First…a quick synopsis. Our story begins with Professor Lawrence Miller learning that his teenage son died of a drug overdose, meth to be exact. Lawrence, a theologian, slips into a deep depression, dwelling on the fact that he never connected with his son. His mind in a dark place, he decides to abandon his family and commit suicide to “find” his son (he was inspired by Latin classical literature). In The Seam, the land between reality and the afterlife, Lawrence sees his father and tells him he’s going after his son Val and the people responsible for his death.
Quick note: How exactly he came to this conclusion that he could seek vengeance on drug dealers in the afterlife is never really explained. When you read this part of the story you’re left scratching you head. First he wants to find his son and now he wants to fight drug dealers, which he immediately assumed he could do now that he’s dead.
We’ll just chalk this one up as "he’s gone mad."
I thought he wanted to find his son…but again he’s kind of crazy.
Now, on to the review. My initial impression was not a good one. In fact Issue #1 was not a great read. For starters, Molinari opened with this:
You see, when creating comics, it’s always important to open with a hook. Writers and artists strive to hook you with the first two pages so you’ll go on and read the rest of the book. I was not hooked. I feel like Ryan Showers and Heather Breckel did not spend a lot of energy on these first few pages, instead resorting to blackened generic demons, with no finer details. They missed a huge opportunity to hook the reader. The art eventually finds its footing, but more on that later. What was worse, was the on-the-nose narrative provided by Molinari. He could’ve written the first two pages with almost no narrative and readers would be just as intrigued, if not more. So the opening was a bad start, missed opportunity.
The remainder of Issue #1 was a lot of laying ground work and explaining motivations. Personally, I felt that it was slow moving but entirely necessary. Without Issue #1, you would be left more confused as to Lawrence’s motivations and madness. Like I said before, the first chapter concludes with Lawrence’s suicide and when he is dead, he decides now is the time he can hunt drug dealers. He also just assumes Val is missing (later confirmed by his dead dad). Why Val got lost in The Seam in the first place is never explained, even at the end of the book.
So again some tough pills to swallow. The reader is left making several assumptions and large jumps to conclusions. I think Molinari made a few mistakes writing-wise.
- In the opening letter, Molinari pointed out that he initially wrote this story in novel form. It makes a lot of sense because throughout the book there is heavy amounts of narrration. Long monologues about Lawrence’s spiritual torment. Molinari, approached the book from the novel side only and thus he didn’t allow the art sequence to speak for itself. I would’ve cut back on the monologues. This would make the things he did say more profound and less melodramatic.
- Molinari wrote the story in narrative past tense. Meaning, Lawrence is recounting his story and sharing it with the readers. Because a sane person was narrating the story, it was hard to pick up on the fact that Lawrence was going crazy, dealing with grief in a not so healthy way. His mental break is finally made clear when he starts talking like some righteous, justice angel.
The story stabilizes after Issue #2. From there it was smooth sailing. Lawrence wants his revenge, is dwelling in darkness and the Staff is draining him. The book actually wrapped up fairly nicely. But I won’t spoil it. But I will say that the moral of the story comes to light, complex themes are resolved and there’s a heartfelt good ending. The final three issues was Molinari at his best and I applaud him for it. (He still doesn’t answer why Val got lost in The Seam, perhaps in Volume Two?)
As for the Art…it got better. The opening sequence was super disappointing but the rest of the book found its footing. The glowing eyes and staff was really well done. There could’ve been more depth with the inking but I don’t think it hurt the art. The penciling style I felt was more unique then conventional comic artists. Heather Breckel did a fantastic job with coloring and creating textures both gritty and ethereal. Her coloring was the best thing about the book. Besides the opening pages, my only criticism is the duo’s inability to draw and color eyes. See Below.
I know I'm being harsh on Mr. Molinari. I do think he touched on a compelling premise. A ghostly father enacting his revenge but then shepherding lost souls turned out to be a solid story. Sure there were a couple snags and a few conclusions need to be made but once you dive into the story, it’s not so bad. Elements of the story were well done. You felt Lawrence’s anguish and the moral of the story begins to appear as you read. I loved Lawrence when he was at his darkest, “justice-angel” state. The Staff of Truth is both a great weapon and device in the story. Pure truth resolving all conflict.
Lawrence’s story is not the typical “blast the baddies and save the boy” story. In fact the ending is a departure from that, which was refreshing. Again, I won’t spoil it. All I can say is that it’s not what you expect but when you read it, it makes perfect sense and is a satisfying ending.
So do I recommend The Shepherd – Apokatastasis? Honestly I can’t say. I was fairly critical of the writing but the final three chapters rescued the story from collapse. If you find the story synopsis compelling and you’re willing to see past a few monologues and questionalble plot decisions…by all means read The Shepherd. It’s only $9 on Comixology. If you do read it. I want to hear you’re feedback. Was I too harsh? Or was I right? Let me know in the comment section below.
I wish Andrea and Roberto best of luck with their future endevors and I thank them for letting me review their story.