March 30, 2013

Review -- SHADOWMAN #5

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Shadowman #5
(Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Roberto De La Torre; Valiant)
Once again, I find myself jumping into a Valiant comic having no idea what is going on. I don't know the characters, I don't know the universe, and I don't really know much about the creators. Given all this, besides wondering why the hell CB is even letting me review this book, you may ask how I can say anything of any validity about it.
Because oooooo.... voodoo.
And also, isn't it the mark of a good issue #5 of a comic book if it is engaging to someone stepping into it for the first time?
Shadowman #5 is one of those books.
Shadowman #5 has been billed by Valiant as the first issue of an "all-new arc" and a great jumping-on point for new readers. One thing I like about the Valiant books I've read so far is that the creators give a quick synopsis of "Our Story So Far..." on the inside front cover. This is great for a neophyte who has wandered into this expansive universe without good hiking shoes (or one who has forgotten to pack a sandwich). Apparently a lot has happened in the first four issues ofShadowman and the synopsis is filled with names and places, all of which kinda got me a bit muddled.
But then the comic opens and none of this matters. 
Jordan and Zircher have made this book easy to fall into. Sure there's all these plots and characters. There's plenty of bullets flying and blood splattering. A character says, "Indamndeed." There's even a talking monkey in a top hat. And while I was lost in the minutia of who was who and why they were doing what they were doing, I never felt lost in the experience of reading this book.
And that's quite an accomplishment. Jordan and Zircher are juggling all sorts of plot lines and characters for a non-team book, and, at least in this issue, they seem to be able to do this with skill and finesse. Another thing that's pretty impressive is that this book is illustrated by three different artists, and at no point did the change in style become jarring or distracting. The art in the last scene of book is obviously different than the rest, but it works seamlessly given that it takes place in The Deadside and is all creepy and stuff -- comparatively.
The big news about issue number 5 of Valiant's Shadowman is the return of the character Doctor Mirage. For those of you who don't know much about the Valiant Universe past or present (like me), this is apparently kind of a big deal. Jordan and Zircher have recast this character as a woman, which in some circles earns them some kudos, but the fact that they chose to dress her in a costume that has to show that much cleavage is a subject for a longer debate -- recasting a character just to give it tits strikes me as missing the point entirely -- and choices like that kinda undermine the book as a whole. Still, misogyny aside, the scene with Doctor Mirage is pretty intense and ties her to the rest of the story while opening up even greater possibilities.
There is an evil afoot in this book and each of the disparate storylines seem to be pointed towards a confrontation between Shadowman and Master Darque. Based solely on this issue, that battle seems like  it may end up being pretty awesome.
Having Valiant Comics back into the mix of publishers seems to be a pretty good idea after all.

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