Review: Shadowman #1 by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher

Shadowman #1 is so big, that we needed two Comic Nexus writers to cover it. I am going to cover Shadowman from an old Valiant and Shadowman fan, and Joey Smith is going to review this from a newcomers standpoint.

Shadowman #1

Publisher: Valiant Comics
Writer: Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher
Artist: Patrick Zircher
Release Date: 11/06/2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Review: Advance Copy

RJ Schwabe’s Take:

Please note, I am writing this introduction BEFORE I’ve read one page of Shadowman #1 (other than the preview).

There are dangerous things in fandom. You have intellectual properties being controlled by businessmen. You have creators who must have their vision shaped by editors, publishers, and executives. You have properties that are stuck in copyright hell never to be seen again.

But across my years of experience, the two MOST dangerous things to fandom are expectations and hype. These are dangerous problems on their own, but when you put them together with average effort, it can destroy the present and the past. Think of the Star Wars prequels, without hype and expectation, these are average movies that put more effort into special effects than they did plot and dialog. But, let me tell you none of them are AWFUL movies, they simply did not meet the levels of hype and expectation that were thrust on them by fans.

Now, I have to be real careful here. I am an original Shadowman fan. I purchased the original Shadowman #1 in 1992 from the new release rack, and through the superb writing of Bob Layton, it quickly became one of my favorite comic books. I loved the character of Jack Boniface so much, that it tainted my reading of the later volumes of Shadowman featuring Zero. Since Shadowman #1 was announced, I’ve been cautiously tempering my fan expectations. All of the recent Valiant remakes have been pretty good.

So, I hope that the following statement is true: I am happy to have a ‘new’ Jack Boniface/Shadowman in my life, and I will do my best to not have my expectations damper my reading and reviewing of this new issue. Additionally, I have enlisted

Here’s Hoping

Normally, I get reviews up after books have been published, so I don’t mind spoiling plots. However, this is intended as an advanced review, so the spoilers will be minor.

Synopsis

  • In New Orleans, Josiah Boniface leaves his pregnant wife/girlfriend Helena LeBreton with an amulet for their unborn son. She leaves the city before the battle is finished.
  • He sacrifices himself to save his friend Dox and to defeat the dead that have been unleashed by Master Darque, taking both of them to the Deadside.
  • 20 years later, an adult Jack Boniface is working at the La Nouvelle Orleans Museum of Culture, where he has hired someone to find out information about his parents, as he was orphaned for several years.
  • Jack removes the amulet of protection throwing it in the water, allowing him to be tracked by a demon creature who has taken over the minds of humans, who confront him attempting to kill him.
  • (Any more information would be really spoiling it.)

Analysis

Okay, this was pretty good. Overall, there were a lot of things I liked, a few overused comic book clichés, and one thing that really bugs me.

Let’s start with the good. This book looks AMAZING. Even from the preview art, you could tell that this book has a really distinct look that really works. Personally, I think it could be a little moodier, but that’s pure preference. The lines are crisp and the colors really pop. Patrick Zircher is a tremendous artist, and Brian Reber who does the color art was really good as well. I mean I never notice color, but I really did here.

There are many call outs to the original series that I really appreciated. The look of Master Darque (though I only assume he is “Master” as he’s only referred to as Darque), the Voodoo Mask collection that not only seems to have the original Shadowman mask on the wall, but is reminiscent of Shadowman #13, the Shadowman symbol on the ground in one scene, and the mention of “Maxim” which is certainly a callback to Maxim St. James who was a former Shadowman in the original series. These are all very nice touches.

Jack is very likeable. From his flirtation with a waitress to his conversation with the private detective, he comes across very well for a first issue. It’s not only nice to see a minority character, but also one who is obviously of mixed heritage (Jack’s dad appears to be African American and his mom appears to be Caucasian, but her last name is LeBreton which could be Creole mixed). It makes sense to have a character like this in New Orleans. And I like that Jack found his way back to New Orleans, as if he was called there. Sure, much of it may be because he is investigating his past, but he’s working at a New Orleans museum as if the city itself is calling to him.

