Writers: Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, Roberto Xavier Molinari Artists: Caroline Do Nascimento, Jess Arashi Hara, Kyle Huston, Cristóbal Torres Iglesias, Bethany Varni Publisher: Caliber Comics
“They aren’t the worst. They didn’t commit the greatest evils. But they’re suffering some of the deepest wounds.”
When discussing the second volume of The Shepherd with its co-creater Andrea Lorenzo Molinari, he told me that many reviewers avoided this volume due to the subject matter. The Shepherd: The Path of Souls explores the always controversial topic of combat veterans and PTSD. Albeit in the context of the afterlife.
It’s not an easy read. Since this volume mainly takes place in a combat zone, there’s plenty of violence and grueling injury. Both the physical and mental cost of war is explored with two celestial characters sacrificing their very identity in order to better serve their fellow soldiers. This is an apt metaphor for the price paid by individuals in the name of unit solidarity. Co-writers Andrea and Roberto Molinari succeed in celebrating the kinship created by war without shying away from the negative aspect of such brotherhood and the burden of leadership under impossible circumstances.
While this is the second volume in The Shepherd series, there’s enough background exposition to allow a reader to jump into the story without reading previous volumes. Unlike many stories that deal with PTSD, The Path of Souls includes some welcome diversity in the ranks of deceased veterans, being careful to depict soldiers from colonial and African wars as well as the war genre staple of American marines.
Despite its subject matter, this graphic novel does not appear to be aimed solely at adult readers. Cursing is avoided and when used, symbols have been substituted for foul language. I personally felt that this detracted somewhat from my absorption in the story but appreciate the courage in marketing such a grim tale to a wider readership. Dialogue reveals meticulous research on the part of the writers; the liberal use of military jargon gives the writing added weight and helps create a sense of immersion.
The Path of Souls explores the concept of war in a variety of contexts and historical periods (all drawn from the memories of deceased veterans.) Different artists handle different eras. This works well as it prevents the reader from becoming disorientated and the artistic team behind the book deserves praise for keeping characters consistent despite shifting locations and styles. This is a brave book, willing to tackle distressing themes with compassion. While not for the faint of heart, The Shepherd: The Path of Souls is a worthwhile addition to the library of the more discerning reader.