I’m pretty much a gushing fantween when it comes to Valiant. I’ve expressed borderline adulation for the universe that once was, and 2.0 titles like ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, X-O and HARBINGER. However, SHADOWMAN has remained off my radar for a few reasons.
One, this wasn’t one of my faves from yore. SHADOWMAN was part of a second wave of characters that never integrated as well as the originals. By the time he hit the scene the industry was already starting to choke on its own hubris, making for huge scale backs in cross pollination – a Valiant staple. Note I said cross-pollination here and not crossover. Big difference. Pollination enhances instead of necessitating the read of every title and it’s a practice that is starting to arise in Valiant 2.0 between HARBINGER and BLOODSHOT. If you haven’t read Valiant, trust me here please. Pollination is different than a crossover and Valiant is simply one of the bests.
There I go ajulating again…sorry.
My other bugaboo about SHADOWMAN back in the day was an unrealized potential for magic. Basically SHADOWMAN is the fighter of evil mystical forces (get the name now?), and the concept of those forces were simply never universally integrated in old Valiant. You could read the book and nothing mattered. Made for a tough read when everything else melded together so successfully.
Finally, I didn’t quite get the book back then. SHADOWMAN was a “middle-aged” jazz musician by trade and a defender of New Orleans by night; two themes that have little resonance to a 16 year old kid from Jersey circa 1992.
But that was then, so what’s my excuse for ignoring the past four issues of the new SHADOWMAN? Jack Boniface is still the title character, but at least he’s now sporting a younger visage. Voodoo and dark magic are still the order of the day, and naturally the book is set in the epicenter for such things, The Big Easy. Basically my reasons for non-review are one part confusion and one part I was simply distracted by the other doings in Valiant.
I love Jordan as a writer; his creator owned book, LUTHER STRODE, is exceptional. SHADOWMAN though has suffered from too frantic of a pace trying to squeeze in exposition and hasn’t had enough time to let the antagonists and protagonists breath into fully realized characters – until now.
Even demons need a personality as do sidekicks. Jack’s counterparts, who like him work at the museum for the Dark Arts, have played their roles of Hermione and Dumbedore well, but haven’t lived much beyond that. Likewise the demons he’s faced were all self-proclaimed harbingers of the true big baddy who finally reveals himself this issue – Master Darque. It’s all seemed very much like a waiting game – until now.
In case you haven’t caught on to my subtle build-up yet, BUY SHADOWMAN NOW! Issue 5 reveals all and does so in the most action packed and downright fucking weirdest way yet. Want to know the history of the SHADOWMAN and his fight against evil? It’s here. Want to see Jack’s realization that being a hero comes with foregoing the life he once knew – you get here inside a blood soaked diner. Want to meet the creepiest place and mother fucker in comics? Guess where you’ll find it.
In a place beyond our world and the true world of the damned, Master Darque has been unleashed. He’s so evil that even the denizens of the dark limbo zone crumble to dust before him. His goal is to resurrect a voodoo King who’s operating from limbo at about 2% power. How we find all of this out is another treat. I’m a sucker for a monkey in a hat and one that smokes and talks-wise is even more endearing – this is Master Darque’s companion and I want as much monkey as I want Darque.
Number 5 marks Jordan and SHADOWMAN both hitting their respective strides. If Valiant finds a way to weave in these N’orleans happenings into the larger universe they have another fine piece of fabric for their rich tapestry of a universe. Get Darque – Get SHADOWMAN 5.
P.S. Try to score the all black “Smell the Glove” homage cover. You can then show it to non-comic fans and tell them to relax their eyes like the “magic” images from the 90s. In ten minutes they will either think all comic collectors are crazy, learning disabled or the person will have an aneurysm. Either way it’s extra entertainment value.