"Alabaster Shadows" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Oni Press
Written by Matt Gardner
Illustrated by Rashad Doucet
2015, 184 Pages
Graphic novel released on December 9th, 2015
Moving to a new town as a kid is difficult enough as it is. You've got to meet all new people, leave all your old friends behind, learn a new area, and catch up on school work. Now imagine if your new town was filled with monsters. That's the situation that young Carter Normandy finds himself in, but fortunately for him he's found some like-minded kids that are ready to stop these creatures once and for all.
Alabaster Shadows immediately catches that yearning for adventure that seemingly all kids have. It's something that we lose a bit as we get older, which is a shame. Children aren't bogged down by the pressures of life, so when they see something weird, their imagination runs wild, whereas an adult will try to rationalize or just ignore it. That's what happens when Carter finds a strange leak in his basement. It's not coming from any pipes. Water just kind of...appears out of thin air. His parents call a plumber to get it fixed (although they really don't fix it at all. It's a patch job at best.) and that's it. It's out of sight, out of mind, but not to Carter. That leak is the start of an adventure.
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Carter and his new friends are easily the kinds of kids you'd want to hang out with in school. They're not popular. They're just cool. Anything is possible with them. Stuff from movies like The Goonies and Monster Squad happen to these kids, not the football team. There's a nice mix in the group too. Harley is a conspiracy nut who's up for anything. Her brother Carter is a skeptic. Dudley is an intelligent scaredy cat. They work well together. This also comes through in artist Rashad Doucet's design for each character.
The grown-ups in this community are an odd bunch. It's not quite Stepford, however people are definitely drinking some Kool-Aid. They're up to something and they hate kids. Some of these adults make folks like Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter books look tame. At first they come across as standoffish. Then things escalate as the kids violate that golden rule of being seen and not heard more and more. Miss Crowe, the head of the Community Council, is the personification of the word “cold.” She changes the tone of a scene the moment she steps foot in the room.
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And oh yeah! Monsters! I don't want to spoil the overall plot of Alabaster Shadows, as it's fun to unravel it as you progress through the book. Suffice it to say, there's a scheme in the works that involves what's on the other side of that leak in Carter's basement, which happens to be another dimension filled with wondrous and terrifying creatures. The first time you get a glimpse of this land is early on, and it's breathtaking. It's this two-page spread that gives you this wide angle lens view of this underwater kingdom. It's such a quick look that you'll be yearning to go back for more as soon as you turn the page.
There are some elements to Alabaster Shadows that you'll have to take with a grain of salt. Some things work, like using a water hose as an underwater breathing apparatus, but seem implausible. They fit within the confines of the story and you just go with it. I mean, if you accept the fact that these monsters are out there and affecting our world, it's not a far stretch to believe that a couple kids can go deep sea diving while breathing through a hose.
Alabaster Shadows is a perfect read for young horror fans. If you're a fan of any of those kids’ action-adventure movies from the ‘80s, you'll dig this book. It's not overtly scary, but does offer some nice chilling moments. Moreover, it shows you what children are capable of if they just put their minds to it. They're not leading a rebellion against the adults here. They're standing up for what's right and getting one crazy experience as a result.