Spot the odd one out

Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Pedro Andreo
Colourist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles

As you’ll be aware if you’ve been reading Shadowman so far the Deadside War is a thing. As with any shared universe such wars tend to end up involving other people and we get our first hints of the scope of such things this issue. Yes there’s some very nice spot the character moments in the first few pages as we see various Valiant heroes face off against the blights of the Deadside. So I am expecting big battles to come. These are some very successful glimpses as each panels neatly establishes the fighting style of them (Aric, naturally is inclined to just slice and Bloodshot of course has more bullet casings than anyone sane would know what do to with). The narration from Jack over each of them too is revealing. The narration of ‘brother against brother’ in the panel featuring Gilad, The Eternal Warrior, one of three brothers who have rarely seen eye to eye, was the bit that stood out most there.

If you are into Jack expositioning as he reflects then that’s this issue. Yes, there’s a lot of well drawn violence and plot but Jack’s inner voice is actually doing more than that. It’s a real look inside his head. We’ve seen this before in the run but here it’s deployed with really strong reasoning. Jacks choices haven’t exactly worked out at this point (he’s doing his best but well… the Deadside War wasn’t exactly his endgame of choice) so of course he doubts himself. However, there’s a war on and he’s needed so he works through some things. Perhaps not the way a therapist would advocate by getting his butt kicked by his LOA but nonetheless it’s effective.

Interestingly Jack is the only character who speaks. The entire issue is his narration. It’s a bold move because we get to see others. Even the Deadside, the antagonist, only gets to speak through Jack’s narration. It’s a nice narrative device. Lending an almost mythical quality to the events. Although it’s not necessarily unique in any way it really works. everything is filtered through Jack and the way he sees things. He is serving our perspective. His perspective is ours. Yet we still get to see all the action.

And action there is. We have the Deadside, Master Darque, Sandria and a whole host of minions of hell battling the good guys (I still feel like I shouldn’t get attached to the Abettors) across an entire cityscape. There’s a lot going on. There’s hell portals in the sky, bright blue wards being cast as protection, gargoyle creatures in the sky and what I can only describe as one of those worms from Tremors in one panel. It pays to re-read to pick up all the detail in the scenes. It’s a backdrop that feels like a war is going on, and one that encompasses something big. Think the third act of a modern superhero film as that’s what it reminded me of.

My favourite art though is the Shadow LOA. This is the entity who Jack is bonded with and he’s a big scary beast of a LOA. The way he just tosses Jack around really underlines the fact that this is a creature not to be messed with or disrespected. Something Jack has learnt the hard way. The vengeful Jack who takes on the Deadside directly is well drawn. He feels sharper, less inclined to bargain. The warrior and the priest combined in one entity. The way his body is drawn as he attacks just seems to give that sense of Jack’s hardening determination.

The other designs are also great. The Deadside made real is particularly intriguing. The way the Deadside has armour that also looks like bony projections, a little like a knight although the Deadside’s intentions are far from noble, it’s all really effective. As is the appearance of Master Darque and Sandria, so different to how we’ve seem them before. The cloaks may have something to do with that.

This is a strong issue for Jack Boniface. It’s a great character insight. Yes there’s exciting action and plot but really Jack is the heart of this book and it shows. We see Punk Mambo do her thing and we get to see that the Abettors are interesting enough but this is a book about Shadowman and this issue underlines the fact that Shadowman is perhaps the key to winning the Deadside War.

The next issue will see Jack attempt to exorcise the Deadside. I wish him luck. He may need all the help he can get but he’s seen a chink in the armour, so there’s a bit of hope yet.

In conclusion I really rather enjoyed this.

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