Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten’s dark horror fantasy keeps on getting more and more interesting, especially as, in this issue, we find out more about the titular Umbral (that’s the plural, they’re like sheep, well, they’re not like sheep, but you know what I mean) and what they are up to. But there’s still plenty of mystery around these villains, which is for the best really, it’s scarier that they remain mostly an unknown.
The issue begins with a flashback, where we start to see just how and why the Umbral destroyed the secret smuggler’s cove. They arrive there in the form of 2 men and a woman, asking for passage into Strakhelm, however, the Smugglers are rightly suspicious of these strangers, who claim to have religion, which is a big no-no in this world, and take them to see ‘The Mistwalker’. The Mistwalker is a giant stone statue of a man, that appears to be walking out of the cave wall, and, so legend has it, is actually trying to escape, and will eventually. It’s a great visual, and just adds more and more questions about this world. The smugglers perform some kind of ritual at the statue, cutting the woman’s hand and asking her to touch it in order to reveal the truth. She turns into an Umbral and she and the others start slaughtering everyone, which was fun.
Back in the present, Rascal and Dalone are exploring these same caves after the slaughter, and they too decide to head to The Mistwalker. Johnston’s dialogue between these two is very strong, and I like that, even though there’s loads of secrets surrounding Dalone, there’s just as many around Rascal. Rascal reveals to Dalone that she has the glowing Oculus orb, which surprises him, but before anything can happen, the last surviving Smuggler, and Rascal’s friend Shayim arrives. In a cool twist on shape-shifting convention, Rascal stabs her friend, thinking she’s an Umbral, but nope, it’s the real person.
The three of them head to the Mistwalker, where they see the Umbral trying to draw it out of the wall, and it looks like they are succeeding, but in fact, the Mistwalker is drawn by the Oculus. This attracts the attention of the Umbral, and in their attack, they kill Dalone, which is another big surprise, I was expecting him to be a major feature in this series, but nope, he’s dead within 2 issues. I do like how Johnston is keeping the readers on their toes, anyone can die, the heroic prince, the wise old wizard, anyone. Rascal tries to escape using the Oculus, but instead she and Shayim just teleport right into the middle of a circle of Umbral. Oh dear oh dear, things just get worse for Rascal.
The issue ends with two other Umbral, one of whom is Jinglefingers or whatever his name was, discussing what’s going on with Rascal, and on the last page, one of them transforms into her dead friend, The Prince. I was slightly confused by this, are we meant to think that the prince was an Umbral all along? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.
Christopher Mitten’s art is still excellent, and I am just about used to seeing it in colour. I really do recommend this title, fantasy is an underrepresented genre in comics, aside from Conan, and this book is doing modern fantasy right.