D.C. here for a little throwdown.
I’ve had a somewhat growing dissatisfaction with the big two comic publishers (Marvel and DC) for some time. They seem to have forgotten it means to put out good, meaningful work. Marvel in particular seems to have developed a recent habit of hiring artists whose work, in my eyes, is atrocious.
So, to that end, I’d made an effort to expand to other publishers and even other work in Marvel and DC that I hadn’t considered tackling in my youth.
At Wondercon, I bought this:
Valiant Comics’ Shadowman is the work of creative team Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Unlike DC and Marvel, I know next to nothing about Valiant Comics’ universe. What made me pick up Shadowman was in the cover above. Shadows? Demonic looking creatures? Death? Action? Count me in!
And so I read it.
Shadowman is pretty decent, in my opinion. Jordan really hits the ground running in storytelling. We get a sufficient background into Jack Boniface’s parents just prior to his birth, and the fate of his parents. Nothing was terribly obvious, except for the sacrifice inherent in Jack’s family history, and the power he was going to inherit.
Years later, we quickly see Jack as a charismatic, yet somewhat guarded, young man. He works at a museum, but he’s not a curator. I don’t think it’s clearly stated what his occupation is. And I don’t know why Jordan had me wondering this minor detail, haha. But it’s a curious thing, nonetheless.
The stage is set when Jack throws away a keepsake of his father’s, an amulet that concealed his presence from the forces that have hunted him for his entirely life. And from there, the action just pours out of the storyline.
Now, I’ve seen some strange mess in comics, but a talking monkey in a realm of the dead? That made me raise my eyebrows, and not in a bad way. It was a funny quirk that adds even greater mystery to the series. The monkey seems duplicitous to me, at least at the end of Volume 1. I look forward to seeing what his history and motivations are, because none of that was made clear.
The cast introduced in Shadowman each seemed to have had their own personal histories set, so character background was minimal. Which is fine, because it’s not their story, so much as it’s Jack’s. Their background need not be so fleshed out so early on. Nonetheless, the supporting cast in Shadowman were portrayed sufficiently and adequately.
You can’t help but be intrigued by what appears to be the primary antagonist in this series, the Brethren, a bunch of middle-aged and old fart businesspeople. It’s obvious they have clout and standing that will be a problem for our Shadowman, but is there more to them, aside from their worshipping a demon?
This all screams cult or religious fanaticism, two things I’ve always been into in literature.
I enjoyed Justin Jordan’s explanation of magic in this series. It’s not too much different from other comics that theorized magic as just another advanced science, but Jordan nonetheless makes it explained well enough in the first volume that even those without scientific backgrounds can understand. We see the magic applied in Volume 1, but it’s clear that Jordan has more in store in terms of the full aspects and understanding of magic, since Shadowman is only just learning his abilities.
Patrick Zircher’s art is nothing earth-shattering to me, but that’s just fine. Zircher shows how effective his art is when aided by Bob Layton’s coloring skills to capture the dark, magical aspect of Shadowman. I’m torn between deciding if the art gives the book a biblical feel, supernatural feel, or a horror aspect. Perhaps it’s all, or neither of these? Nonetheless, I like it because of its effectiveness.
I’m honestly not sure how I felt about Shadowman. There wasn’t a lot of information given in the first volume. The full explanation of magic, Jack’s past, the backgrounds of his supporting cast and those of the antagonists…that damn monkey in the Deadlands. All we got was a set-up. Is that good enough? It all depends on the delivery. All these things will hopefully get addressed adequately in later issues. Hopefully they will have impact on the character and the Valiant universe.
As a story, I didn’t get a terrible lot from this first volume, but I appreciate the creative team’s obvious set-up of Shadowman’s mythos.