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Pandora's Box: Pride (volume one)

Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2009
By: Penny Kenny

Alcante
Didier Pagot (with Christophe Araldi, colors)
Cinebook
Incumbent United States President Narcissus Shimmer is in a neck-and-neck race for re-election against challenger George Costner. In an attempt to pull ahead in the polls, Costner hires private investigator Ron Grubb to dig up dirt on Shimmer. What Grubb finds is a baby--a very special baby whose existence could save or destroy Shimmer.

Pandora’s Box is comparable to a Dan Brown or Michael Creighton thriller; the kind you don’t need to feel guilty about wasting your time reading because it deals with real issues--in this case bio-ethics. Pride is a fast read, with a clever, though not overly complex, plot and interesting characters.

While it works well as a stand-alone volume, there are hints that this story is just the opening chapter of a larger work--something like a modern equivalent to Paradise Lost or The Divine Comedy.

One of the things I really like about Alcante’s scripting is that he doesn’t spell everything out in the characters’ relationships. He leaves room for readers’ interpretations. The prickly relationship between Shimmer and his son Dennis is a good example of this trait. It has layers to it that aren’t fully explained.

Though Shimmer seems genuinely concerned about Dennis at times, he also seems oddly distant from the troubled young man. This approach is true of the rest of Shimmer’s relationships as well. Alcante provides some explanation for this character trait, but he allows the reader to bring something to the table, too.

Not only are the relationships layered, so are the characters. With a name like “Narcissus” (and Alcante is definitely making thematic points with the names) readers expect this president to be self-absorbed and unlikable. At first, he comes across that way--but it quickly becomes apparent that there’s more to him than that.

The investigator, Grubb, is also more than just a diligent muckraker. He’s very good at his job, but he can also have doubts about the ethics of it. Because of space constraints, Alcante is not able to give Dr. Turpin the chance to rise above the mad-scientist role, but even he has moments in which he comes across as almost human.

The perfect complement to Alcante’s approach is Didier Pagot’s art, which quietly tells the story. Pagot eschews flashy panels.

While he is equally adept at close-ups and long shots, all of his panels have a tight focus. Even in wide-angle shots the attention is drawn to a specific spot. Whether it be a person or object, Pagot forces the readers to see what he wants them to see.

Though there is only one action sequence, it’s handled well. At one point Pagot uses two smaller panels within a larger one to show the fine details of what’s happening. This technique allows the reader to easily follow the action. In the sequence showing campaign manager Claire Dale physically taking on Grubb, Pagot uses three panels of different sizes. The center panel is borderless and overlapped on both sides by panels one and three. This overlapping method gives the impression of quickly moving events, while the borderless panel suddenly opens up the action and makes the reader part of it.

For the most part, Christophe Araldi does a fine job on the coloring. His work with shadows is superb--especially facial shadows. Even in panels when a character is fully lighted, Araldi varies the intensity of the light so the face doesn’t seem flat.

However there is a problem with the grand finale. It’s dark and muddy. Granted it takes place outside during a nighttime rainstorm, but a bit more contrast in colors or highlighting would have helped readers to see what was happening.

Still, readers who enjoy thrillers--especially thrillers with “meaning”--should definitely check out Pandora’s Box: Pride.



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