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Saturday, August 8, 2009

“Soul Stealer: Blood and Rain” by Michael Easton & Christopher Shy (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Soul Stealer Website
Official Michael Easton Website
Official Christopher Shy Myspace
Watch the Trailer HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Soul Stealer

ABOUT SOUL STEALER — BLOOD & RAIN: In a universe divided by good and evil, one man has been able to sustain life for over 3000 years, driven solely by the power of undying love. His name is Kalan. Armed with the ability to bring back souls from the underworld, Kalan must now fight the most dangerous and potent forces the world has ever known, as he wanders the Earth—through the past and into the future—on his near-impossible search for his eternal love, Oxania. This infinite, centuries-spanning search continues amid impossible odds in the second installment of the intensely powerful and visually-dazzling Soul Stealer saga...

Blood and rain flow like rivers into one another as Kalan utters his final word for all eternity, “Oxania”.

CLASSIFICATION:Blood and Rain” is a dark, haunting and atmospheric blend of gothic fantasy/horror, futuristic noir, Norse/Egyptian mythology and the universal tale of good vs evil. For me, “Blood and Rain” evoked everything from Blade Runner, Max Payne and The Crow to Frank Frazetta, Robert E. Howard, God of War and more.

FORMAT/INFO:Blood and Rain” is 160 pages long and is the second book in the Soul Stealer saga after “The Beaten and the Damned”. The graphic novel features an introduction by Newsarama.com writer Zack Smith and will debut at Chicago’s Wizard World 2009 (August 7-9, 2009). “Blood and Rain” is published by DMF Comics. The final chapter in the Soul Stealer saga, “Last to Die”, will be released in early 2010.

ANALYSIS: 2008’s “Soul Stealer” was a revelation. Not just because the graphic novel was a near-perfect marriage of art, storytelling and vision, but also because it was produced by relative unknowns in the comic book industry (Easton, DMF, etc). As impressive as “Soul Stealer” was though, “Blood and Rain” is even better...

For starters, Christopher Shy’s artwork is once again jaw-dropping. From start to finish, “Blood and Rain” is a veritable feast for the eyes, full of haunting imagery that burns itself into your mind. What I like most about the artwork is Christopher’s range—his ability to compose people as effectively as scenery; medieval landscapes as well as futuristic ones; action scenes as well as symbolic moments; and the mundane as well as the fantastic.

In short, Christopher’s artwork is the best thing that “Blood and Rain” has to offer, but Michael Easton’s writing is not far behind. In fact, it’s because of the writing that “Blood and Rain” is better than its predecessor. While Michael’s prose remains poetic and beautiful, his command of the storytelling is much stronger the second time around. The first Soul Stealer graphic novel for instance, was at times confusing and required an additional read to fully grasp, whereas “Blood and Rain” is much easier to follow the first time through.

As far as the actual story, “Blood and Rain” continues where “The Beaten and the Damned” left off, once again following the plight of the immortal Kalan in a futuristic New York. The main plotline is more interesting though, building on the mythos established in the first book, while introducing several new elements such as Kreimchild—an evil being that kills gods and has destroyed heaven and hell; the Tenth Planet, also known as the world beyond worlds; the Pikemen; Vanth & Lasa; and why Kalan might be mankind’s last hope. But before that, Michael introduces a masked assassin who seeks vengeance against Kalan—her identity will surprise you—and two flashbacks narrated by Apis Bull and Altimus, one of Kalan’s fellow soldiers who perished during the battle at Tarquinia. Of this all, my absolute favorite part in the entire graphic novel was Apis Bull’s lengthy and compelling flashback that chronicled his tale from birth to his epic battle against Kalan, and which evoked fond memories of Robert E. Howard and Frank Frazetta...

Negatively, I did have a few bones to pick with “Blood and Rain”, namely the assassin scene towards the beginning, where the use of blocky word balloons and giant text really detracted from the artwork. Thankfully this only occurred on a few pages. I also found a grammatical error in the book, and thought Christopher’s artwork could have used a little more vibrancy. Then again, this last complaint could be more of a printing issue. In particular, there’s a very noticeable color difference between the “Blood and Rain” cover jpeg used above and the actual cover I hold in my hands. Despite this, the finished product is a very beautifully packaged product.

CONCLUSION: I loved “Soul Stealer: The Beaten and the Damned” and thought it was one of the most unique and captivating graphic novels that I had read in years. Yet, as special as “The Beaten and the Damned” was, “Blood and Rain” surpasses that book in execution, plot and storytelling, while maintaining its excellence artistically. Simply put, “Blood and Rain” is a near masterpiece, and I wait with bated breath for the final chapter in the brilliant Soul Stealer saga...

AUTHOR/ARTIST BIOS:

Michael Easton is best known as an actor having appeared on such television shows as Port Charles, VR.5, Two, Ally McBeal, Total Recall 2070, Mutant X and One Life To Live, but he is also a member of the Writer's Guild of America and has written a highly acclaimed collection of poetry titled “Eighteen Straight Whiskeys”, a screenplay based on the life of Montgomery Clift, and the graphic novel “Soul Stealer”. Upcoming projects include the “Tales of the Green Woman” graphic novel (DC/Vertigo) co-written with novelist Peter Straub (The Talisman, Ghost Story) and “Soul Stealer: Last to Die” (2010).

Artist Christopher Shy is the founder of Studio Ronin, which has provided illustrations for numerous graphic novels (Ascend, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, White Wolf) as well as set designs for concerts (Coheed & Cambria) and films (Pathfinder). Recent graphic novel releases include “Soul Stealer” and “Silent Leaves: Exceptions to Life”.

4 comments:

Mishel said...

The artwork you've provided is just amazing. I love the premise of the story as well. I'll definitely have to check out the first volume. I'm glad to hear the second installment is even better than the first. Thanks for the great review!

Fabio Fernandes said...

Great, Robert! I missed that big reviews of yours! :-)

Robert said...

Just got back from vacation yesterday, so I apologize for the late reply to comments...

Mishel, I'm glad you liked the artwork. It's stunning and I hope you enjoy the first volume if you get a chance to check it out :)

Fabio, I miss writing the big reviews too! I have some more planned, so keep an eye out for them :D

Anonymous said...

Robert...great review, and I agree that "Blood and Rain" is even better. Michael Easton's mind in his developing and chronologizing this story is mind-blowing to me. I found it ironic that you found the first installment to be more confusing than the first because I found Blood and Rain to be more of a conundrum to me. I had to read this second installment at least 3 times to figure out the back and forth events and flashbacks. Also, I need to bring this typo something to your attention. You inadvertently called this Blood and "War" (should be Rain).

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