SHADOWMAN #3 by Andy Diggle, Stephen Segovia, and Adam Pollina
SHADOWMAN #3 has a really powerful and focused edge to its plot and characterization. While Alyssa Miles has largely been the star of this reintroduction, Jack happily steals the spotlight in this action-packed issue.
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Jack is Back
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Sometimes, when a reader first jumps into a book, the protagonist isn’t the one they notice first. Sometimes, the sidekick or supporting cast steal the show completely. In Valiant Comics’ current SHADOWMAN series, this has been largely the case so far. Alyssa Miles, a throwaway love interest in previous volumes, has become an incredibly powerful and interesting side character. For the first two issues, Alyssa took the lead as the most interesting character. Meanwhile the title hero Shadowman fell to the back. Yet this all changes in SHADOWMAN #3. With Shadowman trapped in the Deadside, he must take back his scythe from the Voodoo death spirit Baron Samedi. However, can Jack really escape Death’s clutches and return to the world of the living?

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Passing through the Deadside

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

Writer Andy Diggle manages to use this issue as a major world-building exploration. As Jack travels through the Deadside, he introduces new readers to long-held elements of New Orleans’ supernatural world. For longtime readers like myself, this shouldn’t bother you or push you away. All of this world-building is done through Jack’s viewpoint. We are stuck inside his head, listening to his brilliantly rendered voice. This helps bridge the gap that previous issues had created. Previously, Diggle seemed to assume that every reader knew this world’s lore. But that’s not exactly the case when you start a series at #1 again. Thankfully, he helped catch readers up here.

More importantly, though, this worldbuilding doesn’t sacrifice the flow of the action. Not a lot of combat happens in this issue, but a lot of story transpires. We traverse the wastelands of the Deadside to a shadow version of New Orleans and eventually to Baron Samedi’s mansion. Through all this, Diggle immerses us in his world and the strangeness throughout it. There are a few elements that get lost, though, since they have no proper explanation. The biggest is the introduction of Voodoo deity Papa Legba. This powerful being simply appears when Jack needs him most. As such, he feels more like Deus ex Machina than anything else. However, these are nitpicky details in the grand scheme of this amazing plot.

Samedi’s Vendetta

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

As I said, this issue really hones in on Jack Boniface in a way that previous issues couldn’t. The story delves into the heart of his character and the guilt he feels for his previous mistakes. In previous volumes, the voodoo spirit to which Jack is bonded has taken control of Jack’s body. During these periods of control, Jack would suffer from intense rage and destructive tendencies. Now, he has gotten the spirit under control, but he can’t forget his mistakes. This story deals with this rage and guilt in a really believable way. By trapping Jack with Samedi, a being Jack had previously wronged, the story forces Jack to confront his own past. It is a brilliant narrative move.

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Thankfully, the side characters do not get sacrificed either. Alyssa Miles is as strong a character as ever. She takes charge and refuses to allow her former bosses get in her way. I especially loved the inclusion of the Abettors, former allies of Jack and Alyssa. They had key roles as antagonists in some of the best SHADOWMAN stories ever written. Their search for redemption through helping Alyssa felt incredibly satisfying. I do want a bit more background on these characters and on Samedi himself. Their personalities and their motivations make sense. However, I never felt like I completely connected with the “why” of their actions. How did they get to this particular place?

Visions of Strangeness

Image courtesy of Valiant Entertainment.

I think SHADOWMAN #3 might be Stephen Segovia at his absolute best. Previous issues had the artist tied to modern day locations and human characters. He did a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong. In this issue, though, Segovia has gained opportunity to stretch his creative muscles. From the damned spirits of the Deadside to the multi-dimensional Gatehouse, Segovia’s work constantly impresses. The dip into the weirder side of the material allows the writer to step past typical comic book conventions. He has a lot more freedom here, and his work benefits from the lack of realism.

SHADOWMAN #3 also introduces Adam Pollina as a guest penciller. He doesn’t have many pages in SHADOWMAN #3, but he does an exquisite job. His work largely centers around the reality-bending Manse Ghede, Baron Samedi’s personal residence. His work is far more stylized than Segovia’s, which gives his sections a more fantastical feel. Especially contrasted against Segovia’s pages, his work focuses in on the distinct differences between the real world and the Deadside. The rules of reality don’t apply in this separate realm, and Pollina certainly reinforces that with his art style.

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SHADOWMAN #3: Final Thoughts

SHADOWMAN #3 is a fantastic addition to this series. While it does have a few narrative hiccups, the overall experience of the book is extremely satisfying. The newfound focus on Jack Boniface (Shadowman) gives the story a new direction. All without losing focus on the great characterization already done in previous issues. Also, the inclusion of two separate art styles highlights a distinct difference between Alyssa’s New Orleans and Jack’s Deadside. With a deep focus on guilt and redemption, this is a series that continually gets better and better. My only question: Why aren’t you reading this already?

SHADOWMAN #3 hit shelves on May 23rd. You can find the SHADOWMAN comics here.

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