I haven’t read a book from Caliber Comics since The Realm. Aside from a handful of Mr. Monster comics and the aforementioned title, the publisher hasn’t really caught my attention as of late. But, to me and my sentimental ways, Caliber still represents a nostalgic time in comics. When I got the chance to review one of their upcoming graphic novels I was eager to do so.
The Shepherd: Apokatastasis, by Andrea Lorenzo Molinari and Roberto Xavier Molinari, with art by Ryan Showers, is not your average, everyday graphic novel. It is a great example of the growing market for titles to release directly as trade paperbacks, a trend that is growing in popularity, especially amongst independent publishers.
The Shepherd at first glance seemed like another supernatural book, but it’s so much more than that. While, later in the story, it does have some of the more familiar trappings of that genre, it goes much deeper. The Molinari’s take on the afterlife is quite different, showing influences from classical literature — in particular the otherworldly journeys like those of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Odyssey.
While I enjoyed The Shepherd‘s approach, I was surprised by how dark the book gets. At first glance it doesn’t appear to be but, after you start reading, the story hits you right in the face. When I say dark, I don’t mean the novel leans on the sinister overtones of a horror movie, rather it exhibits the type of dark reality that life itself can hold for everyone. It’s about the emotions that drive us to such extremes, and the deep pain that we can feel. Parts of this book moved me in ways that a regular graphic novel just doesn’t, while others were similar to a standard supernatural comic. The true genius of The Shepherd is that it doesn’t try to fit into the stereotypical pattern of ending with everything tied up in a pretty bow to make you feel better.
The driving force behind the story is revenge, with a few light-hearted in spots sprinkled in, but the main story is very much a lesson in retribution. The narrative looks at the effects vengeance has on the person seeking it, in addition to those affected by it.
Normally the titles I review conform to their genre in such a way that it makes it easy to recommend. While The Shepherd has its supernatural/ horror slant, its execution is so much more nuanced than typical offerings from that genre. If you like the types of otherworldly journeys found in mythology, where the hero doesn’t always win and the path leads to lessons learned more so than any sort of destination, then you will like this book. If you like stories that give a full helping of reality mixed with supernatural fun, then you’ll also like this book. In the end The Shepherd is an emotional ride worth taking.