Stuart Moore’s latest graphic novel has a remarkably strong concept. Shadrach Stone is a literary agent and a very accomplished liar, probably a better liar than an agent. He’s living his ideal life, until New York is attacked by terrorists and he has a vision in the World Trade Center. After that, he can’t lie anymore. To even be around a lie causes him physical pain. And that’s when he’s recruited by an organization trying to protect reality from the damage that lies do.
It’s a big, sci-fi idea, working in the notion of parallel realities as a fairly simple metaphor for lying. Shadrach himself is a fairly unlikeable character, but the potential for redemption is an interesting idea, and his situation has more than enough of a hint of getting what he deserves to work as a poetically just problem. As a first volume in a larger story, there’s a lot of promise here. At just over a hundred pages it’s a fast read with a strongly drawn lead character. But it is a first volume, and while the conclusion is satisfying as an introductory episode, with a cliffhanger that calls back to the beginning of the story in a logical way while moving the central mystery forward in a way that makes you want to know more about what is going to happen, it still ends at what feels like an incomplete point. As a serialized tale, it would be fine to end an episode there, but I’ve been trained to expect more definitive conclusions in my original graphic novels.
Art is by Jon Proctor, whose work I enjoyed on The Black Diamond series. He has an expressive, caricature-like style in his faces and figure work that fits the story well, especially when it moves into more surrealistic territory. Proctor’s style is a good example of how divisive artwork can be: I find his work interesting and idiosyncratic, and thematically appropriate to the stories I’ve seen it on, but I can also see how others might find it ugly. His characters aren’t attractive, particularly Shadrach. For me it works, but for others it might not.
Shadrach Stone is available on Amazon and directly from the publisher, and is supported by a website featuring many art samples. It’s an engaging and contemporary sci-fi mystery, with an appealingly unlikeable lead character.