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Shi: Volume 1: In the Beginning there was Fury (Europe Comics / Dargaud)

Content Warning: The story contents mature language, violence and sexual content and is recommended for Mature Readers Only.

Words: Zidrou Pictures: Jose Homs

One single heartless act echoes across three centuries.

One callous act of indifference links the streets of Victorian London with the present day.

What is the mystery of Shi and why does it spell doom for warmonger Lionel Barrington and his family?

Shi, by Belgian comics writer Zidrou and Spanish Artist Jose Homs was originally published in Europe earlier this year by iconic French Publisher Dargaud and has now been translated into English for wider release by the appropriately named Europe Comics partnership.

Europe Comics was created roughly two years ago as a joint venture from comics publishers from a variety of European nations; including France, Belgium, Spain, Serbia and Poland with the goal of teaching English speaking audiences that there is more to European Comics than the Asterix, Tin Tin, Valerian or the works of Moebius.

The mystery that unfolds in the 70 pages of this first folio of Shi has thankfully nothing to do with Billy Tucci’s 90s Bad Girl book of the same name. Zidrou and Homs have served up an engrossing mystery which will appeal to fans of historical and crime fiction, Stieg Larrson’s Millennium series, or of the current Sherlock Holmes series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Although we open on current day London the bulk of the story the majority of the story takes place in the Spring of 1851 in the lead up to the Great Exhibition of that year.

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A sinister sequence of events unfolding around the under construction Crystal Palace of Hyde Park thrusts siblings William and Jennifer Winterfield into the dark underbelly of Victorian society.

William must follow in his father’s dark and bloody footsteps into a world of backroom deals, secret societies and unspoken vices while Jennifer’s unexpected encounter with with a lost and stranded Japanese women will change her life forever.

But what does all this have to do with arms magnate Lionel Barrington and his struggle to be exonerated from involvement in the 2013 death of a young boy?

Zidrou, a 30 year veteran of Franco-Belgian comics, slowly and expertly builds a mystery through the first of 2 volumes expertly intertwining events of past and present to hint at violent and bloody future to come.

Spanish artist Jose Homs is arguably the real star of this book however. Homs received a Prix ​​Saint-Michel award for Best Artists earlier this year and its easy to see why.

There are no other contributors credited in the book or on the Europe Comics website which leads me to believe Homs supplies pencils, inks and colours for this volume. Delicate line and ink work is completed and contrasted by a rich and bold colour palette which combines subtle blue, green and gray hues with rich and bold reds and purples to create an abundance of striking eye catching imagery.

The end result is a gripping story of power and passion, love and loss, violence and vengeance that left me eager to pick up the 2nd companion volume to see how Zidrou and Homs will conclude the story.

This is a first rate historical murder mystery which I encourage devotees of either genre to investigate.

If you’re curious about European Comics and looking for a place to start you could do a lot worse than to grab Shi Vol 1: in the Beginning there was Fury, from the Europe Comics Online Shop.

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