Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Three Shadows: A Graphicall Speaking Review

Words: Kevin Byrne

What would you do to keep your child safe?  That is what is at the core of Three Shadows, and as the father of two boys, that struck a very raw nerve with me.  

Written and drawn by Cyril Pedrosa, and published in 2007, Three Shadows is a little-known book that tells the story of a family who finds that their only child has been targeted by the titular three shadows.  At first, these shadows are slight, fleeting creatures, and are seen riding on horseback; they only register as faint objects on the horizon.  As the story moves forward, the way that they are presented moves forward as well; their shapes becoming more defined as they move closer and closer to the foreground.
These three never speak to the family, and never come too close to take any real action, but the family does everything it possibly can to protect the child.  When their purpose is finally determined, however, the story, for a brief time, changes to a study of acceptance – the wife reluctantly acquiesces, while the husband rails against everything, leaving with the boy in tow.

The shadows become a perceived threat, as father and son travel farther and farther from home, believing that the shadows are always nearby, even in places where it seems apparent that they are not. At the story progresses, though, the father’s struggles are for nothing, as his efforts leave him on the brink of death.   With the only thing keeping him going is the desire to protect his son, we watch his inevitable failure and acceptance of both his fate and that of his son.

Pedrosa masterfully supports and breathes life into his art through the use of dry-brush inking, creating vivid, more realistic shadows, and adding a layer of depth to the visuals.  His line work plays a strong part in conveying the emotions of the characters.    A former Disney animator, he uses his animation capabilities to bring warmth to the story; it allows him to create numerous, visually-striking characters – something which makes the characters encountered in this story all the more real – while also enabling the story to progress and pace itself smoothly, especially during both the more humorous and the more quiet parts of the story.

According to Pedrosa, the story itself was 'born out of the agony of watching his close friends' child die very young.' You can see that agony on the characters' faces, and feel that agony as the couple try and try again to save the life of their son - all of which makes for a great graphic novel.