Saturday, January 25, 2020


ONI PRESS – @OniPress

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Matt Gardner
ARTIST: Rashad Doucet – @RashadDoucet
COLORS: Rashad Doucet
LETTERS: Ryan Ferrier
EDITORS: Jill Beaton and Robin Herrera
ISBN: 978-1-62010-264-0; paperback (December 9, 2015)
192pp, Color, $12.99 U.S.

Rating: All Ages

Alabaster Shadows is a 2015 original graphic novel (OGN) from writer Matt Gardner and artist-colorist Rashad Doucet.  Alabaster Shadows focuses on the new kid in town who discovers that there are incredibly weird things going on in his new neighborhood.  Letterer Ryan Ferrier completes the book's creative team.

Alabaster Shadows opens as Carter Normandy and his parents and his sister, Polly, arrive at their new home in the neighborhood of “Alabaster Shadows.”  Carter thinks that all the houses look the same, but on the first morning in the new house, he discovers a peculiar water leak, which seems to defy the laws of physics.

Carter is starting to believe that there is something weird about the neighborhood.  At the “Community Center,” the odd Mr. Randolph asks Carter and Polly to let him know if they see anything weird.  However, Miss Priscilla Crowe, head of the Community Center,” can barely tolerate the children.  Carter's homeroom teacher, Ms. Frump, also a child-hating old hag, seems to be up to something with Miss Crowe.

Luckily, Carter finds a group of friends that seems like the perfect fit.  There is Harley, a fan of the conspiracy theory magazine, “Weekly Truth Journal,” and her skeptical brother, WarrenDudley is the quiet boy who likes to draw... when he isn't talking about the monsters under his bed.  Monsters under his bead, you say?!  Yes, Alabaster Shadows apparently has a monster problem, to say nothing of the otherworldly places from which these monsters originate.  Now, it is up to Carter and his friends to solve the mysteries of Alabaster Shadows and to keep these monsters from crossing over into their world, or suffer dire consequences.

I discovered the existence of Alabaster Shadows the graphic novel in a press release.  At the time, I thought the name of the artist, Rashad Doucet, sounded familiar and was one I should know.  [That is a short story for another time.]  I eventually cashed in some Barnes & Noble credit and bought a copy of Alabaster Shadows.  Coming across the press release was probably serendipity because the purchase was more than worth it.

Alabaster Shadows is one of the best “graphic novels for kids” that I have ever read, and I have been reading quite a few in recent years.  I would say that its target audience is probably from 8 to 12-years old or the “middle grade” readers.  However, if you are a fan of classic juvenile novels or famous children's fantasy and adventure literature, then, even your older teen, adult, or AARP heart will love the fantastic read that is Alabaster Shadows.

Using terms like enchanting and endearing may seem a bit too sweet.  Terms like mesmerizing, engaging, and enthralling might seem to be over-the-top or pretentious.  But damn, y'all, it's true.  This is a freaking, flat-out, great comic book and graphic novel.  Dammit!  I want a sequel, now!

Matt Gardner's story collects elements from H.P. Lovecraft, Scooby-Doo cartoons, Tom Sawyer, the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators, and juvenile science fiction, among other things.  He puts it all together and creates something new that snaps and crackles like sparks from a downed electrical line.  The world of Alabaster Shadows is so big that one book cannot contain it.  Alabaster Shadows' cast, young and adult, are also a lively, likable bunch; it's like we can never get enough of them.  Hopefully, readers will see them again.

Rashad Doucet's illustrations either seem to fly off the page or seem to be pulling away from the page.  Doucet has taken the static images of comics and has found a way to make them move and groove like animated images.  Even the facial expression are dynamic; emotions and emotional states are never in doubt.  Doucet's coloring is dazzling and life-like; it is as if the colors don't want to recognize any borders in their bid to bring the drawings to life.

I must not forget to mention Ryan Ferrier's lettering, which is steady.  There are times, however, that Ferrier conveys the story in lettering that has a machine gun rhythm, perfectly capturing those moments of the story when the reader is not supposed to go slow.

I am surprised (and disappointed) that I have discovered how good Alabaster Shadows is practically four years to the day it was first published.  But it is never too late to discover a read that blows your mind.  Alabaster Shadows should be a perennial, an evergreen graphic novel, always ready to be discovered by new readers or rediscovered by readers who will look at it and say, “Let's do it again.”

10 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

Buy Alabaster Shadows #1 as a digital comic at comiXology.

The text is copyright © 2019 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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