Pros: The concept and message of the story are both interesting and captivating. The emotions in the story feel incredibly real and are thus more impactful.
Cons: The main character’s motivation and actions can be confusing at points.
Overall: This is a well written story of one man’s quest to save the soul of his son. The book starts and ends by detailing the raw emotion and heartfelt message that accompany this quest. Though there are a few missteps in the story’s middle, it finishes with a meaningful ending that leaves readers with plenty to think about.
The Shepherd is an emotional story of redemption mixed with the tone of a dark fantasy action movie. This unique combination allows it to switch from detailing a man’s psychological breakdown to seeing him dealing out mystical vengeance. It is an interesting mix that allows the collection to excel in terms of plot and character development. Readers looking for a supernatural thriller about a man on a mission to save both his son and himself are going to have a wild ride with this book.
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As mentioned earlier, the absolute best part of this book is the depth and lasting impact of the message it delivers. The story center’s around the idea of apokatastasis, which involves the trials one’s soul must go through before reaching heaven. The author’s Ph.D. and extensive background in theology shine here and enhance the story’s themes and morals. This is not a story written by someone who has no idea what they are talking about; this is meticulous, planned, and precise in what it does, something which shows in the final product. All of this and the emotion it brings with it, are what make this such an enjoyable read.
This emotion itself is also one of the book’s strong points. The first thing to happen in this story is the death of the main character’s son. Instantly, readers are forced to feel the same emotions which are thrust upon Lawrence, the protagonist. Yet the existence of these emotions is not what make this so enjoyable. After all, there are plenty of stories out there about death and loss. It is the way these emotions are conveyed which makes the difference.
Andrea Lorenzo Molinari and Roberto Xavier Molinari pool their talent together to make readers truly feel what is happening in the book. The protagonist’s grief, loss, anger, rage, and finally peace are strikingly authentic. This authenticity makes for a better story and helps to convey the message discussed earlier. It may be that their father/son relationship allows them to dig into more raw emotion or it may be that these two are simply talented writers; either way this book succeeds in delivering every emotional punch it dishes out.
The book is not without a few missteps though, the biggest being motivation. Lawrence kills himself in order to find and save the soul of his son, which he learns is truly in danger. However, he almost immediately forgoes this task so that he can seek vengeance on the people who are responsible for his son’s death. It seems like he would have spent more time doing something to find his son before heading out on this warpath. This misstep is somewhat subverted in the story’s conclusion, where he realizes the flaw in what he is doing, yet it still may leave the reader somewhat bewildered at points.
The other aspect which hampers this work is how Lawrence is able to jump to correct conclusions without any knowledge on which to base his decisions. He embarks upon his journey because he knows that his son’s soul is in trouble, yet he does not know why. He also knows he can save his son if he kills himself. Then he somehow knows that his father has some sort of weapon to give him in the afterlife. He ends up being right in all of these situations. If this conclusion jumping happened once or twice it could be chalked up to Lawrence being lucky but it happens far too often for that. This problem is small enough to be barely worth mentioning, yet does affect the reading experience slightly.
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Overall, Ryan Shower’s art in the book is pretty good throughout. Characters and places look realistic in a way that lets them convey the emotions which the writing is trying to show. However, it is the colors which really set the book’s tone. The dark and muted pallet immediately tell the reader what kind of book they are reading and keep them in that state until the last page is done. Heather Brackel clearly understands this book and, in doing so, helps the reader to understand it as well.
The art does have a few minor hiccups here and there. In particular, I was immediately taken back by the book’s first two pages. They simply did not convey the horror that the words were describing. This is mostly an isolated incident though as the art improves dramatically as the book progresses.
Where to find The Shepherd
Local Comic Book Shop: Diamond Previews (the Item Code is NOV151223)
Caliber Comics Online: http://calibercomics.info/t/graphic-novels
Amazon (paperback collected edition; collects Issues 1-5): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1942351127/
Comixology (digital; pdf of Issues 1-5 and collected edition): https://www.comixology.com/The-Shepherd/comics-series/53635?ref=c2l0ZS9saXN0L2Rlc2t0b3AvbGlzdC9zZXJpZXNMaXN0
DriveThruComics (digital; pdf of Issues 1-5 and collected edition): http://www.drivethrucomics.com/browse/pub/403/Caliber-Comics/subcategory/779_23484/The-Shepherd
Google Play (digital; pdf of Issues 1-5 and collected edition): https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Lorenzo_Molinari_Andrea_The_Shepard?id=4IECCwAAQBAJ
For anyone who might be “on the fence,” a FREE digital copy of Issue 1 (of five) is available on The Shepherd Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CaliberComicsENT/). Look right under the video at the top of the page.