What makes a good action story? Is it displays of thrilling violence? Mystery? Drama? Rage In The Shadows, written by Ralph Henriquez, illustrated by Emilio Utrera, with Milagros Henriques as assistant editor, has all of these elements, and feels very… familiar.
Secret research, personal revenge, kidnappings, conspiracies… this indie comic has it all. So is this story an homage or a cliché? And how does it stack up to other stories in the genre?
The Path Most Traveled
The plot is familiar to the genre: someone in law enforcement takes on a dangerous mission in order to save their family, and gets wrapped up in the middle of a big conspiracy. In Rage In The Shadows we follow Angelica Garcia, a federal agent for Homeland Security, on a mission to save her family, as her daughter and husband have been kidnapped. A few superhuman elements are added to the mix as well to keep things interesting (though that’s not to say it kept me interested).
Overall, the story feels a bit generic. Since this is the first issue, perhaps more twists and turns can be taken as the conspiracy is unraveled. I hope it does, because it feels… predictable. The story could use some fresh ideas to make it stand out from other action stories, like delving into aspects uncommon in the genre: moral gray areas, complex character motivations, political intrigue, and the like. An unfamiliar plot element or perspective would do wonders for memorability.
Holding Out for a Hero (that’s interesting)
We’re not treated to much about Angelica’s character in this first issue: no hint about what makes her tick, and what makes her different or interesting as a character. She loves her family and is good at punching people. Other than that, her personality seems to be the well-worn action hero: here to kick butt and chew bubblegum (and she’s all out of gum).
Hopefully more about Angelica’s character is explored in future issues. Familial love is a good motivation to move the plot along but, as a character, she has failed to capture my attention. As it stands, she feels like a typical archetype of the “strong female lead” and not much else; that’s kind of boring. Female characters don’t need to be “strong” to be compelling; they need to be real.
Art: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The art is decent enough, though it could use some cleaning up. In terms of style, it seems to merely depict the story, with not much flare to make it fun to look at. There also are a few issues with anatomy and proportions, with a hand that’s a little too big here, and heads that aren’t sitting quite right there. Overall, the art works fine, but it definitely could use more polish and more boldness to make it memorable in comparison to other stories with more finesse.
Where the art really shines, though, is in the shots. The camera angles chosen for each panel feel dynamic, cinematic, and varied. The shots we see are engaging, and you never feel bored while looking at each panel. The sheer variety and expertise of the camerawork is to be admired. You are thrust into the scene from every possible angle, and it really does well to convey the high-octane essence of the action story.
Where Have I Seen This Outfit Before?
In terms of character design, there was one thing that stood out to me: the women. With such a well-worn genre, it becomes hard not to see the common tropes that come with it. These women definitely fit the bill for the trope of “badass sexy empowered woman,” though this is arguably not a good thing in terms of originality or empowerment; if that was the goal.
Out of twelve or so speaking characters depicted, there were nine adult men, two adult women, and one young girl. The adult men had much variation in their body types, hairstyles, and outfits. The two women… did not. They were voluptuous, long haired vixens in skintight catsuits with ample cleavage. Sound familiar?
Now, on it’s own, this might not be so bad but these two women, on opposing sides, coincidentally are wearing the same skintight outfit as each other; yet none of their co-workers and/or subordinates (men) are wearing anything remotely close to that. I’m not sure if this was intentional, or a product of unoriginal character designs. “Sexy” women are par the course for the action genre but, if Rage In The Shadows wants to stand out, it might consider switching it up a little.
Any Last Words?
Taken as a whole, it feels like Rage In The Shadows has potential, and it has heart. There are small details one can notice, small nuances in what is focused on in the writing and the art to know that the creators want to tell a good story. But so far, the first issue has yet to break new ground in order to lodge itself in the minds of readers and has not set itself apart from countless other comics trying to do the exact same thing in the exact same way.
If this comic wants to succeed, it will need to stand out; otherwise, it will continue to rage in the shadows, and not in the spotlight. In the meantime, you can check out the first issue of the comic and get your own copy right here.