In a future world of giant mechanized warriors, a rebellious soldier is sentenced to life in a distant prison colony. Once there, he finds himself the only man who can stop an advanced race of Vampire lords from taking over the world after they break their restricted feeding treaty with the human race. As he battles on, he must also cope with the growing realization that his very presence in the colony may be a part of their dark designs…-
Written by: Brandon M. Easton, Art by: Ryo Kawakami, Scott Kester, Colored by: Dawson Chen, Scott Kester Lettered by: Shawn DePasquale.
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Digital Release Date:
January 25 2012
I first heard the name “Brandon M. Easton” back in 2015, when I first came across his podcast Writing for Rookies. This was during my 8 1/2 year hiatus from reading comics, so it’s only now that I’ve finally read Brandon’s masterpiece Shadowlaw, which he completed and published in 2011.
One of the consequences (or in some cases, privileges) of being an instructor of writing is that, inevitably, people will hold you to the standard that you teach others to perform at. In others words, some people will eventually start to ask “You teach others to write well, but can you?”
I’ve seen various legacy writers in the comic industry write books on how to write better in comics, from Dennis O’Neil to Stan Lee, who have obviously paid their dues a hundred times over. In other words, they put their money where their mouth is.
In the case of Easton, who was the writer for titles such as Roboy, M.A.S.K, and Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven, he demonstrates his ability to do the same with Shadowlaw.
In the first episode of Writing for Rookies, Easton described Shadowlaw as a story “featuring giant robots, and a good horror story”, but there’s much more to this story. Set in a dystopian future, in which North America is ruled (unsurprisingly) by the Catholic church, the story follows Lt. Rictor Caesaro, who is then imprisoned at the aptly named “Sanctuary District”, after murdering his superior officer during a “pacification mission”/mass shooting. It’s there that he uncovers a plot to use zombie like clones to invade and control the world, all to build up to a one world government.
Story wise, this 4 issue comic was a breath of fresh air. Easton tells his tale from the perspective of a morally conflicted character, who learns that everything he once believed about the world is not exactly what it seemed. The supporting cast,meanwhile, is filled with characters whose moral alignment remains largely ambiguous throughout most of the story, leaving the reader guessing who can be trusted as the protagonist seeks to discover the truth. Betrayal is an ongoing theme in this story, and it was fun to be left guessing what side a character was on as the plot progressed.
There is continuous monologue about the purpose of religion and prayer from page one, but this brooding only serves to add increased depth to the lead character, and doesn’t come across as an attempt to take the story too seriously. I mention this because such monologue – if done incorrectly, especially in the context of a political tale like this one – can come across as either boring or preachy. A somewhat negative view of Catholicism is portrayed, especially the concept of “Catholic guilt”, but Easton makes a good use of dramatic prose to tie in Caesaro’s religious diatribes with the overarching plot.
But the one thing I liked the most was the fact that Easton explored possible outcomes of a dystopian future from both extreme ends of the political spectrum, without advocating or promoting either side. Be it open borders and uncontrolled immigration on one side of the political spectrum, to an absolutist, theocratic government on the other, I never felt that Easton – who actually is very vocal about his politics on Twitter – was advocating or even criticizing either outcome (Marvel comics writers should take notes).
Lastly, regarding the artwork. The artwork doesn’t appear to stress realism, taking a more cartoon like approach. Three different artist take responsibility for the art and colors, yet from my first reading, I noticed very few inconsistencies.
Overall, this work by Brandon Easton is not only a decent introduction to his style of writing, but to the horror genre, as well as Arcana studios.
Now, while the comic is enjoyable, there are a few nitpicks that I would like to address, before I end up writing a retraction like I did regarding The Last Jedi.
UPDATE: Brandon Easton’s Twitter feed is loading with Hard Left political views that could be described as social Justice, which seems to be pretty typical of many comic writers and artists. While I did (moderately) enjoy Shadowlaw, and Easton has demonstrated his talent as a writer, and while he did explore ideas of a possible political landscape in the future without much bias, none of that means that no politics of any kind rear their head into his story.
Remember how every female character in Star Wars was a Mary-Sue, but all the men were bumbling idiots. The ideology was glaring, even though I missed it the first time. This time around, while reading Shadowlaw, I did notice that all the heroes in this story were minorities, while the main antagonists (the human ones, anyway) were for the most part Caucasian, be it the supreme chancellor who adopts the protagonist, or said protagonist’s superior officer, who is former kills at the beginning of the story.
Normally, I would dismiss this, but it seems to be too good to be a coincidence given the rhetoric on Easton’s Twitter feed. If this is ideology on the pages, or me reading too much into this, I’ll leave up to the writer.
#ReadingChallenge2018 – 1