The first volume of Archeologists of Shadows was one of the most visually striking books I have read in recent memory. The second volume, Once a Nightmare, is even more visually intense than the first volume. Creators Lara Fuentes and Patricio Clarey have ratcheted up the story intensity, picking up right where volume 1 left off and never taking their foot off the gas. If there were any lingering doubts left after the first volume, let me be clear: Archeologists of Shadows is something special!
Alix and Baltimo’s spirits have traveled to the Oniric world; the world of dreams. They are on a quest to ask the gods about the edict that all beings must be mechanized. Along the way they are confronted by nightmares and dreamscapes far stranger than they could imagine. They must overcome their fears and defeat the master of the dream realm if they are to succeed in their task. All the while, back in their home world, their host bodies are in peril as government forces seek them out and try to shut them down.
The art in Archeologists of Shadows volume 1 stole the show and overshadowed (no pun intended) the writing. If anything, the art in volume two is even better! Clarey’s landscapes are so detailed (and the resolution is so sharp) that I spent a ridiculous amount of time zooming in on each panel and exploring. There are tiny details tucked in everywhere that make the landscapes more than just backgrounds, but actual integrated parts of the story. As Alix and Baltimo cross the Oniric world, the societies they find, regardless of how briefly they are shown, reveal a rich world full of character and story.
That is really my only complaint about the story. I could have spent pages and pages in any of the areas Alix and Baltimo visit. The Oniric world is a tantalizing blend of technology and wildlife that is both foreign and familiar at the same time. It is as if the wilds have reclaimed some of the mega-cities of the first book, and technology and nature live in greater harmony. It would be great to see how two characters fighting so hard against mechanization would interact with and experience this kind of environment.
The real difference between volumes 1 and 2 is the writing. Lara Fuentes stepped up her writing in this volume. It instead of getting lost in the art, the story in Once a Nightmare shines through. The story moves rapidly, at times a bit too rapidly for my taste, keeping the action flowing. There is no decompressed storytelling here. Alix and Baltimo have a job to do and they must do it quickly. The breakneck pace of the story reaffirms this with every turn of the page! Questions from the first volume are answered and new questions are revealed, making this a satisfying volume in its own right, and an important piece of a larger story.
Normally it is pretty clear where a story is headed after two volumes, the only real question being how is the author going to get all the pieces in to place. With Archeologists of Shadows, I have no clue where it is going! AoS keeps the reader guessing at every turn, and has them crying for more at the cliffhanger ending!
As with the first volume, there is an extensive section in the back with production photos and art. I was amazed at the size and complexity of the models that were used to create the characters and settings. With the art being a combination of traditional pencils and inks, computer generated work, photography, and sculpture, it is a real treat to get a glimpse inside the creative proces!
Do yourself a favor and check out Archeologists of Shadows. Start with volume 1 (a mere 99 cents!!!!) and then read Once a Nightmare. You will be amazed at what comics can be!
Archaeologist of Shadows: Once a Nightmare is available today for Kindle, Nook, and all your other e-readers.