by Cyril Pedrosa, 2008, First Second, 272 pages, $15.95
I caught quite a one-two punch this week when I followed up Gilbert Hernandez's Chance in Hell with Cyril Pedrosa's Three Shadows. As you can see from my short review of Chance in Hell, I was pretty much knocked on my ass by its relentless depiction of cruelty and depravity. Here, I had a better idea of what I was getting into -- I knew that Three Shadows was about a family dealing with their child's terminal illness -- but it left me feeling almost as desperate.
It's almost uncanny, actually, how the two books dovetail to scare the sh*t out of a parent. One is a nightmarish vision of what can befall an innocent child living in the world, the other is the dreamlike journey of a parent trying in vain to prevent the death of his child. Either way, your greatest fears as a parent get a good working over.
The two books contrast in other interesting ways. One is a tightly-focused and structured story while the other is a wandering tale of adventure. One has simple, straight-forward art that wastes no ink, the other is sumptuously illustrated with loosey-goosey lines that veer from gorgeous cartoony detail to almost abstract expressionism. And yet both succeed in telling compelling stories and getting the reader to connect on a visceral level with the characters.
Three Shadows is a beautifully-drawn book and Pedrosa is clearly someone to watch. But man, after reading these two suckers back-to-back, I'm in need of a happy fun puffball of a superhero story.
You can read an eleven-page excerpt here or buy it from Amazon here: Three Shadows