The plot was fine, but heavy on clichés. An amulet given for a child to wear for protection. A boy who becomes an orphan and goes searching for his past. Upon finding the amulet, he throws it away in anger, gaining the attention of a demon creature that happened to be raising itself at that exact moment. A former friend of the hero’s father suddenly realizing that the son has returned and they have to get to him before the enemy does.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with going to clichés for an origin story. I only noticed them because there were so many of them jam-packed into a 26 page comic book. Clichés and easy tropes don’t bother me in a first issue. But if the same frequency were to continue for the next 5-6 issues, then I would be disappointed.

Finally, this is mostly just a pet peeve of mine, but (Slight spoiler ahead, but the book is called Shadowman after all, but feel free to skip it):

At the end of the book, Jack Boniface becomes a conduit for the power of the Shadowman. This is all well and good. We all knew it was coming. But after Jack is merged with the power, he stands up in full costume (same as the cover) and declares himself to be Shadowman. To me, this is lazy. There should be some sense of self-discovery, some period of time where a character granted powers has to adjust and figure out who and what he is. To instantly have Jack merge and declare himself Shadowman in full costume, just rushes the hero’s journey too much. It felt like someone in creative said that we need Jack to be Shadowman before the next issue, and he must be in the costume that we’re sending out as an advanced preview. It felt forced. There were better options here, in my opinion.

Anyway, the book was still very good, and I am eagerly awaiting issue #2. Shadowman is back!

Verdict

Overall Grade: 8.5 (An excellent start, and I look forward to more)

Joey Smith’s Take

I am completely unfamiliar with the previous incarnation of Shadowman from Valiant. I have absolutely no knowledge of the main character nor do I have any idea about the story and supporting characters. Actually I may be lying though, as I do recall the video game, which I believe may have been based upon the comic. If that’s the case I recall the character of Agnetta and that Shadowman could travel to Deadworld or something like that. When I heard that Shadowman was coming out in November I didn’t know that it was a hit for the company in the past. I have no idea what to expect in this new series and I am completely open-minded going on. In Valiant I trust.

The Breakdown

Initially I was surprised that the comic was launching right into the action. Typically with a number one issue there is much more focus on the build up so I was taken aback. Therefore, I was even more surprised to see Shadowman get defeated early on as I am not familiar with the character of Josiah who I thought was the main protagonist. The character of Jack (who I did not know the comic was going to focus upon) was likeable as a mysterious, brooding loner. I am not expecting a character to get fleshed out right away so I usually call it a win if I actually like the character. Jack works at the La Nouvelle Orleans Museum of Culture, which is where the art really helps to tell the story here. It becomes even more evident that the story is going to revolve around the supernatural as well as the Voodoo religion. When he receives some unfortunate news about his parents, his reaction seems to have some fairly immediate consequences. There is so much mythology to be explored and I enjoyed how it was all introduced rather quickly. I am not sure what the exact nature is of Shadowman as he seemed to be almost…menacing. I am anxious to see where it all goes.

The highlight of the book for me was the art. It was so dynamic. Zircher can do action, horror, suspense, and even the simple dialogue scenes were nice to look at. He just simply does really clean line art and inking. A strong assist must be given to Brian Reber though as his colours perfectly complimented the art and story. I am used to seeing stories like this drawn more sketchy and coloured a bit more dull; however, the art was clean and the colours were vibrant and it just simply worked great.

BUT…

This issue was a set-up one. There is a lot of groundwork and plotlines laid out in order to build the foundation for future stories. Of course, this is the purpose of number one issues. There is a lot of dialogue and I admit just wanting to see Shadowman in action. This was not too much of a setback as I anticipate that the second issue will feature more action from the lead as well as answer a question or two. This is definitely not an all-ages comic, which isn’t a problem for me… but I’m just putting that out there.

Verdict

Buy It. For me, I am excited that Valiant has expanded into another genre thus expanding their target audience. There is something for everyone at Valiant as they are firing on all cylinders right now. As previously mentioned, I have no knowledge of the prior series and I was hoping that this comic would make me interested in picking up subsequent issues. Mission accomplished as I was introduced to various plotlines, characters, concepts, and questions, which all had me wanting to come back to see how this all plays out.

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