clark-Forse (W), Lyndon White & Tyler Wilson (A) • Self-Published (to pre-order a copy, please contact Lyndon White).