Shadowman, Shadowman, does whatever a shadow can… which is what, exactly? You might know if you’ve been reading Shadowman since its debut last year, but since I’ve yet to read this series (or anything else from Valiant’s output), I’m still… in the dark (sorry). Luckily, Shadowman #13 is billed as a jumping-on point with a new arc and a new creative team, so now appears to be as good a time as any to see what all the fuss is about. Is it good?
Shadowman #13 (Valiant Comics)
Look out! Here comes the Shadowmaaaaaan.
Shadowman is a surprisingly good name for a character and his titular comic book, even with the glut of titles that include the word “man.” Seriously, say it out loud—rolls off the tongue pretty well, doesn’t it? Such simple, yet immediate aesthetic appeal applies to the character’s costume and powers. If I was twelve years old and not the jaded skeptic that I am today, I would immediately pick this comic off of the shelf. In many cases, that’s an important quality for a superhero comic to have. That’s not to say that Shadowman is designed to appeal to young adolescents—this chapter is titled “Sniffing Glue,” after all—but that there is something at its core that demands to be read for purely visceral reasons.
Waking up against a back-alley dumpster dressed like a demon with a trail of corpses at your feet…hey, we’ve all been there, amirite? #college
That’s not to say that Shadowman is necessarily a superhero comic, either, at least not in this issue. Nobody gets saved, and though the protagonist does have external forces working against him, the primary conflict seems to be an internal one. In many ways, Shadowman #13 is a work of psychological horror, in which demons and malevolent Hoodoo spirits are just as much an enemy as repressed memories, self-denial, and existential despair. Shadowman is not the heroic alter-ego of mild-mannered Jack Boniface, but a vengeful phantom through which Boniface is the unwilling host.
Jack, buddy, I know you had a rough night, but you don’t have to be such a drama queen about it.
Writer Peter Milligan maintains a distinctively Cajun flavor to Shadowman‘s New Orleans setting, but adds a touch of British punk to the (presumably) new character, Mambo. The heavy use of internal monologues contributes to the comic’s noir feel, but at times it toes the border of cliché, and it doesn’t help that the dialogue sometimes feels rather clumsy. Milligan can be forgiven for his reliance on exposition, though, as this issue surely needed to accommodate new readers. I don’t know how much information presented in this issue is known to returning readers, but I still found myself confused at various times, and I’m not sure how much of this is intentional.
Roberto de la Torre’s art certainly has a noir influence too. At times de la Torre employs scratchy, intense line work not unlike Sean Murphy or Bill Sienkiewicz, but more often his work is moody and smoother, somewhat reminiscent of Michael Lark. His figures often look a bit stiff, though, and his faces lack nuance. There are still some impressive visual moments nonetheless, largely thanks to color artist David Baron. His subdued palette and deliberate choices play a huge role in this comic’s palpable sense of atmosphere.
- Appeals to new readers.
- Intriguing protagonist and concept.
- Excellent coloring.
- Some ham-fisted dialogue and narration.
- Figures lack movement.
- Faces lack subtlety
I won’t be adding it to my pull list any time soon, but Shadowman definitely seems like something I could get into, so perhaps I’ll explore Jack Boniface’s world a bit more in the trade collections. If you’re interested in psychological horror, dark fantasy, or noir-style mystery, Shadowman #13 is worth a shot.
Is It Good?
Yeah, not bad, at least from a new reader’s perspective.