Co-writers/co-creators: Andrea Lorenzo Molinari; Roberto Xavier Molinari
Artists: Ryan Showers (Origin), Luca Panciroli (Do You Like Ghost Stories?)
Colorists: Heather Breckel (Origin), Pamela Poggiali (Do You Like Ghost Stories?)
Letterers: Jacob Bascle (Origin), Joel Rodriguez (Do You Like Ghost Stories?)
Cover Artist: Luca Panciroli, David Mack
Project Manager: Jason Dube
Publisher: Black Caravan (an imprint of Scout Comics)
Available: Now, from your LCS, Scout.com, Amazon and ComiXology
Out now from Black Caravan, a darker-themed and largely adult-focused imprint of Scout Comics, is the first issue of The Shepherd: Apokatastasis, written by the father/son team of Andrea Lorenzo Molinari and Roberto Xavier Molinari. Previous incarnations of Shepherd were published by Caliber Comics, though Black Caravan’s line promises a powerful departure from those original tales.
Professor Lawrence Miller has experienced every parent’s greatest nightmare: the death of his teenage son (sorry: bit of a spoiler here, but not much of one). Val was a top-notch student, not one to engage in the party life, not prone to drugs or alcohol, just going out for a movie with his friends and having promised to be home by 11:30…yet Lawrence nevertheless ends his night identifying the overdosed corpse of his son at Detroit’s morgue.
And as though that’s not bad enough, in the coming days, Miller, theologian and professor of ancient Christian literature and history, is assailed by the increasingly overwhelming belief that his son is not just deceased, but lost, his soul not at rest. A condition he feels compelled to do something about.
And that’s when the real story starts.
The Shepherd: Apokatastasis, Issue One is a story in two parts, one complete and one evolving. Our first tale, “Do You Like Ghost Stories?” presents us a fully-established Shepherd, out fighting the good fight. He polices the Seam, the place between life and whatever comes after, gathering wayward souls and those that would prey on them. In this 12-pager, we’re treated to a gorgeous, bombastically-illustrated and hella fun glimpse of the Shepherd’s mythology, setting and powers: essentially, we’ve got an action hero version of Charon, escort of the dead to the afterlife in Egyptian mythology. Action is fast and fierce, and the humor redemptive. Like, sort of literally.
The lines and colors by Panciroli and Poggiali are bright, exciting and old-school, late 60’s/early ‘70’s Marvel in their feel. Everything is vivid and hyper-…well…just hyper. Panciroli’s panel play is manic, establishing the frantic flow of the story, and Rodriguez’s lettering is spare and fun, with appropriate fonts to character, and his sound effect work amplifies Panciroli’s great linework.
“Origin,” by contrast, is a scaled down, slow-build, well, origin story. It is here where we witness Professor Miller experiencing the tragic loss that will eventually launch his quest to reclaim Val’s soul and become The Shepherd. The art and writing are subdued and frankly, as a father myself, an amplification of the soul-crushing subject matter at this point of The Shepherd’s tale.
If Panciroli and Poggiali’s work is a nod to the fantastical stories of the late Silver/early Bronze age of comics, Showers and Breckel’s work is more indicative of the indie comics of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s: spare, focused on facial expressions, tension and emotion. There are no explosive battles, no vibrant colors and exciting panel play. Colors are flat and muted; the visual is a reflection of the mood of the story, established through the writing, the dialogue and Professor Miller’s narrative. Bascle’s lettering takes center-stage, the words easily as important as the pictures in this one—and Bascle doesn’t disappoint.
It’s an interesting mix, these two stylistically disparate but fundamentally linked tales, and at least to my mind a fascinating way to segue the story from its trauma-saturated inception to its high-flying mid-stream hero tale—a little like having Lee and Ditko’s Amazing Fantasy 15 throwaway story about a high school kid bit by a radioactive spider and experiencing his surrogate father’s murder juxtaposed next to a wild Dan Slott Spider-Verse tale. At any rate, it’s a solid foundation for what looks to be yet another great title from Scout.
Now, a personal aside: I’ll admit, what originally drew me to The Shepherd was the similarity between its titular hero and a character I’d developed in the game Mutants & Masterminds (which I highly recommend, if you haven’t tried it). Despite the fact there ended up being a host of differences between my Ferryman and the Shepherd, I’m kinda sorta glad I was so summoned.
The Shepherd: Apokatastasis, Issue One is currently available in physical format starting at $3.99 (the utterly gorgeous, David Mack retailer incentive cover will cost you closer to $15) from your lovely LCS as well as Amazon and Scout.com, and digitally for $2.99 from Scout.com and ComiXology. In an interesting publication twist, the entirety of this arc will be available later this winter/early spring from Scout.
Review by Andy Patch