Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shadowman #0 and #10 (New Valiant)

In the middle of the last arc of Valiant horror-superhero series Shadowman (Issues #5 to #9), a #0 issue was released, to help elaborate on who the hell the villain was. It didn't help, as the evil necromancer Darque is such a nothing character that knowing the very start of his origin hardly elucidates on his character in that storyline, especially when we aren't seeing his turn to evil here at all!

A dark wizard living in the Antebellum South of America raises his two children, Nicodemo and Sandria, by teaching them the ways of magic. Due to his efforts, the man's children were born with special magical abilities far beyond that of any normal spellcaster, and this is all part of the man's plan to reach his way into a heavenly dimension known as Lyceum. Sandria and Nicodemo lead secluded but happy lives, until they realize the bloody cost that travel to Lyceum entails...

First things first, the summary of this issue on Comixology reads thusly...

"The end has always been near.

Twenty five years ago, Josiah Boniface was the Shadowman, and he had more problems than simply Master Darque: things from beyond are trying to eat the world, the police are trying to send him to jail and now he's got to rescue Helena LeBreton from a murderous cult, whether she likes it or not."

That is a complete and utter lie! What's worse is that the cover looks like it supports that plot, and that of an origin of the Shadowmen, as there are multiple ones from through the ages...but then you open it up and realize that this comic has fuck-all to do with Josiah Boniface, the Shadowman lineage, or even action of any sort!

This issue is actually about the origin of Darque and his sister. The story is pretty standard and boring. It doesn't do anything unique or special, nor do the characters have much to them. It's a Point A to Point B story that's over before you know it.

The artwork here is decent, but I don't much care for the scratchy style, and the gore in a few places looks off. In the above picture, it looks like someone blew up the picture in MS Paint and sprayed red colouring on Sandria, and there's a death scene at the end which shows a hilarious misunderstanding of the human body! The cover looks decent, but is a total lie! Also, the Shadowman in the middle looks like Iron Man.

Issue #10

In the Civil War, Sandria is helping the Union forces as she desperately hides away from her now mad brother. She falls in love with a soldier, Marius Boniface, and the two make the best of their lives, until Darque finally finds Sandria...

For Issue #10, the Shadowman creative team felt the need to again pull away from the main series in order to focus on the Darque family backstory, and thankfully, this time the story actually has something to do with the Shadowman lineage. This is a decently written story, but it suffers from the same problem as Issue #0-It focuses more on telling events to us, instead of letting them play out naturally. There's no real character here, and as for Sandria, just because she says she's something, it doesn't make her so. We the readers need to actually see it. This whole issue breaks the 'show, don't tell' rule really badly!

Sandria is a boring character. We have no insight into her character, despite her incessant inner-monologuing (she gets very little actual dialogue here, annoyingly enough). Marius Boniface is the same, as is Darque, except neither have their own narration, hence they have next to nothing to them. Speaking of, we don't see what made Darque evil at all. We see an unhelpful montage, while Sandria's narration says that he became an asshole (my words), it doesn't explain or show enough.

The Shadowman stuff in this issue is really rushed, as it's only introduced in the final couple of pages.

This issue's other big problem is that it takes all this time to introduce Sandria Darque, and how she was the one who created the Shadowman lineage, yet not only is she never seen again after this issue, we don't even know what happened to her after this issue! And yes, this does end up opening plot holes later down the track!

The fact that the Shadowman lineage was created by Sandria to stop her brother really bugs me. To me, an ancient lineage of Voodoo warriors, keeping the peace between the world of the living and the world of the dead is a lot more interesting than a family lineage that was only created 140 years ago, solely to stop one guy. Not only does it reduce the legacy and history aspect a lot, and localises their fight to merely this one bad guy, but this makes the Shadowmen seem really ineffectual, as they had one job, one job, and they somehow never succeeded! This also makes the last Shadowman storyline even worse, as Jack Boniface totally kills Darque at the end of it, despite dozens of generations being unable to do so, which isn't well-thought out writing to me.

There is one aspect to all this that I liked, which is that while Sandria assumed that her brother was vengefully hunting her down for escaping him, he actually never suspected that she had done so, as he loved her so much, and thought she reciprocated fully, that he didn't even consider any other theories, but instantly and solely believed that Sandria had been kidnapped.

The artwork is mostly quite good, but there are low moments, such as the montage with Darque-Poor gradient background work, and more MS Paint blood! The cover is ok, but a bit bland.

These two mediocre issues are barely Shadowman, and one presents a forced and rushed origin for the series that is hardly well thought out...

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