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Collection of Sha Paperback – 4 Jun 2008
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This was the first collaboration between Pat Mills and Oliver Ledroit, beginning back in 1996. If I were to read this in an issue of Heavy Metal Magazine without knowing the writer or artist, I'd call it a better-than-average main feature. But you just can't talk about SHA without comparing it to those two creators' more recent work, and neither Mills' writing nor Ledroit's art in SHA is on the level of the smoothly masterful, incredibly inventive work they've been turning out in one installment after another of REQUIEM.
Provided you keep "earlier work" in mind, though, it's worth a look. And this book is a good value, too, collecting a three-album series that runs to almost 140 pages. (And by "earlier work" I mean mostly Ledroit -- I know Pat Mills has been writing comics forever.)
The art: By the time he began REQUIEM, Ledroit had made a quantum leap in his art, sublimating his influences into his own distinctive style. One of the interesting things about SHA is that some influences are still visible here: Neal Adams, Simon Bisley, the 2000 A.D. comics (in the Dwarfball game), and particularly Howard Chaykin in several scenes including the religious game show near the end. Overall the art in SHA carries the story, but some of the action scenes are a muddle of fires and explosions, and there are a few too many panels of Duffy gazing wide-eyed and bewildered into the camera. Neither is the art as cleanly detailed as in REQUIEM, but you can see REQUIEM coming in some of the futuristic-technology scenes, in an opera house some of whose walls are aquariums, and in a flying cherub/robot assassin with a laser cannon, ahem, between his legs.
Storywise it's not as complex, and seems not as thought-out as REQUIEM. It's a very personally-focused story: there are (or were to start with) eleven disguised demon oligarchs, but Sha and Duffy are only interested in the five who savaged Duffy in her previous incarnation. (And were they disguised demons then, too? Or have they 'grown into' that status over the centuries? We're left to speculate.) Sha slaughters a phalanx of police guards just to give the story an action scene. A demon is burned to a crisp and a spirit of light emerges from the corpse--without explanation or even comment. (And another demon declares that "an angel of the Lord" will avenge him. Huh?) And neither Duffy or Sha is the most memorable character: that would be the reincarnated Torturer, who has a "wicked" sense of humor and revels in his evil in a wholehearted, gleeful, half-corny way that prefigures characters like Nero, Claudia, Sabre and Lord Mortis in REQUIEM.
The cover image seems like an odd choice; it's not Sha, it's not Duffy, it doesn't evoke either the Celtic past or the future city. I guess it's one of the disguised demonic overlords, Reverend Grey, in his true form, but it's hard to say for sure because we never get that much of a closeup of him in the story itself.
The Sha series is basically about a young witch in the 16th century who is burned at the stake, vows vengeance upon her executioners and does so in another life 500 years in the future.
I thought that that premise was pretty interesting but I was expecting something more dark akin to the aforementioned Requiem series. I wanted more dark violence but what can you expect really? Requiem is all about hell, vampires, evil nazis, and other twisted themes while Sha takes place about the year 2500 - how many of said themes are present in a futuristic metropolis?
That was just me getting my hopes up too high. The writing is natural and fine enough thanks to Pat Mill's clever mind and the artistic vision of Ledroit is clearly evident in this series as well. I thought that the pictures were a little dark in color and had to read it under extra lighting but other than that it was okay.
I would probably check Sha out and if you like Mills & Ledroit's work then check out Requiem so that you go up in excitement and expectation and not the other way around. Still a solid graphic novel to have in any collection though.