A little over a year ago, I reviewed the first volume of The Archeologists of Shadows, a steampunk-fuelled sci-fi series of original graphic novels written by Lara Fuentes and drawn by Patricio Clarey. At the time, I’d talked about how the first volume seemed to end just as the story was really picking up momentum and getting going, and that the stage had been set for a potentially thrilling volume 2. Unfortunately, with the arrival of Once a Nightmare, those expectations haven’t quite been met.
There is still some good storytelling here from Lara Fuentes, don’t get me wrong. But just when the story seemed primed to start giving us some answers and make its elusive world a little clearer, it instead seems to become even more infuriatingly elliptical as our protagonists Baltimo and Alix journey through the nightmare realm of the dream world in search of their gods. But after wading through some metaphorical trials and finding their inner strength, by the time they finally get round to doing what they set out to do at the end of the previous volume, the resolution is snatched away from us and their whole enterprise is rendered into a redundant detour. As the status quo reverts back to something not too unlike where we were when this story started, I was left feeling much the same way I did at the end of the previous volume: that perhaps it will be the next volume when this promising story kicks into high gear and really gets rolling.
Thankfully, Patricio Clarey’s 3D-rendered art is still outstanding. In particular, the scenery remains breathtaking, with the magnificent vistas of the dream realm allowing him to really cut loose. There is the odd mild issue with clarity, but the positives far, far outweigh any negatives here. Such a visually distinctive delight of a comic.
If the lack of forward momentum is a bit infuriating, it’s not a deal-breaker. In my review of the first volume I said that Lara Fuentes seemed to be holding all her cards very close to her chest, and that is still the case. But this world is still intriguing enough for me to want to learn more, so I would most likely be invested in coming back for a third helping whenever Volume 3 is ready for release.