Preview: Breath Of Shadows #1

“Breath Of Shadows” – Book One
Writer: Rich Douek

Artist: Alex Cormack
Letterer: Justin Birch
Published by IDW - Suggested for mature readers
Review by Steve J. Ray

It’s no secret that I’m a horror fan; so, when I was given the chance to look at a brand-new independent horror comic, published by the lovely people at IDW, I jumped at the chance. I’m glad I did, because Breath Of Shadows looks like it’s going to be a keeper.

Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:

"It’s 1968. On the fast track to becoming one of his era’s most iconic rock stars, Jimmy Meadows should be basking in the glow of newly acquired wealth and fame. Instead, crushed by the weight of a debilitating heroin addiction, Jimmy is on the verge of losing everything, until an old friend tips him off to an unorthodox treatment method hidden in the depths of the South American jungle.

With fair-weather friends, local opportunists, and industry sycophants in tow, Jimmy sets off in search of what he’s sure will be a miracle cure. However, as the excursion veers off course and the realities of their environment begin to bleed together with Jimmy’s paranoia and drug-induced hallucinations, the team quickly descends into a nightmare of bloody chaos populated by unspeakable horrors that surpass even the most brutal drug trip."

Breath of Shadows is a slick tale that’s beautifully illustrated. The characters immediately grab you and the fact that they're realistic, flawed human beings makes them instantly relatable. Heck, any comic that references The Beatles and The Rolling Stones will also, automatically, get my vote. Of course, as I’m not really bothered by insects or creepy crawlies I probably won’t be as horrified by these images as some other readers.

What I love about this story is the way that it’s graphic, but not overly so. Yes the bugs make your flesh crawl, and they’re frequently seen to be wriggling about in areas that they’ve no business being in, but having read about and witnessed drug withdrawals I know that much of this is in Jimmy Meadows’ mind. Or is it?

The writer, Rich Douek, does a great job of dropping the reader directly into a horror show, then shows that the main protagonist was already there to start with. This great mix of seeing the imagined mixed in with the all-too-real horrors of withdrawal really elevates the material. No, bugs don’t bother me, but the psychological implications at play, and the fact that they’re so well-written and illustrated, really make this comic work.

Alex Cormack is a real find. The art is realistic, yet still stylized enough that you won’t be feeling ill while looking at these gorgeous pages. While the fantastical elements of the story are there to draw you in, Cormack’s people are all individual, look different, and feel real. This guy’s a talented storyteller and knows how to make faces emote and evoke emotional responses from the reader.

The book’s also beautifully lettered by Justin Birch. As this isn’t an action comic sound effects aren’t present in great abundance, but there’s a lot of brilliantly written dialogue for him to work with. Of course, the occasional scream of pain or bang on the door that we do see (hear?) are all that much more powerful because of this.

Conclusion

Breath Of Shadows has quickly caught my attention. It’s a slow burn, but enough seeds have been planted in my subconscious that I can already feel them taking root. Besides, I really want to know more about Jimmy Meadows, Joe Dixon, and the band known as The Shades. Oh… and what the actual F is really going on in Mexico!

Issue #1 of this IDW Original, five-issue miniseries comes out in February 2023. It’s from Bram Stoker Award–Nominated Comic Book Creators Rich Douek and Alex Cormack... and I’m invested.

Images and Press Release Courtesy of IDW Publications and Scandal Co-Active

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