Shadow Roads #9
Writers: Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
Artist: A.C. Zamudio
One of the most intriguing comics from any indie publisher is back. The introduction of new characters keeps the series fresh, while revelations concerning identity fill in some much need knowledge gaps. There’s a ton to unpack in #9 of Shadow Roads, but I can’t help be finish this issue with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. As much as I like the story and concept, there’s something going on in these pages that makes me uneasy.
Everything revolves around Henry. He’s been wandering the Shadow Roads on his own, and he’s not safe–not safe at all. It’s up to everyone else to find him before the enemy does. But when everyone else is trying to track Henry down, he is getting answers he craves. However, the answers he gets only lead to more questions, and it’s impossible to know how deep the rabbit hole goes.
This is where that bad taste comes from. Way back in the first issue (#1) it felt like the writers tackled the question of whether they should be telling the story of a British born Native American man. They addressed the issue artfully, and so set my mind at rest. However, this issue goes a little further in their depiction of Native Americans. I don’t know if I’m in the right here, but some of the typical Native American tropes were there and it sent off alarms in my head. Part of this is because I just got done reading the novel There There by Tommy Orange, who goes to great lengths to explain the harm it does to a people when the images of your culture are typically created by outsiders. They don’t have to be malicious to be harmful and as Tommy Orange himself put it, “I’m resisting the idea, that we are mystical or warriors.” While the mystical aspects of Shadow Roads are not solely on the shoulders of Native American characters, there does seem to be some of this idea ingrained in Shadow Roads.
Native Americans aren’t the only ones that are depicted as mystical in this issue, either. There’s an Indian Guru who transcends time and space in order to speak with people, no matter where they are. Its like a third eye type of mystical superpower.
Unfortunately, these are cliches that we’ve seen before. I was hoping for a comic that didn’t fall into these pitfalls, and I know Bunn and Hurtt have spoken about the potential dangers of writing this story, sadly, however, I think they’ve missed the mark in this issue.
I’ve already gone over some of the questionable characterizations, so we’ll leave the depictions to rest. For what it’s worth, The art of Shadow Roads is stunning. Despite the change in style for a flashback in this issue, it sustains continuity, making the world feel both large and immersive. Characters are rendered in both minute details and simple lines, depending on their traits and moods. This issue even has some cool otherworldly beings in it, that A.C. Zamudio stretch a bit. Unfortunately, the writers succumb to tropes and the depictions follow suit. There is a lot of exposition in this issue as well, and Crank! does an admirable job parsing out the blocks of text across panels. It could easily felt like an info dump.
Shadow Roads #9