If you were to list the themes that were present in Soul Stealer, combined they would all seem like an impossibly tall order to fill. Concepts such as life, death, love, time travel, mythology, humanity, friendship, and betrayal all make an appearance within this book. Nearly every major theme that shaped some of the greatest literature and films throughout history are present in Soul Stealer, but at its core this graphic novel can be summed up in one question. If you lost true love how much of your humanity would you be willing to lose to get it back?
Soul Stealer at its core is simply and truly a love story. This is not a love story in which angst-ridden heroes lament lost loves. You also won’t find hip young men and woman shooting cleverly ironic quips at one another before gracefully tumbling into bed with each other. Soul Stealer portrays the beautiful universal truth about love, but not before stripping its main characters of anything and everything pleasant in this world. Everything comes at a price in Soul Stealer and love is no exception. The luxury of growing old with someone is bent and perverted in such a way that by the end of this book, what could traditionally be defined as happiness quickly becomes agony. Soul Stealer is gracefully written in a way that leaves its characters broken but empowered, destroyed yet reborn.
Soul Stealer follows the eternally cursed solider Kalan as he searches through life and death for his equally cursed true love. Through his strength in war Kalan has found himself hunted and haunted by the gods and their nightmarish avatar Apis Bull. What is so compelling about Soul Stealer‘s characters is writer Michael Easton‘s complete attention to what makes them tick. The stories alleged antagonist Apis Bull at first is portrayed as a snarling beast of a man with little remorse for human life at all. However, as the story proceeds, we are forced to understand that this so-called monster is more than an embodiment of fear and loss. Easton picks away at each of his characters slowly exposing the various chords that resonate within us all.
Artist Christopher Shy astounds in this graphic novel with a hyper-realistic yet surrealist style. Although it seems like the two could never exist with one another, both styles are embraced and blended masterfully by Shy. Panels in Soul Stealer range from solid blocks of dull tones with splashes of color to vivid depictions of scarred hands gripping blood-soaked blades. Shy’s heavily photo referenced illustrations are a far cry from traditional comic art; yet beautifully compliment to this Soul Stealer’s narrative. Shy is not concerned with traditional comic art and it shows through this graphic novels daring artwork.
Soul Stealer is a mammoth achievement to view in its entirety. The creative team behind this graphic novel were obviously struggling with something beyond creating a book solely to entertain. Keeping readers entertained was, of course, an important aspect of this book. But more so, Soul Stealer is more focused on exposing the truths that exist in tandem with our humanity. Easton and Shy set out to find out why we agonize over the things we cannot have and what it takes to really loose everything. Though every answer isn’t perfectly defined by the end of this book, Soul Stealer still manages to be beautifully devastating in its ambition.
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