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Shaman is bonkers and goofy and absurd – and grounded in reality

March 21, 2016 - Uncategorized

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

“He’s the one who makes your whole world possible. This is a world of noble heroes, and savage villains. A world where men and women of great power die everyday. And the Shaman? The Shaman is the one who brings them back.”

Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo’s Shaman Vol. 1 is, on its surface, an entertaining, fast-paced, self-deprecating story about a guy who raises the dead, his young daughter who wields magic from her mystical tattoos, and a teleporting former superhero-turned-sidekick who travel around bringing back to life those whom “the personification of life itself” tells them to. Along the way, they fight skeletons and Cosmic Guardians and giant green monsters, all the while throwing down quips and wisecracks and pop culture references. It’s fun stuff all around, pulling you in and making you laugh out loud.

But coursing underneath throughout the narrative is an examination of the concepts of right and wrong, good and evil, life and loss, and what it means to be a “family.” Ben Kahn’s storytelling works in the gray areas where nothing is clean cut, and everything, therefore, becomes far more interesting. What could easily be flat, one-dimensional characters are, here, complex, multi-dimensional beings whose motivations and choices are constantly examined and second-guessed. As outlandish a concept as Shaman is, it’s grounded in the human reality; the reader knows these characters because the reader is these characters.

So often in comics the intent of the writer gets lost in the complexity of the artist’s choices, but not so in Shaman. Bruno Hidalgo’s rendering, linework, composition, and pacing not only complement the tone of Kahn’s rich narrative, they enhance it. Hidalgo understands the beats of graphic storytelling, pausing in all the right moments, and using panel structure and layout to capture the rhythm of action. Hidalgo’s choices as an artist amplify both the comedic and dramatic elements of Shaman perfectly.

Certainly, much of Shaman Volume 1 is bonkers and goofy and absurd. But Kahn and Hidalgo are offering much more than Pop Tarts for breakfast here. What is the right thing to do? How do we understand pain and loss in our lives? What does it mean to be a parent, a friend, a hero? Shaman is serving a full meal for dinner – it just happens to be one with a deliciously sweet and fun frosting on top.

– Daniel Elkin

Source: Boing Boing

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