Trying to garner an audience in the comic book industry can be a daunting task. With a massive library of work that readers can choose from, it is hard for up and coming creators to compete with an already bursting market. Soundgate Studios, with its fan-turned-creator team, are attempting to do just that. With Shadowlines as their sophomore debut, this tireless team has put together a sci-fi story for the fans. And hey, they even have a game coming out soon, too.
Writer: Luca Baldassarra
Artists: Frost Llamzon and Miguel Gangoso
Set in the 22nd century, Shadowlines is a story line propelled by a few different conflicts. It is set in a future where the world has developed into one of chaos, with two major factions warring with each other. The Neo-Athenians and the Utopian Legion. Both represent different ideals and political values. The Neo-Athenians represent democracy, and are led by General Azren. The Utopian Legion represent freedom, and a resistance to the few that run the world. Once a special ops unit of the Neo-Athenian army, the Utopian Legion are now much larger than the Neo-Athenian army. Legion Commander Horatio Oplek, who once trained under General Azren, has made it his personal mission to take Azren and his world order. While both of these armies clash, a new faction has come to light, the Shadowlines. The Shadowlines are a mysterious group, interested in Azren’s technology and a secret endgame.
Writer Luca Baldassarra, while new to writing comics, has put forth an excellent new offering. It’s easy to tell that he has done his research when it comes to storytelling, having developed a great cast of characters and a unique universe. While at first the story may seem a bit obvious, as readers go forward with the story it is easy to tell there are some ideas that make this story unique in its own right. The characters have a lot of personality and are easily recognizable. A lot of thought has been put into this whole concept, and it is obvious through the little things, for example the name “Neo-Athenian” or even the scientist “Socrat.” There are a few things lacking, though. As good a job as the artist does with drawing different environments, it helps the reader to sometimes use lettering at the top of the page to explain where we are at the moment. Whose base is being attacked? Whose base are we at? Is this a secret science facility? All these small questions can be easily answered with a little extra lettering. It would really help the reader develop the environment in their own mind with this minor fix.
The artistic team shows a lot of maturing from start to finish. Miguel Gangoso joined Frost Llamzon with issue #2, and it is easy to tell this was the right move. Llamzon is able to focus his artistic talents while Gangoso alleviates some of the workload, making for a very complete looking comic. Frost takes a lot of the major penciling duties, and the easiest way to explain his skills is progressing. At the start when he was overwhelmed the art lacked a little detail. There are some action panels that are really dynamic, and others that are a little static. Once Gangoso joined, though, the art made a nice jump from good to great. The coloring was used more efficiently and the inking really added to the feel and mood of the book.
It’s hard to believe that before Shadowlines, most of Soundgate’s team had never really worked in any professional capacity. Shadowlines has taken many concepts that make for an entertaining sci-fi tale and put them all together. The two main warring factions are a must. Complex characters with intricate histories that have been well developed on and off the pages. And of course the future technology that makes it “science fiction.” The best part about Shadowlines is that it doesn’t end there. While the Neo-Athenians and Utopian Legion clearly have differing ideals, it is hard for a reader to really decide who is evil and who is good. This brings out tension and emotion from the reader, as they flip-flop between allegiances. The first four issues really deliver on the back story, creating a lot of suspense for the future. While it does progress really slowly, the first four issues set up a lot. With issue #5 and beyond, Shadowlines has to pick up its pace to really keep up.
While only four issues in, Soundgate has plenty more to come in the future. Shadowlines has proved it can be a top notch story that will only get better. While it does take a bit of time for this story to really get moving, it is easy to see there is lots of potential here. The team behind Soundgate and Shadowlines is truly dedicated to making good comics, and trying to get better everyday. Baldassarra, Llamzon, and Gangoso, while having never worked together, have come together to make a very talented trio. The concepts and story introduced in Shadowlines are magnified by the dedication and skill of the artists. The future looks bright for Soundgate Studios and Shadowlines,
The team had a chance to answer a few questions about their project:
How Did Shadowlines come to be, and what inspired you?
Anthony Crocco: Shadowlines actually started off as an audio editing app, that obviously wasn’t called Shadowlines at the time. When I decided to drop the audio app, I really wanted to design a game. It was something I always wanted to do. When I asked Luca to come on board, he was originally writing a story-line for the game. 30 pages later, we realized it was too much detail for the type of iPhone game that was being made. We decided to make it a comic book to support the game and as an extra for fans. Then it was turning out amazing and way better than we anticipated so we took it to the next level and made it what it is today. Shadowlines would be nothing without the amazing team behind it. The dedication of everybody working on this project was motivating and inspirational and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result.
What are some of the works that you drew some inspiration from for this story?
Luca Baldassarra: I read a lot of comics and novels, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint specific influences. I think because of the amount of reading I do I had a good range of influences for what I wanted Shadowlines to be. I studied history in school which also gave me insight to how to tell a story about war. One very important lesson my experience in school taught me was how much perspective can change how you view an event in time. I think readers will see that when they read Shadowlines.
Reading Shadowlines from start to finish, you can really notice a leap in the art. What do you find to be the easiest/hardest aspect of the artistic duties?
Frost Llamzon: The easiest aspect of the artistic duties (of course I had help with the hard ones) was designing the whole feel or concept of the comic book, like character designs and vehicles, etc. The hardest part was actually applying them over and over in comic format since this is our first comic book. We had to think of various ways and layouts that would help us convey Luca’s writing and vision in the shortest time span as possible without hurting the quality.
What sci-fi works have inspired your art the most?
Miguel Gangoso: (laughs) Well there are a few, but when you ask me which ones I can easily draw from I’d have to say Mass Effect, with its slick design and flash armors, then with brutality, in terms of war, nothing beats Warhammer 40k…these two work wonders with my head, giving me that exact feeling that I need to make Shadowlines as kick ass as it could be.
The ball doesn’t stop rolling at a great read. The Shadowlines team is developing a game that will coincide with its comic. You can check out some screenshots and information about the app, due out in Spring 2012. Shadowlines: The Game gives you a unique point of view as you play as a sniper from the Shadowlines faction, trying to destroy the enemies’ defenses.
Shadowlines will be available at various comic shops across Ontario over the coming months; all shops will be posted on their website, so check back regularly. Digital downloads of the comic will be available soon.