Creating the fifth issue of any comics series is no easy task. The fifth issue must sufficiently raise the stakes over and above what’s come before while also remaining accessible to readers who are picking up the title for the first time. Here, in the fifth issue of a rebooted Shadowman, writer Justin Jordan and artist Patrick Zircher succeed on both counts.
Shadowman — the mantle of whom currently belongs to Jack Boniface — is a character heavily steeped in occult traditions and Haitian voodoo mythology, although not beholden to it, which sets him apart from most of the other science fiction influenced characters in the Valiant universe. Shadowman acts as a sort of guardian, protecting our world from spirits, malevolent and otherwise, who would invade Earth from the “Deadside.” The Shadowman persona, along with its attendant powers and responsibilities, is passed from father to son, and Jack Boniface, when we meet him in issue #5, seems less than thrilled by this inheritance.
Jack is still growing into this role as a hero, and while one scene is unfortunately telegraphed for its emotional impact — perhaps the only creative misstep in the entire issue — the ensuing exchange between Jack and his “abettor” Dax is one of the most honest conversations I’ve read in a comic in ages.
The issue also introduces a a heavily reimagined Doctor Mirage, a character from the original Valiant universe capable of sensing supernatural energy — I have already typed “Deadside” in this review and will not, WILL NOT type “necromantic energy” — effectively allowing her — yes, her — to communicate with spirits. If this version follows in the footsteps of her previous incarnation, I hope at least that this Doctor Mirage has the good sense not to be wearing ski boots when terrible misfortune befalls her.
Shadowman’s nemesis, Master Darque, became a major villain in the original Valiant universe, and although this Master Darque is currently banished to the Deadside, he appears to be marshaling his forces to become a similarly potent threat. The first among these forces, Baron Samedi, appears to have followers of his own on Earth to cause trouble for Jack. Whether Samedi will fall in step with Darque or pursue his own interests remains to be seen, but these questions will compel me to check out issue six.
The introduction of Samedi and Mirage further complicates Jack’s life, while his exchange with Dox seamlessly recounts Shadowman’s origin and purpose for the uninitiated. Whether through skill or voodoo magic, Jordan and Zircher have crafted a nearly perfect fifth issue, and indeed, a nearly perfect issue, period.
Eric Palicki remembers the Aerosmith guest appearance in the original Shadowman series and wonders how Jordan and Zircher will reboot Steven Tyler. Those who enjoy their comics with a supernatural flair might want to check out Eric’s Kickstarter campaign for Red Angel Dragnet. Read his work for and about comics on his website. Follow him on Twitter.