fantasy and science fiction book reviewsShadow Show: Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by various authors and artists

SHADOW SHOWShadow Show is a graphic adaptation of a previously released anthology of the same name. That collection rounded up a host of well-known authors and asked them to write original stories inspired by and/or as a tribute to Ray Bradbury. The graphic version, which uses just a few of the stories from the original anthology, includes:

  • “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” by Joe Hill
  • “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” by Neil Gaiman
  • “Backward in Seville” by Audrey Niffenegger
  • “Live Forever” by Sam Weller
  • “Weariness” by Harlan Ellison
  • “Who Knocks” by Dave Eggers
  • “Hokum Howkum History Presents Earth: A Gift Shop” by Charles Yu
  • “Altenmoor, Where the Dogs Dance” by Mort Castle
  • “Conjure” by Alice Hoffman

Among the many artists are Charles Paul Wilson II, S. L. Gallant, Eddie Campbell, Mark Sexton, Maria Frohlich, Gabriel Rodriguez, and others.

As with many anthologies, the end result was a mixed bag, with one excellent story, a few solid ones, and some weak ones. These were my reactions in order of preference:

“Conjure” was by far (way, way far) my favorite in the group, I thought Hoffman’s story stood head and shoulders above the others for its depth and emotion and clever play off of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (mentioned in the story). Here, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade — the light and dark, yin and yang characters of Bradbury’s story — become Abby and Cate, and though no dark carnival comes to town, the two still have their relationship tested by temptation, still must face the pain of being betwixt and between childhood and adulthood, still must consider an agonizing sacrifice. Really, the entire story is absolutely brilliantly done both as a Hoffman and a Bradbury story, and I can’t say enough about it save that even if you don’t pick up the collection you should read this. The artwork is excellent as well, clear and colorful, and does a great job of conveying tone and especially character. The tension builds nicely, almost inevitably, to a supremely bittersweet close. Just great.

04“The Man Who forgot Ray Bradbury:” To be honest, it’s a pretty big drop-off from Hoffman’s story, even to a Gaiman-penned tale. But “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” is a nicely expressionistic and discomfiting story that will have Bradbury fans gleefully trying to pick out just which stories are being referenced even as the sense of strange sadness builds to a strong close. The art is a perfect match for the tone and content, employing a lot of black, mostly muted color, and some sharp contrast. Interestingly for a tale about forgetting, the lines are incredibly sharp.

“Backwards in Seveille” takes place on a cruise where a daughter takes the place of her recently diseased mother on a cruise with her father. Surrounded by elderly people and cognizant of her father’s grief, she spends a quiet moment on the deck evaluating her own life and coming to a major decision. The underlying pathos and sense of regret, of opportunities passed, set alongside the widower’s grief and the sense of inevitable mortality driven home by the age of the cruise’s population, lends a nice sense of depth to what is otherwise a relatively slight story. This was one where I didn’t much care for the art.

“By the Silver Waters,” by Hill, is a solid entry, mostly due to its strong close. Told as a flashback from an elderly woman’s perspective, it’s the story of an incredible find she and her best friend Joel made on the shore of Lake Champlain one day. I can’t say the story grabbed me early on, but it has a lingering impact thanks to its last few pages. I wasn’t a big fan of the art, though it’s certainly serviceable.

“Live Forever” focuses on a reporter interviewing Bradbury, regarding “the reason he had become a writer,” for a story. It does a nice job of capturing Bradbury’s passions and covering his work, but the dialogue was a bit stilted (though I could argue there’s a reason for this) and the ending predictable past a certain point, so that that the story fell mostly flat for me. The art that brought to life Bradbury’s stories was well done, though the scenes between just the two men in the living room felt a bit cramped.

The rest of the stories I found relatively weak and uninspired, suffering from various flaws such as being overly sentimental, predicable, perfunctory, or monotone.

So if you’re keeping score: that’s one great story, one good story, two decent stories, one flat and predictable story, and several forgettable ones. With a ratio like that, I’d normally end up with a no-brainer of a Not Recommended. But Hoffman’s story “Conjure” is just so good, it’s almost worth the price of entry itself. At the very least, I’d say pick this up at the library and read that one, then skim through the rest and see what attracts you, if anything. Since I have to give this a star rating, I’m going to go with a 3, but that’s a bit skewed thanks to “Conjure.” Take that out of the mix, and I’d give it a 2 or 2.5.

Finally, just a word about the original anthology, which I’ll be reviewing more fully in a separate post. First, you should get it. Even though, as with most collections, the stories vary in quality, generally it’s a top-notch anthology, with most of the stories falling in the good to excellent range. Second, not only does it include more and better stories, the versions of the stories selected for the graphic adaptation are much stronger in their original incarnation. “Conjure,” which stood out here as by far the best, is even better given a bit more time and space. Meanwhile, Joe Hill’s “By the Silver Water” is nearly as good, as “Conjure” — so much more moving, so much more complex than its version here. Even the poorer graphic stories are somewhat better, even if they don’t rise all the way to “good.” If you like graphic stories, by all means, pick up this version for “Conjure” and one or two others. But if you just like stories, definitely grab the original anthology.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.