Cold times

Publisher: Vault
Writer – Cavan Scott
Artist – Corin Howell
Colourist – Triona Farrell
Letterer – Andworld design

This is a really excellent issue of Shadow Service. I mean I say that about a lot of these issues but honestly there’s some really great character stuff, interesting plot developments and the usual excellent art. This issue had to do a lot, we had the aftermath of the shocking end of the last issue, Gina’s continuing quest about her parentage and of course the mysterious creatures/figures of folklore killing agents. There’s a lot going on and yet none of it feels rushed. It’s a packed issue but it’s not dense in any way as each thread is given room to breathe and develop.

Firstly, let’s tackle the big sad plot point – Aashi’s death. It was very shocking to have an agent down last issue, especially Aashi who had seemed virtually immortal, but of course she wasn’t. She and Gina went from enemies to colleagues and friends. There’s a nice bit of flashback to open the issue and show how they were working closely together. The real kicker though is the page of the memorial service which is very affecting. The coffin draped in the flag, the agents lined up. It feels very sombre and really shows the level of loss. The art really helps sell the gravity of the situation.

For Gina who has suffered several losses pretty recently this is another opportunity to reflect on how unfair the world is. Aashi worked for an organisation that deals in the supernatural but she’s dead and seemingly staying that way. That doesn’t sit well with Gina and will bubble away in the background for a good portion of this issue. It adds another dimension to the events and makes it feel more real, these are characters who have their own preoccupations, much as we do.

One of Gina’s preoccupations – her parentage – is being explored by Quill this issue as he talks to perhaps the one being who might have some answers, the step-father who ended up stuck in the wall. If you wanted a creepy haunted house vibe the art certainly provides it. Quill, being a ghost, isn’t really bothered about the hideous being Mike the step-dad has become but I was creeped out in a good way. The haunted house vibe is very clear in the blackened exterior, the full moon and the words Hell house scrawled on the door. Also the years have not been kind to her stepdad who looks beyond ghoulish. Good job Quill is a ghost really. The page as he leaves the house is a nice mix of bright pink drama and horror in one.

We do get some answers to the mystery of Gina, or at least some more information. We also get some idea about what is going on. Hex helpfully provides visual examples of the gory deaths of various agents from various organisations around the world. I have to say the art here is impressive. I never knew a head being pulled off with a bit of the spine attached could look so horrific. It all shows they are dealing with a big threat indeed. We already knew from the tragic way Aashi met her end but this just underlines that there’s a real sense of danger.

That danger is present as Gina and Coyle go after the mysterious white fox that is present at all the scenes There’s a final reveal there that was very much ‘OMG did not see that coming’. I am really interested to see where that goes next because it’s something I was not expecting at all. The mythology of this universe is full of surprises.

There’s really nice character moments between Gina and Hex. Being so far into the series means that these characters know each other but there’s still more to learn. There was definitely a new side to Hex revealed and we see more of how Gina feels about her boss. They’ve come quite a way since their first meeting. Shadow Service does this sort of quiet character development alongside shocking supernatural developments. The talks between Gina and Hex give some really interesting insights into both of them. That relationship is definitely developing. After-all Gina didn’t trust Hex, but now she’s forced to deal with that.

Also shout out to Major Crookshanks who is present and apparently invented Anti-Glamour lenses which I love.

This was a really good issue. There is a strong emotional beat throughout, the plot moves forward, the characters have their moments and there’s still a strong dose of horror. I like that Shadow Service keeps surprising me. It’s so well balanced.

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