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THE SHADOWS OF SALAMANCA
By CHRISTOPHE BEC, STEFANO RAFFAELE (Humanoids; 2014)

A graphic novel from Europe whose bent will be recognizable to Euro comic aficionados; the storytelling rarely follows any traditional rules and the sex and violence are unusually graphic. This makes for an account whose ferocity and intensity are laudable, but whose overbaked three part narrative is annoyingly disordered.

     It takes place in Salamanca, a rural community in Pennsylvania. It’s here that Sarah, a severely traumatized young woman, has unwisely settled. Sarah’s problems include a horrific childhood kidnapping and molestation, and also the fact that her consciousness has been invaded by a particularly argumentative ghost.

     Sarah’s flashback-laden account is juxtaposed with that of some gruesome doings in Salamanca, which likewise contains many flashbacks. It seems a vaguely humanoid feral creature is on the loose that’s responsible for several gruesome murders, in which respect it fits in well with Salamanca’s citizenry, who, we learn, have a lot of blood on their hands. An early flashback shows the townspeople burying a number of dead infants in a mass grave, the reasons behind which we don’t learn until part three--likewise the reason Sarah spends so much time researching the whereabouts of a feral boy…the very one, it transpires, who’s currently terrorizing Salamanca.

     That’s but a partial summation of an extremely involved multi-pronged narrative that never entirely sorts itself out. Another problem is with author Christophe Beck’s stereotypical Euro-centric portrayal of Middle America as a hotbed of religious fanatics who aren’t above utilizing rape and murder to achieve their aims.

     One area in which this book unquestionably excels is the artwork by Stefano Raffaele. Rendered in highly cinematic panels with an unerring sense of where the reader’s eye wants to be, Raffaele’s art is marked by impeccably proportioned and detailed human characters. That’s especially true of his rendering of the heroine as a shapely, well-endowed hottie, and also her many sexual encounters, particularly one in which her studly neighbor goes down on her--resulting in a panel depicting the stud’s head between her legs with his tongue out, something you probably won’t see in too many mainstream American comics.

     

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