Sometimes I wonder why Joseph and Christopher put up with me for so long. Since the beginning they’ve sent us a constant stream of swag and there’s very few things that make me smile more. You can imagine how happy I was to get the second chapter to Alpha-shade in the mail. The first book was pure art and I had no complaints. If you’ve been keeping along with the story you know that the whole story is unwrapping like the storyboard to a movie. The previous book was full of action, creatures, and high-tech. We were introduced to the world that is ruled by the Great Northern and Southern Empires in an explosion of chaos where everything seems to be on the brink of complete collapse.
This second chapter does everything a good movie should do. It goes back 18 months and starts over where it all starts to culminate. All the houses are plotting and we’re killing off the pawns. I have to admit that I was a little jarred by the sudden transition but warmed up to it when I saw a female gymnastics team getting ready to go on the mat. Damn can Joseph draw. Everything is so crisp and clean while the color work has improved over the first chapter. The shading is perfect and this time around we have good play with focus. Some slight issues in the beginning with some perspective though. The first 9 pages are pretty much the same as the chapter one with everyone feeling short. It’s most obvious on page 5 where everyone’s eyes are a little too big and spread apart. This clears by page 10 though with the introduction of Molly.
That’s when I noticed the bubbles. Do they have to be so white!?! In the beginning everything was brighter and made me think everything was colored individually. I liked it but it felt like really good amateur work. About the page I mentioned earlier everything changed. Everything had the same hue and felt like a whole painting and just plain impressed me. The problem now with everything being cohesive are the bubbles jump out and distract me. There has to be a way to tone them back, maybe make them semi-transparent.
Enough with the pretty and on to the gritty. Christopher doing a good job with the story here. This chapter goes a long way towards establishing the background for most of the main characters. We are introduced to Laura, Nancy, Justin, Nick, Molly, Koshu, Kayla, Cyrene, and the Lieutenant. All this is done rather well although in a much slower pace then the whole saga began. This chapter taken on it’s own actually felt very slow though. Almost nothing seemed to happen except finding a gatestone. A huge can of plot worms was opened up and a thousand questions were introduced. Admittedly the interweaving of the three stories in this chapter was done like a pro and never did I feel like I was missing anything. Story-wise this chapter is not up to the level as the first but it’s quite obvious it is more important.
The extra features also proved nice. The forward helped clarify a lot of the questions that loomed out from the previous chapter, such what the hell is the overall story? There’s also four bios in the back with backgrounds of the major houses at play in the story. What’s missing is the alpha-rant. Where are the author and artist comments? I know this is being presented in the classic format but I’ve come to expect rant from these guys and book does deliver any opinions or issues about anything. Overall though this is good second chapter if a little short on just how much story I needed to know for a follow up to such a fantastic first book.