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THE SHEPHERD: THE VALENTINE, ISSUES #1-3

Writers: Andrea Lorenzo Molinari & Roberto Xavier Molinari

Artist: Jaime Martinez Rodriguez

Publisher: Black Caravan (Scout Comics)

The Shepherd: The Valentine #1, Cover by Jaime Martinez Rodriguez, Black Caravan

WHAT IS IT?

The next installment in The Shepherd series. A pseudo-noir horror story about being left behind and moving forward.


Think The Sixth Sense meets Disney's Onward.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

(Minor spoilers)

Siblings Lexi and Nico have been struggling since their older brother, Val, and father died. Lexi desperately needs someone to talk to but feels lost. To make matters worse, she swears she saw her father, now garbed in a cloak and shepherd’s crook, return from the grave to talk to her younger brother but not her. She feels excluded and left behind, but her father finally visits her. Not wanting him to leave, she grabs the hook-shaped necklace around his neck which burns her hand and gives her the ability to see ghosts.


Months later, her mom leaves her to babysit Nico when her brother says there’s a little girl outside who needs their help. The girl is a ghost named Violet, but her mother called her Vee. She needs Lexi and Nico to help her find something that belongs to her mother and return it. Little do the two know, they just began a dark and dangerous journey.


WHAT WORKS

  • Molinari & Molinari tells an emotional tale with a satisfying ending. Their many twists and turns will keep the reader invested in Lexi’s journey.

  • The emotional core of this book lies in Martinez Rodriguez’s open compositions and focus on facial expressions. His technique hones the reader’s attention on Lexi’s character growth and allows the story to breathe.

  • Rubin does an excellent job of maximizing the power of the book’s minimalist color palette. The few pages that break away from black and white, using mostly reds, have a satisfying punch and make the horrifying moments even scarier.

  • Masterful lettering placement by Hopkins ensures that the book never loses its eerie atmosphere. Despite most panels having little background detail to cover up, his balloons are placed perfectly.

  • The book manages to blend noir pacing with horror elements seamlessly. The reader gets an introspective look into a child struggling with the loss of a parent while also feeling the suspense of a gothic horror story.

  • Even with a small palette and subtle coloring, Rubin never loses the focal points in each panel.

  • The story called for few sound effects, but when they are demanded they are quite impactful.

  • New readers to the series won’t feel alienated. The writers provide enough context for the story to make sense and leave one curious about the previous chapters.


WHAT DOESN’T WORK

  • Content Warning: There are depictions of graphic violence, child kidnapping, and suggestions of sexual assault within this book. Readers who are sensitive to these topics should take heed.

  • Issue #2 ends a bit awkwardly and makes issue #3 feel like an extended epilogue. This story will likely read better in graphic novel format.

  • There are a few spots where characters familiar to Lexi and Nico (but not the reader) from previous installments of The Shepherd appear and might be a bit confusing for a new reader who picks up The Valentine.


WHY SHOULD I READ IT?

The Shepherd: The Valentine #1, Page 1, Interior Art by Jaime Martinez Rodriguez, Black Caravan

I had previously reviewed the first issue of The Shepherd: The Valentine and I’m glad I got to finish it. The story transports the reader into the emotional turmoil of a child trying to pick up the pieces after losing a parent with grace. My heart broke reading Lexi’s inner monologue and seeing how alone she felt with everything. Molinari and Molinari masterfully demonstrate how to write a character-driven story with growth and healing at its center.


This book is one where the story almost demanded this unique art style. The black and white coloring with hints of red and pink in addition to open backgrounds take away all distractions. This allows the reader to see every smirk and frown on the character’s faces and truly witness their emotional journey alone. At the same time, the minimalist art makes the setting eerie and gut-wrenching, brushing up against a gothic aesthetic without fully diving in. It’s a magnificent example of the power of comic artwork and storytelling when everything is done thoughtfully and cohesively.


Any fan of emotional horror with a bit of mystery and fantastic artwork will fall in love with The Shepherd: The Valentine.


WHAT DO I READ NEXT?

If you like the writing:

  • The Shepherd: Apokatastasis by Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, Robert Xavier Molinari & Ryan “Score” Showers

  • The Shepherd: The Path of Souls by Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, Robert Xavier Molinari, Jess Hara, & Kyle Huston

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell


If you like the art:

  • Orbit: The Cast of Dr. Who by Paul J. Salamoff & Jamie Martinez Rodriguez

  • Wrath of the Titans: Revenge of the Medusa by Scott Davis & Jamie Martinez Rodriguez

  • The Nobody by Jeff Lemire


ABOUT THE CREATORS

Andrea Lorenzo Molinari (@theshepherdcom) – Writer

  • A. L. Molinari is a theologian with over a decade of university teaching under his belt.

  • In addition to writing, he is the Editorial Director of Scout Comics and has served as editor for Amigo and Caliber Comics.

  • Molinari has several books published covering a range of theological topics.


Roberto Xavier Molinari – Writer

  • R. X. Molinari is A. L. Molinari’s son.

  • He is currently developing an illustrated fantasy trilogy with former The Shepherd artist Jess Hara.


Jaime Martinez Rodriguez – Artist

  • Primarily an indie artist, Rodriguez has penciled for several small publishers.

  • He is also a drawing teacher.

  • Rodriguez hails from Spain.


Trevor Rubin – Colorist

  • Rubin has also colored Scout Comics’ Gods of Brutality and Cancelled #1.


DC Hopkins (@dc_hopkins) – Letterer

  • Having a prolific career, Hopkins has lettered for nearly every major comics publisher.

  • He is also a staff letter for AndWorld Design.

  • Hopkins publishes his own short comics on his website.


HOW DO I BUY IT?

The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.


All The Shepherd: The Valentine characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of Scout Comics or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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