Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Pedro Andreo
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Hey remember Shadowman? It has been awhile since the last issue (which was in July 2021 for) but well the war with the Deadside (the erm… Deadside War event) is coming and Shadowman is here to start some serous build up. We get exposition, zombies, monsters and some interesting concepts thrown around. We also get some new characters I am not going to get attached to because I know better when it comes to the darker supernatural side of Valiant.
You probably need to have read the previous arc to know exactly what’s going on and it is needed for the general setup. However, I don’t feel the break hurt too much as this felt pretty fresh as the wheels of the Deadside turn. We do get re-introduced to Jack, the Shadowman LOA and the fact the Deadside is trying to break through with not so great results. That’s the basic set up so far as Shadowman continues to seal the breaches between our world and the Deadside, but how much longer can he keep on top of it? He’s looking for another solution.
Someone else looking for a solution is a young boy who has lost his mother. Children process grief in many different ways. Some will shut down, withdraw from the world, others will lash out in anger. Few dabble with the dark side and bring their mother, and in fact an entire cemetery full of people, back as zombies.
The art for the zombies works really well. I like the little touches as well, the crucifix around the mother’s neck, her black dress and white vacant eyes. Her zombie hand being held by her excited son, his warm flesh contrasting with her dead freshly raised from the grave flesh. The way the boy stands out in a dark, black and grey cemetery full of dead people. It’s a disturbing image and sets up the latest problem that Jack will have to deal with. Also shout out to Pedro Andreo who takes over the art duties for this new arc and does a great job. His style fits with the earlier issues even though it’s different and has a nice style of its own.
Before Jack faces off against zombies though we get what I always want to see in a Shadowman run at some point – jazz saxophone! We do forget that when he isn’t fighting the forces of darkness and evil Jack Boniface is pretty good as a musician. The art really evokes that slightly smoky atmospheric jazz club. Pink spotlights throwing Jack into silhouette as notes dance above him in a suitably jazzy chaotic way. Then there’s the effort in his face as he reaches the climax with a bunch of adoring fans applauding, they have no idea Jack will shortly be across the country scything zombies.
There is however someone in the crowd who knows exactly what sort of things Jack gets up to after jazz. Alyssa, a woman who could not look more adoringly at Jack if she tried is here and she’s willing and able to help Jack in his quests. In fact she’s even got a whole new team of Abettors. They are all individuals, all different. There’s Reese who has the cool rock undertaker look, Gemma with the cool goth piercing look, Zaya who seems to be drawing style tips from Punk Mambo, Elaine who looks like a leprechaun into knit wear and rings and Lenny a man who looks like a tough biker who would rather be anywhere else.
I hope that given that they are named, unlike zombie-mother-raising-child and his mother, they will stick around but with the veil tearing and blights increasing who knows. Jack doesn’t want anyone else to get close. It seems like he’s in a bit of a good place now with the Shadowman LOA. There’s more symbiosis between them, more unity, they fit together more and that’s making them both more powerful. Still they could use the help, but Jack just doesn’t want anyone else to risk it.
The only help he does have is Baron Samedi. He’s still around though isn’t expositing like he used to, a surer sign of the added danger afoot. He’s facing some tough things this issue. I won’t spoil the main one but I will say we do get a glimpse that even though he’s a terrible being occasionally there’s a touch of empathy lurking there, or at least he can be guilted into it.
Overall this is a strong start, or should that be prelude, to the Deadside War. The stakes are increasing, the lines are being drawn and Shadowman is in the thick of it. He’s going to need all the help he can get for what’s coming but who knows if it will be enough. I get the feeling Jack won’t have much time for his smooth brand of jazz saxophone in the future but here’s hoping he can at least accept the help on offer. We’ll see as the war hots up.