Scout Montana has always wanted to be a superhero. So when she suddenly gains superpowers, she eagerly takes to the streets to dispense her own brand of justice. But a city plagued by water shortages, homelessness, and indifferent cops needs something more than a mere vigilante.
Ross Campbell's Shadoweyes is set in the city of Dranac, a city on an alternate Earth that lives in the ashes of a previous civilization and is being held together by spit and hope—and hope is in short supply. Scout is a teenage girl with a strong sense of social justice and a permanently fixed scowl, as if cracking a smile might make her complicit in all the evil in the world. She has tried to save the world in her own small ways—by adhering to a vegan diet, by joining an illegal neighborhood vigilante group—but she senses that it's not enough. She wants to be a superhero, a symbol for the downtrodden of Dranac. She wants to save her city.
Scout's first solo crimefighting endeavor doesn't go well, however, and she ends up taking a brick to the head. When she wakes, she discovers that she is suddenly able to shapeshift into an agile, superstrong, and strangely adorable blue creature. At first, Scout is delighted, embracing her new identity as Shadoweyes and scrapping with anyone she sees as evil.
But despite this fanciful premise, Shadoweyes is grounded in a sort of realism. The problems in Dranac are systemic, and not easily solved by fists and fangs. The city is grimy, depressed, and dangerous; it's a place where people shouldn't walk alone at night. It's also a place where people have to live, and everyone deals with life in Dranac in their own way. Scout's friend Kyisha volunteers at the local shelter and was content to patrol with the other vigilantes until Scout became Shadoweyes. Sparkle, a bubbly classmate, faces everything with an optimism that belies her own personal tragedy. And Scout's warm mother focuses in on her own small family unit, able to shut out the evils of the outside world as long as her daughter is happy. There are also people just as angry as Scout, and just as ready to take law and order into their own hands.
While Scout may have a strong abstract sense of justice, she's not very clear on how to apply it in a practical way. As far as we know, there is not cartoonish villain whose defeat means better days ahead. Scout may be able to save the day, to save a life, but she can't save her world—at least not yet.
Amidst Scout's navel-gazing and her discussions with others about her new identity (Is she still a human being? Still a girl?), Campbell has planted some clues as to the more nefarious goings-on in Dranac, hints of a larger problem that Shadoweyes can't yet see. There is something rotten in Dranac, and she needs to become a better hero—whether or not she's super—in order to comprehend it. And while Scout's dream was to become a solo superhero, Shadoweyes may find that the only way to save Dranac is to team up with her fellow citizens. This may be a city that needs to save itself.