Kagemono #1 (2008)

Editor Jason Franks
Publisher Black Glass Press
Writer Jason Franks, J. Mark Schmidt, Justin Jordan
Art and Colours Jason Franks, Nicholas Hunter, Yuriko Sekine, J. Mark Schmidt
Genre Collection

Talk us through it

The inaugural issue of Kagemono presents the reader with five stories and an editorial by Jason Franks. There's a diversity of story styles going down here, ranging from high fantasy to Western, but the underlying nature of each story is pitched towards the dark genre. Similarly the ink shows a divergence from anything approaching a uniformed pattern. It all adds up to something different to what we might expect.

Let's go check out Jason Franks' wild bunch.


"Lucky for you, I'm a sporting man" - Crane

Kagemono is a Japanese word for "shadow things", it also apparently means "follower" but let's leave that aside for the purpose of this review. The title is both apt for, and shows the direction Jason Franks' comic is heading in. Before anyone starts accusing me of multi cultural appreciation I picked off the title meaning from the editorial, it would have required a Google search otherwise. As you progress through the comic story by story you get the feeling that something more than what you initially see on the page might be going down, but hey Review site here, I'll leave the deep analysis to the Critical sites, assuming of course they lower themselves to the evaluation of the comic art form.

But what dark delights await us within the covers? - glad you asked!

Shadowmancy, script by Jason Franks art by Nicholas Hunter, kicks us off in pretty good style. The storyline is firmly entrenched in the fantasy genre, think the first book in Ursula Le Guinn's Earthsea given a modern spit and polish, and gets where it's going without breaking a sweat. Franks' script holds up well and Hunter's artwork is imposing. I actually had to read the story a couple of times to pick up some of the nuances going down, is Jason Franks perhaps giving us a moral fable here?

Just when you think you have Kagemono pinned to the mat, looks like I'm using sporting analogies today, it pulls out a surprise move in the second story The Spider Fairy. Once again the script is by Jason Franks but this time the artwork belongs to Yuriko Sekine. The story itself spins a punch line that wouldn't be out of place in Creepy, yes the puns could start early, but it's the Japanese influenced panels that draw attention. Sekine clearly has spent way too long watching anime sagas and we get the benefit here. An excellent piece both in terms of plot and art, loved it folks!

J. Mark Schmidt hits both the script and the artwork in the outback slasher influenced We Can Ride It Together to good effect. I guess a lot of people are going to immediately go for a Wolf Creek influence but you could just as well point at Gone, or to be honest any number of other Aussie dark musings. People becoming victims in the outback is pretty much a sub genre in and of itself here in Australia, it just seeps in. Schmidt pulls a surprise twist in terms of possible demise, and keeps the art very naive to get the message in his final couple of panels hitting home.

Justin Jordan ensures zombie fans won't go home disappointed, lobbing his script The Best of the Best in their direction. The Western influenced story is pencilled by Jason Franks with an assist on the inks by Cory Evan Laub. As one would expect the claret is flowing in this outing, and if the concept of severed limbs doesn't appeal then flick to the next and last story.

The final story in the issue see's J. Mark Schmidt return with a short script aimed at getting a one liner happening. Once again, as in most of the stories, there's an underlying theme that the discerning may want to wax lyrical about. I was just happy to tee up the story and have a slight chuckle at the final line.

Along with the five stories we get Jason Franks explaining his view of the dark genre in an editorial toward the end of the comic. Interesting stuff and clearly Franks would be a good addition to any panel defending the dark genre in front of a hostile audience. What's going to be really cool about Kagemono is that our Editor seems to get what the genre is about and isn't just caught up in whatever the current fade for the fanboys is. I'm expecting future issues of the comic to really start beating the horror bush for some big game. We're eternally interested in the definition of "horror" here at ScaryMinds, so there was a fair amount of interest in what someone else had to say.

Overall you will be left with the impression that you have really got full value for your $5 dollar investments. Yes folks, in keeping with other Down Under comic Publishers Black Glass are hitting the newsstands with a comic that not only rivals the big publications coming out of the U.S but costs about as much as a schooner of beer at a decent hotel. The scripting is damned fine here, once again I'll emphasis that there's more going on under the hood than it first appears, with each story in the issue being well constructed. The artwork ranges from classic fantasy, through Japanese inspired anime, to pretty simple panels. Making simple characters is actually a lot harder than you may think, especially when those characters are telling a story. Besides which the simple has an honoured traditional in alternative publications. Yes folks I think we can accuse Jason Franks of being a hippy!

Kagemono #1 is available via the net from Black Glass Press's own website, check it out. Ordering is as simple as clicking a few pictures, entering some details, and hitting the purchase button. My order arrived a hell of a lot quicker than I expected, was well packaged, and I'm pretty pleased with the whole transaction. While at Black Glass's store check out some of the other publications, we'll be covering quite a few of them in the coming months.

Summary Execution ...

Jason Franks has delivered yet another comic to keep the home fires burning, to entertain and shock, and let's fact it to send that chill down your spine. There's some nasty ideas percolating through the comic and I was digging what was served up to me.

Naturally we're slightly late here in saying hello to Kagemono and I'm not even going to mention how many issues lay in wait for us in the coming weeks as we play some catch up. Needless to say Black Glass are dedicated to the concept with at least one graphic novel length offering in the series available.

Kagemono may not be everyone's cup of blood, it's fiercely independent stuff, but if you have been trawling the news racks for something different then I suspect this will be what you have been after. Issue one of Kagemono gives us a slightly subversive breeze with a hint of cult status. Check it out, there's more here than meets the eye.

ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...

A hard 7*, as stated not for everyone, but worth having a look.

* - A few readers have been wondering what we mean by "hard" in our rating system. Basically it's the equiv of an extra half a point rating. In the case of this one that would be 7.5. It's a graphics thing.