I’ve mentioned this last week how excited i was about the Valiant Universe, because of the relaunch of X-O Manowar #1, which hooked me immediately, so much that I grabbed a trade of the original 1992 Shadowman series… and if you’re already confused because I’m dropping titles without context, don’t worry, I’ll catch you up:
Valiant Comics started in the 90s, it went for a time, then got sold if I’m not mistaken, with Acclaim focusing on video games and then subsequently killing their titles. Valiant returned in 2012 with a relaunch of X-O Manowar, Shadowman and Archer & Armstrong, then launching into a comic universe with about a dozen different series. I picked up a lot of these trades at half price books, as someone had apparently read most of their line:
I read the original 90s Shadowman trade thinking that it would give me some context for the current one, but it appears that the Valiant titles since 2012 are a fresh reboot, no prior knowledge required. This is both cool and kind of a bummer to me as I liked the first incarnation quite a bit.
This version is by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Shadowman is again Jack Boniface, but the character has completely changed in the Issues 1-4 that are collected here. His parents were involved in this past Shadowman history and were killed saving the world. Jack now works in a museum in New Orleans, and the setting there doesn’t feel as crucial as it did in the first incarnation. There’s an otherworldly plot going on — and this is where I think the world building that Jordan did surpasses the original by leaps and bounds. The villain Darque is trapped in some other dimension, trying to get here. Shadowman can use his powers to travel between this world and a world of the dead, which he can traverse only in darkness or through the shadows. He meets a gal Alyssa Miles, who with her partner, are trying to cultivate him into the hero he’s supposed to be, a sort of chosen one storyline. I find this works really well. There’s a conspiracy of evil rich dudes that are summoning otherworldly evils, and then we meet the villain of this arc — The Twist, a pretty creepy demon character who reminds me of Princess Mononoke’s demon infested animals with the weird demonness kinda living atop the skin. The storyline is pretty solid, and I like the depth that they’ve gone to to make Shadowman feel like it’s got a bit more to it than the last version had. The different worlds/planes are very interesting and I hope to see them developed more as the series goes on.
The art is decent, but I did read this right after XO Manowar’s new iteration, in which the art is jawdropping, so I am comparing to that and it doesn’t quite hold up. I don’t think this has to do with the line art so much as the coloring. The lines are quite fluid, there’s always action going on, something about the eyes or faces gives me the impression they’re not real, I can’t pinpoint it down, but it’s not a big deal. Zircher’s demons/undead/spirits is where he shines though. These come across as a really unique imagination and I think it makes the book. The colors though feel a little bit too much like digital flats for the dark storyline that’s going on here. I don’t feel a ton of impact from light sources and it doesn’t leave me super excited. It’s servicable but the tone doesn’t feel right for Shadowman in that regard.
I found this story to be pretty darn fun, overall. It’s good, and enough to make me interested in more volumes. I like how this reboot has gone compared to the original, having read them back to back. A solid start to the series. 8/10