SHADOWMAN #1 (Valiant Comics, November 7, 2102 release date) Written by Justin Jordan & Patrick Zircher. Art by Patrick Zircher. Color Art by Brian Reber. Letters by Rob Steen & Dave Lanphear.
Timing may be everything, even when it’s coincidental. Just as one comics publisher announces the ending of a long-running supernatural/horror-themed title (John Constantine, HELLBLAZER) — in steps Valiant Comics with a new reluctant defender against demons in SHADOWMAN (the latest offering in their revival of many popular 1990s titles from the original Valiant.) At least those of us who favor the dark and disturbing in our illustrated tales will have something to satisfy our cravings. Based on the debut issue, the new SHADOWMAN appears to be a nice mix of the popular original title and the darker, voodoo-themed 1997 reboot from Acclaim Comics.
We first learn of the main protagonist, Jack Boniface, before his birth as his father leaves his pregnant mother behind and departs for a dark reckoning. Turn the page on an unearthly confrontation between resurrected giant humanoids and members of the mystical Desire Projects. In steps Jack’s father, in Shadowman form, just in time to stop Master Darque by dragging him back into the portal from another dimension/realm.
Flash forward to present day New Orleans, where some of Jack’s background is revealed. He’s presently working in a local museum of culture and hiring detectives to research his parents’ background. (His mother died when he was just 10 years old.) Jack learns that he’d been lied to during his childhood and both mother and father had criminal records. Wracked with disappointment and despair, he discards the protective amulet his mother placed around his neck. This alerts the demonic forces of his presence and location, and it’s not long before they find him. Totally by surprise, Jack’s body morphs into the Shadowman as the issue ends.
It’s a great opening to the series, and writers Jordan and Zircher move things along at an engaging pace revealing just enough background detail to whet the appetite for more. The art by Zircher has a sense of realism to it which makes the supernatural elements that more frightening as they seamlessly blend into the natural surroundings. Zircher is equally adept at depicting the more gruesome elements. A scene of carnage discovered by two police officers is definitely not for the squeamish. Mister Twist, the demon agent of Master Darque who confronts the police is a brilliant bloody creation, a disturbing blend of Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (the demon from the floorboards).
As an extra incentive, there are some fantastic variant covers available through local comics stores including a jet-black cover that reveals the outline of Shadowman when viewed from an angle. There is plenty to appreciate in SHADOWMAN and good reason to come back for more. Now is a good time to jump onboard for a grisly good ride.
–Michael J. Clarke