Review: UMBRAL #1

Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Christopher Mitten
Release date: November 13, 2013

umbral01_coverThe darkest part of the shadow is finding itself exposed to the light of day in this new book from the creative duo who created Wasteland.

In Umbral, a street thief finds she is the best friend of a magic-casting prince. So, what do they do? Set out to steal a magical item from the castle, of course! That’s when things go wrong and the nightmares attack, casting our leading lady, Rascal, into the world of the shadows.

In a letter to the audience author Antony Johnston admits that this books is less of him creating a story for Mitten to draw, as much as Mitten drawing a world that Johnston then hangs a story around. This format might be standard in some superhero books, but takes unique twists within the world of Umbral. Opening with maps, chapter headings and quick panels of back-story creates a world-building effect that instantly engrosses you.

Mitten’s rough but detailed lines are highlighted well by color blocking from John Rauch. Given the title, and the plot twist of a magic enhancing eclipse, much of the book is dark. However, highlighting and a constant purple hue throughout the book keep it from being oppressive or overly hard to read.

Those who enjoy fantasy adventures will feel right at home in Johnston’s use of vernacular. For those who do not venture into books of knights, princes or wizards, you might feel a little lost. Let me be clear, though, Johnston makes a point of this being a horror book that plays on your imagination and the things you think you see in the dark. So, it’s not a book everyone can enjoy, but many will find engaging and unique. Monsters abound in place of dragons. Rascal is not portrayed as a goodie-girl stuck in the world of bad men, but instead owns her devilish personality. Set in a realm where her reality and nightmares collide Rascal is quick to own her flaws and use the desires of the shadows against them.

The Verdict: 8.5/10


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