By: John C. Mayberry
Out the many works of fiction I’ve read in my lifetime, I have to admit I’ve always had an affinity for tales connecting to the supernatural. For me there has always been a certain allure to the facets of existence that just cannot be explained by normal means; the unknown and unseen parts of our world, made more horrific only according to the limits of our own imaginations. In trying to understand the unknown, it was common for people to create myths and legends to rationalize the world around them which, over time, would serve as inspiration for some of fiction’s greatest stories. In the comic book industry, one well-known name that will likely be recognized by readers and creators alike would be Shadowman. Premiering in 1992 as one of Valiant Comics’ oldest characters, Shadowman would have numerous appearances in comic books, including crossovers with other Valiant characters, spawn two video games, and as of this year, a new ongoing title.
The first issue once again features Jack Boniface, the latest of his lineage to wield the powers of the Shadow Loa, and to protect the world from the creatures of the Deadside, the limbo-like realm that all human souls venture through upon death. Getting straight to the action, the narrative of the story begins with Jack facing off against a demonic entity responsible for brutally murdering masqueraders in the streets of New Orleans. Internal character monologue as well as dialogue is paced perfectly, appropriately progressing the narrative, together with impressive artwork to reveal the true reason for the creature’s presence in the mortal plane with a comic that tells a unique supernatural tale with all the graphic deliciousness one would expect from only the best of horror stories.
Ending with a bit of mystery on how the series will continue with its second issue, this new expansion of the Shadowman mythos is something I am damn sure keeping up with. I loved the mythos before, and this issue didn’t disappoint in the least. This may be different for readers who are new to the character since it does feel like some prior knowledge or familiarity of Shadowman may be needed before even reading this comic. Otherwise, this was a very enjoyable read, and something I’ll be adding to expanding collection of number one issues as soon as possible.
Artwork – Jon Davis-Hunt illustrates an interesting and eye-catching look of a world at the mercy of demons and other dark forces beyond human comprehension. The titular character’s ethereal look, the appearance of the demonic creatures, and even the gory panels are drawn in great, violent detail, without being too detailed or distracting from the story being told.
Writing – The story progresses nicely, with series writer Cullen Bunn masterfully blending elements of fantasy, action, and horror which, through Jack’s inner thoughts, and character dialogue that feels completely natural, you will get an excellent sense of the type of story Shadowman #1 is, and a better understanding of the personality of this comic’s reluctant protagonist.
Coloring – What’s that? You thought the artwork was impressive before? Wait ‘til you see it in color! Jordie Bellaire, the series’ colorist, uses all the right hues and shades to complete the illustration process on a strong note, helping to immerse you a little deeper into the world of Shadowman’s rich, supernatural lore. Coloring and shading combined really create a bleak and dark atmosphere of our world, while bringing a certain vividity to the characters themselves, especially Shadowman himself, who appears to be radiating ethereal power.
May not be a smooth introduction for new readers – As impressive as this issue was, it does have the feel that some prior knowledge of the Shadowman mythos is needed before reading it. This may be slightly confusing to those of you who are new to the character, as all you’re given regarding prior history is a brief, one page description of who he is, where his powers come from, and what he does. For other new readers, it may run the risk of coming off as rushed. But I can personally guarantee you kids, the writing is otherwise fantastic.
OVERALL SCORE – 9.5 out of 10
The inspiration of voodoo lore in the creation of Shadowman would help make him a character so popular, that he’d not only go on to outsell some of Marvel’s and DC’s titles in only his second year of publication but would even have the date of January 17th 1993 declared by then New Orleans mayor Sidney Barthelemy as “Shadowman Day”. Voodoo lore alone can’t take all the credit, however, as it took the work of many great talents to elevate him to his current status in the comic book world. And with this latest creative team involved, the only thing that can happen from here is this character’s story reaching heights it never has before.