There are a million dreams in the Big Easy. But now its worst nightmare is about to come true. As the forces of darkness prepare to claim New Orleans as their own, Jack Boniface must accept the legacy he was born to uphold. As Shadowman, Jack is about to become the only thing that stands between his city and an army of unspeakable monstrosities from beyond the night. But what is the true cost of the Shadowman’s otherworldly power? And can Jack master his new abilities before Master Darque brings down the wall between reality and the eldritch darkness of the Deadside?
Valiant has managed to create a series of titles which each represent a different flavor in comics. With Shadowman, Valiant has a title which blends horror and the supernatural with super heroics. Imagine a darker and more modern Doctor Strange and you have the feeling of this book. Magic and mysticism swirls in blues and greens while the blackness of the shadows draw deeply across the page adding a sinister feel to everything.
Justin Jordan crafts a “Hero’s Journey” story with Jack Boniface becoming the newest Shadowman. It is not a mantle he is familiar with, nor is it one he necessarily wants. As with all the classic characters in both comics and literature, that voyage from reluctant participant to conquering hero resonates with readers. Jordan’s “hero” is an orphan who knows litte of his parents, especially his father, the previous Shadowman. By the end of the book he does not know much more about them, but his life is changed irrevocably.
It is still too early to figure out where Jordan is taking this book. The book sets up plenty of back story about the previous Shadowman and the kind of evils he faced, but there is precious little about Jack Boniface or the people in his life. There are a couple of candidates for “experienced father figure/grey wizard” as well as potential “voice of reason/sidekick” but nothing has been established. That being said, the villains which are revealed are suitably creepy.
Master Darque is one of the big baddies form the original Valiant Universe and he makes an impressive debut in a flashback. The main threat in this issue is Mr. Twist, a gruesome creature created from the flesh of murder victims. he is grotesque, imposing, and a true threat for anyone. He is perfectly suited for a horror/supernatural-themed book such as Shadowman.
The action in the book is fast-paced. It is difficult for the reader or any of the characters to catch their breath and ask too many questions. Hopefully there will be moments along the way where Jordan is able to slow down and reveal pieces of Jack Boniface’s back story as well as help the reader gain a better understanding of what it means to be the Shadowman.
The art by Patrick Zircher is also perfectly suited for the book. As good as the writing is, the art is even better. Zircher manages to straddle both the superhero and horror worlds to create something unique in Shadowman. His characters convey so much with a glance of the eyes or a shift in body language. The original sneak peek which was given out was an un-colored, un-lettered version of the first few pages. The story and atmosphere was just as clear then as it was as I read the final product. It is a testament to Zircher’s storytelling (he is listed as a co-writer) that he is able to convey so much narration through just his art.
THis is a strong debut for Shadowman. It is a bombastic introduction to a character who has been neglected for too long. Hopefully once the dust clears there will be more time for some of the finer details to emerge. For now, it is clear that Valiant has opened another exciting corner in their universe. This corner is dark, deep, and full of adventure. I can’t wait to see what comes next!