Out of the Shadows by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

Rating 8.0/10
An epic story of good versus evil.

Image Comics have released some of the best graphic novel series, most recently Crawl Space, Dead Body Road, Black Science, and most famous of all, Witchblade.

In Umbral, the first in a series of novels, Rascal is a young thief who intends to use an eclipse to hide her true intentions - she wants to steal the Oculus, a rare gemstone that houses a power other entities crave. While she roams the Red Palace, she is also met by the king's son, Prince Arthir, where they also find an evil called the Umbral who are wraith like creatures who want the Oculus and will kill anyone who gets in their way. When Rascal gets the Oculus they want to follow her and Arthir does the decent thing letting her go while he stays behind to face them. Rascal knows it will only be a matter of time before they find her and in the meantime she must hide herself and the Oculus from view.

The novel has a nice pacing, it is fast and needs to be as there is a great deal of action in it right from the start that isn't about to slow down. Umbral is the tale of one girl's ordinary thieving life turned upside down the moment she steals the Oculus. She not only has the Umbral chasing her, but somehow other people know she has it, and chase her too. She does have Gearge, the Master of the Thieves Guild on her side to help her though, and he gets her to safety. Even in this first book Rascal soon discovers that there aren't any real hiding places. Not as long as she carries the Oculus as she sees the Umbral even in people she has got to know, so the stone has true power that can be influenced by the Umbral. This, for most people will most likely remind them of the One Ring from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Billed as a dark fantasy/adventure series, Umbral has Rascal and her companions fighting for their lives in and out of trouble, and wondering who they should trust. After several dangerous situations, they think that they might just be caught, but if their allies are as good as they say they are, they should be able to conceal her and the Oculus.

The book features a thief, a thief Guild Master, and a good dose of pirates and ships with a terrifying evil hot on their trail. Is it any wonder that this is the stuff of nightmares? With plenty of action and a couple of nude panels it got an M for mature rating that isn't entirely deserved. Antony Johnston's writing skills and Christopher Mitten's pencilling talent have made an idea into an epic story of good versus evil. Mitten's style is loose and sketchy - it moves between minimalism and detail depending on the complexity of the panels. The action is mainly characterised by ink splots, but most impressive are the scenes with the evil Umbral in them.

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