Three Shadows is a graphic novel recently published in America by First Second Books, from French creator Cyril Pedrosa, whose credits include working in Disney animation on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and my personal favorite Disney film Hercules. Pedrosa is a great cartoonist, with a unique look that seems ever-changing as Three Shadows moves along, with some scenes more finished and fully-realized and others sketchier, yet still really quite beautiful. It's pretty interesting. Between ten pages, trees can be drawn in three completely different ways, always fluid with the environment, and never really jarring from one page to the next. And pencils overall can be thick and angry in some pages while thin and elegant in others. This captures mood pretty perfectly, and makes the atmosphere a vital part of the story. It really makes the cartooning that the artist does integral to the plot and characters, as he takes more advantage of the medium than most artists seem capable of.
Plot-wise, Three Shadows follows a husband and wife who raise their child Joachim in the country where they live happy and free, until one day, three ominous shadows begin to watch them, growing more bold as the days pass. It quickly becomes apparent that the figures are after Joachim, and father and son set off to escape death itself. I know that Pedrosa watched a close friend's son die, and this is birthed from that experience, which is probably why those tender moments and reactions seem very real. But once the escapade begins, the story seems to take some side trips, particularly on a ship carrying slave traders and desperate people that distracts from the main thread of the story more than add any dimensions to it. And while I like the focus on the three shadowy characters toward the end of the graphic novel more than the rest of the book itself, I feel that the thrust of the book should have remained on Joachim and his family instead of taking another detour. Despite this meandering, the heart of the story is really quite nice and powerful, and Pedrosa's mastery over his art alone make this worth the price of admission.