A ton of graphic novels showed up in the Teen area over the past month, and I've been wading through the pile, looking for new favorites. One that stood out immediately was Cyril Pedrosa's Three Shadows, for it's unique artistic style and it's moody, heartbreaking story. The book centers around a family of a mother, father, and young son on a small farm in a vaguely 18th-Century European country. Life is simple and pleasant until one night, when the three shadows of the title appear on a nearby ridge. It's soon discovered by a local oracle that the three shadows are the physical manifestation of death, come to take young Jaochim. Louis, Joachim's father, decides to take the boy and outrun the shadows, and the remainder of the book follows Louis as he attempts to protect his son from the inevitable.
Pedrosa worked as an animator on several Disney films, and it's obvious in his character designs which show great emotional range with just a few brushstrokes while remaining wonderfully exaggerated. The forests and alleyways of the unnamed European country are rendered using a variety of ink techniques, and one notable scene where Louis becomes (literally) a heartless monster in a vain effort to hide his son away is accomplished with a loose, expressionist line that explodes all over the page like a snowstorm.
Three Shadows doesn't get everything right: There's an extended section where the focus shifts from the father and son to an over-literal look at the other characters that stops the story dead in it's tracks. There's also a number of spots where the symbolism gets out of hand and threatens to smother the simpleness of the rest of the storyline. These problems aside, I still loved this book for it's graceful, flowing attempt to handle such dark subject matter. Overall, despite it's flaws, Three Shadows is a touching, magical story about a father's love for his child and his determination to protect him, no matter the cost. I'm eagerly awaiting more work from this artist in the future.