By Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton & Todd Klein (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
ISBNs: 978-1-908217-01-1, 978-0-986200-5-2 and 978-0-99215-088-4
It’s an unshakable adage that comics are a visual medium and that’s never been more clearly proved than in this enticing allegorical adult fairytale from writer Lovern Kindzierski, painter John Bolton and letterer Todd Klein.
The blithely inviting trilogy began in 2011 for then-new multinational Indie publisher Renegade Arts Entertainment (generally Alexander Finbow, Doug Bradley, Alan Grant, John Finbow, Luisa Harkins, Nick Wilson and Jennifer Taylor: a loose coalition originating comics, audio books, movies, animation, prose and graphic novels, merchandise and games) and after much too long a wait concludes here…
Always remember, appearances can be deceiving.
Once upon a time in Shame: Conception a rather lumpen and unlovely witch named Mother Virtue spent all her days doing grand good deeds for the unfortunate, and for these kind actions she was beloved by all.
She lived her life well growing old and content but one day a selfish thought passed idly through her mind: she longed for a daughter and wished for but a moment that she was a mother in fact as well as nameâ€¦
It was all the opening malign Shadow of Ignorance Slur needed. With dark magic he instantly impregnated the champion of Good with a dark and evil seed and in gloating triumph bragged to the witch that her diabolical daughter would be named Shameâ€¦
Repenting that selfish thought and dreading the horrors to come, Mother Virtue turned her cottage into a floral prison dubbed Cradle; designed and repurposed to isolate and contain the thing growing in her belly.
The miserable mother-to-be also assembled an army of Dryads to care for and guard the baby. After Virtue finally bore Shame, she quickly abandoned the devil’s burden to be reared in the mystic compound, where it grew cruel but so very beautifulâ€¦
Eventually, however, minions of Shame’s sire breached the green walls and began schooling the child in vile necromancy and her dire inheritance. Slowly Shame remoulded her guardians into something more pliable and appropriately monstrousâ€¦
As she physically ripened, Slur himself came and through him Shame learned the power of sex. With the aid of a demonic incubus which had stolen seed from many men, she quickened a child in her own belly and birthed a baby girl.
Into the infant Slur poured Mother Virtue’s soul, gorily ripped from her aging carcase at that moment. Even the nunnery she had locked herself within was not proof against the marauding Shadow of Ignoranceâ€¦
With her despised mother now her own child securely bound within the selfsame floral penitentiary, Shame went out into the world to make her markâ€¦
Shame: Pursuit was released in 2013 and took up the story sixteen years later. The Virtue baby had grown up strong and beautiful, despite every effort of the malformed and mystically mutated Dryads and Shame’s diabolical sorcery who had made every day of her young life a test of survival.
This made Shame, now queen of a mortal kingdom, furious beyond belief. When not burning witches and wise women who might threaten her absolute domination or having her unconquerable armies ravage the neighbouring realms, the hell-spawn spied upon her mother/child with infernal devices.
Elsewhere a valiant knight lay dying and bade his simple, ugly son Merritt farewell. Even with his last breaths, the father dreaded how his foolish and naive boy would fare in a world ruled by the Queen who had killed himâ€¦
The hopeless dreamer was stubborn if nothing else, and when Merritt discovered the vegetable hell-mound of Cradle, stories his mother told him as a child and a strange inexplicable yearning compelled him to overcome appalling odds to break in and liberate the beautiful prisonerâ€¦ although she did most of the workâ€¦
Once free of the mound, all Virtue’s mystic powers returned and far away Shame’s world reeled. Mocking Slur cared little for his daughter but much for his plans and thus revealed Merritt was Destiny’s wild card: a Sword of Fate who could reshape the future of humanity. Of course it all depended whose side he was onâ€¦
As the heroes neared the capital they were ambushed and, after a tremendous mystic upheaval, Merritt awoke in a palace with a dark-haired angel ministering to his every need and desire. Far below in a rank, eldritch dungeon Virtue languished and remade her plansâ€¦
The epic concludes in classic fashion with Shame: Redemption as Merritt falls deeper under the sultry sway of the dark queen. As he slowly becomes her tool of human subjugation, in a fetid subterranean stinkhole, Virtue weaves her magic with the paltry materials at hand under the very noses of her tormentorsâ€¦
Even in the Queen’s bed Merritt is still a child of his mother’s stories and when Virtue contacts him he readily sneaks down to her cell, dreams of nobility and good deeds filling his slow and addled headâ€¦
Now the scene is set for a final fraught confrontation between mother and daughter, but first Virtue sends Merritt straight to Hell on a vital quest to recover the hope of the worldâ€¦
The narrative core of all fairytales is unchanging and ever powerful, so tone and treatment make all the difference between tired rehash and something bold, fresh and unforgettable.
Moreover, the photo-based hyper-real expressionism of John Bolton’s lush painting transforms the familiar and potentially mundane settings of fantasy standards into something truly bleak and bizarre to match the grim, earthily seedy meta-reality of Kindzierski’s script.
Dark, nasty and packed with sumptuous seductions of every stripe, the sage of Shame is every adult fantasists’ desire made realâ€¦
Shame: Conception, Shame: Pursuit, Shame: Redemption the story, characters, world and designs are Â© Lovern Kindzierski, John Bolton and Renegade Arts Canmore Ltd.