This is such an odd series both visually and creatively. I say that with no malice, it’s just such an innovative look and feel from the very first page. There’s no familiarity either: it doesn’t feel like anything I’ve ever read before and that’s a truly rare and exciting thing to encounter. That may simply be that circumstance has never brought a graphic novel like this into my hands, despite the existence of others in a similar vein, but I don’t recall seeing anything like this out there. The creators have devoted hard work and a really unique process towards achieving this style. Before reading, I browsed their website where they break down exactly how they created their visual world in a stunning mix of hand drawn, sculpture and digital art. You assume when you see visuals like this that they are all digitally created but there’s so much hands on creation involved in this book it’s unreal. Seriously, check out the behind the scenes on their site or at the back of each volume. It’s a labor of love and a dedication towards creating something brand new that you rarely see in anything beyond conceptual art, never mind a comic book.
But is it a good read? Being visually stunning can only take the reader so far if the story is sub par. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here. It’s a really interesting and well-planned out series. The first volume establishes the plot: organic humanoids are being slowly phased into mechanical beings but those who fight the process—even subconsciously— make up The Resistance. This includes our protagonists Alix and Baltimo, who are searching for a way off the train to nowhere. Gods/God is an ever-present, oft referenced force in this story, and “his will” is at work through his mechanical agents who are converting organic life forms everywhere. Creepy. There are agents of the Resistance coming out of the woodwork to help our heroes on their journey all while the Authorities close in. The second volume details their search to speak with the Gods and find a cure for mechanism. It’s elaborate and very detailed, with more than enough mystery, intrigue and subtext to make it a gripping read.
There are a few instances where the action/landscape changes abruptly and it’s hard to tell what or where you are but once you’re introduced to more characters this becomes less jarring. Though the art is beautiful, keeping track of mechanical faces is more difficult for me than human ones so I did have to flip back a few times to double check who was speaking. My last little nit-picking detail is that once you see the behind the scenes shots of the sculpture work, the treatment done to the final artwork can cause the sculptured pieces to lose their crisp focus, making them seem blurred/over-processed and occasionally even not doing the original sculptures justice. Those minor annoyances aside, this is a very strong introduction to the mythos of the Archeologists of Shadows. Currently only available via digital format, it’s easily the best value for your dollar. An entire graphic novel’s worth of story for only $0.99? It’s an inexpensive and wonderful series to get hooked on. I know I am.