SHADOWMAN #1 by Andy Diggle, Stephen Segovia, and Ulises Arreola
Jack Boniface returns to his heroic title in fantastic fashion. With strong characterization all around and a plot that balances potent action sequences and character moments, SHADOWMAN #1 is a must read for fans of Valiant Entertainment.
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Steps from the Shadows
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Of the Valiant Comics superheroes, I feel like Shadowman doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Jack Boniface isn’t as powerful as X-O Manowar. He doesn’t have the suave super-spy thing going for him like Ninjak. Among the other titles in Valiant’s line, though, I feel like SHADOWMAN has the most potential. First off, our main character didn’t choose the hero’s life. That honor fell to him after his father’s supposed death. Also, he has very little control over his own actions. He is in constant conflict with the Shadow Loa that grants him his abilities. Recently, Shadowman has only appeared in Valiant’s stories as a cameo character or a villain. His last solo appearance came in the summer of 2014. Now, written by Andy Diggle alongside artists Stephen Segovia and Ulises Arreloa, SHADOWMAN #1 brings Jack back to New Orleans.

Set months after the Valiant event RAPTURE, SHADOWMAN #1 opens with Alyssa Myles, Jack Boniface’s old flame. Without the Big Easy’s heroes around to stop Voodoo baddies, Alyssa has brushed up her magics to fight rampant spirits. One night, a powerful loa attacks Alyssa in the swamps. One of her spells misfires, opening a portal to the Deadside. Before she can even think to walk through, Jack Boniface tumbles into the swamplands beside her. Confused and weak, Jack still teams with Alyssa to defeat the monstrous loa. Back in town, Alyssa learns about Jack’s time in the Deadside as the villain Magpie. Now wanting to redeem himself, Jack has decided to take up the Shadowman mantle yet again. But can he escape the great anger of Baron Samedi?

Return to the Deadside

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

SHADOWMAN #1 is more of a reintroduction than a reboot. In fact, without some background into the lore, a lot of readers may find themselves confused. Although Diggle tries to give readers a crash course into Shadowman’s background, it barely scratches the surface of important information. In fact, I’d almost have preferred this series to take on the old numbering scheme. However, I do understand the marketing angle for this decision. After all, readers will more likely pick up a new issue #1 than an issue #35. But I think some readers will get lost.

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With that said, I have been a longtime fan of this character, and SHADOWMAN #1 had me hooked almost immediately. The plot flows along at a nice pace, balancing the high tension start with an eloquent and interesting expositional end. The story has a perfect balance of character moments and action sequences. And it feels so great to be back in Jack Boniface’s world. I enjoyed every second I spent with Jack and Alyssa. That gives me a lot of faith for the future of this series. If new readers can look past the previous continuity of the series, this is a brilliant introduction to SHADOWMAN. The pages tell us exactly what Jack and Alyssa are fighting against and why. This is the sign of intelligent writing.

The Hero and the Priestess

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

I felt like Diggle did a good job with Jack. The characterization could have been stronger in certain places. However, it felt very good to see Jack Boniface on the page again. Diggle goes to great lengths to play into Jack’s guilt and self-hatred. Since SHADOWMAN #1 is the start to a redemption story, this personal weight works really well to push Jack’s arc. I especially liked that Diggle played into aspects from former SHADOWMAN titles. When Jack accidentally attacks Alyssa, it mirrors the many bouts of aggression the Loa put him through in former arcs. Considering that Jack had gained some control in RAPTURE, this lack of continuity does confuse me a bit. Yet I still felt like Jack’s character worked really well in this story.

Still, the real star of the show is Alyssa Myles. I really enjoyed her character in other arcs. As an Abettor, Alyssa was trained since birth to aid the Shadowman. Through the former story’s course, she fell in love with Jack. For his own selfish reasons, Jack broke things off in a painful, heart-wrenching way. Those scars haven’t healed, and they inform Alyssa’s interactions with Jack. She doesn’t simply go along with his decisions anymore. And she isn’t some helpless damsel either. From the end of the original SHADOWMAN series, she has become a full-fledged voodoo priestess with intense magical power. I cannot wait to see where Alyssa goes next in this series. She makes this issue stand out in a huge way.


Depicting Shadows

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Stephen Segovia’s pencils and inks grace the pages of SHADOWMAN #1, and I have to say how much his work impresses me. Every single character, set piece, and monster comes across in stunning quality of line and shadow. Lighting is a crucial aspect for any artist of SHADOWMAN, and Segovia does a fantastic job with this aspect. I seriously enjoy the opening images of Alyssa, lit below by her own magic. It creates an almost noir atmosphere for the story. And his monster design? Both the original Loa and Baron Samedi are intense. Samedi may simply be a humanoid. However, the work done to bring out his skeletal appearance greatly impressed me.

The same can be said for Ulises Arreloa’s work on the colors in SHADOWMAN #1. From the first page, this artist creates a striking sense of atmosphere. He constantly adds to Segovia’s linework and shading with unique and potent light sources. I go back to the light of Alyssa’s spell, as this red-orange light looks just surreal enough to immediately signal “magic.” In addition, I appreciate the fact that Arreloa broke from past SHADOWMAN artists. Alyssa’s magic in those stories came out as blue flames or lights. Here, it is a ghastly red. It seems to signal the transition in her magical abilities.

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Final Thoughts: SHADOWMAN #1

SHADOWMAN #1’s only true failing comes from accessibility. New readers may find it hard to step into Jack Boniface’s world with this issue. If you can look past this problem, then be prepared for one of the best new stories out there. With a well-paced plot and powerful character moments, Andy Diggle has hit a home run with this reintroduction. Meanwhile, Stephen Segovia and Ulises Arreloa make this story look as pretty or gritty as it needs to be from page one. In general, SHADOWMAN #1 is a great reading experience that deserves your attention.

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