The Shadows, scripted by Zabus, illustrated by Hippolyte, is a fantasy graphic novel verging on kafka-ian’s tragic absurdism. This is a very dark comic but with lots of depth and feelings. I was intrigued by the mysterious cover and am very happy I took the plunge into this unusual, meaningful and very personal work.
We follow the journey of a big brother and his sister through strange lands in the hope of a better future. We are not sure were we are, or even what the people we are looking at are. The two main protagonists have a mask in place of a face, something reminiscent of ancient civilisations, but also tribal life. The masks never shows an expression, and yet the characters’ body language, their speech, their interaction, even their silences says so much. There is a lot of melancholy in those pages, bite as well and cynicism.
The illustrations talk directly to your emotions. I loved the art, this is a loose style I greatly enjoy in general, with multiple thin lines of black, almost like a doodle vibrating to life. There is a spidery quality to it that creates that dark heavy mood of the story. In fact it adds a lot to the poetry of the tale which might not have been there for the specific drawing style and tones. The whole album is in beautiful watercolours which also soften the blows from all the horrors our poor bunch of refugees run from. There is a dream quality to it, fuzzy and surreal. It was perfect.
As for the story it worked so well for me. For some reason I have been reading a lot about immigration lately and oddly, this one, the completely fantastical one in an invented universe, with strange creatures, is the one that talked to me the most. It is the one that felt the most emotionally accurate. I highly recommend it to people interested in human displacement, exile, transmigration. But also more than that. This is a comic for people who like when there is something beyond the first layer, who like to question humanity, and who are not afraid to dwell into the dark side of the human psyche. It is also for people who are fans of modern art and the imagination.