Shadow Show continues to be the most variable comic I’ve ever read. Part of this is because of its format: a showcase of short stories, written by many different authors, in celebration of Ray Bradbury. Another reason is the way in which the stories, which were originally written for a prose collection, have been adapted into a comic format. As a result, it’s always a bit of a crap-shoot whether or not any particular issue is worth picking up or not.
Issue #4 consists of three stories, making it the most jam-packed issue yet. The first, “Who Knocks?,” is the sort of story that could be told around a campfire: a girl, on vacation with her family, goes out alone on the lake in a canoe one night. But there appears to be something in the water – something that keeps knocking on the bottom of her boat. The setup for this one was pretty good, but unfortunately it didn’t have a very good payoff. I think the story was also hurt by the way in which it was adapted. There was no dialogue – just narration captions. This has been a recurring problem for this series. Too often the stories don’t seem to have been adapted by anyone with an understanding of how comics work. The result is that stories that were probably fine when they were prose feel weak and under-served in this new form. I also wasn’t thrilled by the art. Oh, it’s nowhere near as bad as the travesty that was “Backwards in Seville” in issue #2 – not by a long shot. However, the artist for this story, Matthew Dow Smith, doesn’t do facial expressions very well. This girl is supposed to be in abject terror because of the thing that keeps knocking on her boat, but mostly she just looks disinterested.
The second story is “Earth (A Gift Shop).” Like the first story, it’s heavily (though not exclusively) reliant on captions. However, this format works better here, since it’s essentially an advertisement. The basic premise is that humanity has long ago left Earth behind, only to eventually come back for short trips to see where it all began. So begins a series of attempts by management to figure out what, exactly, people want from a vacation. There’s some good bits of social commentary in this one, and the art, which is a little more on the cartoony side, fits it well.
The final story, “Altenmoor, Where the Dogs Dance,” is about a boy whose grandfather helps him get through the death of his dog by telling him that the dog has gone to the eponymous (and saccharine sweet) realm. This was a very simple, but touching, story. Definitely the strongest one in this issue, not just for content, but also for being an example of a good adaptation.
Overall, this is a solid issue. There’s some good variety to the stories, which for the most part are fairly well-done. The first issue remains my favorite, but this one is a strong contender for the number two spot. I can understand if you have reservations about this series, considering how little consistency there’s been between issues, but I recommend picking this issue up.