Pick your fave

Publisher: Valiant
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
Colourist: Nick Filardi
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

Book Of Shadows is the big 2022 event for Valiant. It is the biggest Valiant team up book since… well probably Harbinger Wars 2, although this book only includes the supernatural side of Valiant so it’s less universe crossing than it would otherwise have been. Still, it’s great to have a team-up and it’s refreshing to see these characters come together in a way we haven’t seen before.

Let’s do a team rundown because that’s always fun! Starting with the obvious we have Shadowman aka Jack Boniface. Fresh off the Deadside War he’s ready to face the next big supernatural threat along with Persephone, part of the Deadside reborn in a mortal form. However, she’s not well trusted by Punk Mambo aka Victoria Graves-Trott (you can see why she goes by Punk Mambo) a voodoo priestess who has been hanging around Doctor Mirage aka Shan Fong. Doctor Mirage basically sees dead people and has a touch of magic. She and Punk Mambo also called upon the muscle of the Eternal Warrior aka Gilad Anni-Pada the Fist and the Steel of the Earth, who protects Earth and the Geomancer, and as a result has spent several thousand years fighting. He happens to be familiar with Exarch Fane aka the main bad guy.

The issue introduces each of the characters in as good a way as you will get with a team-up book. You need to establish their name, their powers and their place pretty quickly. The trading card intros on the first page do help with that. They don’t all meet up with each other this issue but the dynamics are there and interesting. Punk Mambo still distrusts Persephone after the Deadside War but Shadowman is determined to give her a second chance. It will be interesting to see these dynamics shake out in the face of upcoming evil.

There is plenty of evil too. This is probably the darkest Valiant has gone for some time. That makes sense since the last Shadowman run had some deeply dark moments (y’know like a whole slaughtered family, including the children being used as evil puppets) but Book Of Shadows is also not playing around with the stakes. We open on a nice funfair, kids having ice cream, couples arm in arm. A community called Vernon Commons in Illinois. It’s had a lot of trials and disasters but survived. Upon this scene of a community coming together are unleashed literal hellhounds, behemoths of fur and fangs who not only kill many of the people who moments before were having a good time, but also devour their souls leaving nothing of the person. No chance at any kind of afterlife. That is bleak.

What is not bleak though is the art, which is really good. There is such a great colour palette involved. The Deadside demons surrounding the hellhounds makes for a really impactful moment as you have the combination of the bright tentacles and then the brown of the hellhounds with their odd rock like projections. Visually it’s a moment that really draws you in. I also like how the Hellhounds bleed green. It’s a nice touch to underline their otherworldliness. Their design is really impressive, a classic werewolf look but with a twist that gives them an even more menacing air.

Of course there are plenty of gory moments. Shadowman getting chomped brings the red blood splatter into play and contrasts well with the green blood of the hellhounds. There’s a lot of action too as we see our heroes fighting off the hellhounds. It never feels static but at the same time the art lingers on key moments in the battle. This is especially true when we see Gilad confront Fane. There are key moments really well captured as we see them clash in different ways. Each one makes a good impact both visually and in terms of the action.

In terms of plot this is pretty easy to understand. Even if you’d never met these precise heroes before you should be able to dive in without too much trouble. As I usually say with a Valiant book if you know the characters you will get more out of it. I think anyone reading Book Of Shadows will benefit from reading Cullen Bunn’s Shadowman run which was a solid portrayal of the character and leads pretty directly into this. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to have read Doctor Mirage’s past books or Eternal Warrior. Both have been missing from the Valiant universe for some while so it’s great to see them back again, and although Doctor Mirage doesn’t get much to do yet I am hopeful she will be utilised later.

This is an ensemble book and it has to hold the balance. Shadowman, Punk Mambo and Persephone get a lot of page time but as I said this leads directly on from he events of the last Shadowman run where all three played a big part. The Eternal Warrior too gets a focus as he is familiar with Fane (the series big bad) so it makes sense. I like the focus we get with these characters. There’s still a question over Persephone as well as her true nature, and there are some interesting hints toward the question “what makes a monster” surrounding Persephone and her actions in this issue which hopefully will get dived into later.

I am intrigued with the Book Of Shadows. I think this has potential to really put some Valiant heroes to the test and I am always up for seeing how far our heroes can be pushed and what they have to sacrifice. This could be a tough time for them and with art this interesting it will be fun to read I am sure. I would say Book of Shadows is the start of a very promising event and I am hopeful this will help make this the year of Valiant indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s