Thursday, September 18, 2014

Shadowman #13X, #13, #14, #15, #16 (New Valiant)

I've already made no secret of my distaste for Valiant's current Shadowman series, but here is where we really reach my boiling point! The series was bad up until now, but at least it was consistent! And it wasn't that horribly bad!...

Jack Boniface is losing control. He's been the Shadowman (a Voodoo concept that the series has still hardly bothered to explain) for months now, and things have been as fine as they can when you're forcibly entrusted with supernatural powers to aid you in fighting an evil necromancer named Darque. However, Jack's started having blackouts, and when he wakes up, he's covered in blood, and can't remember what he's done. The Shadowman protectors, the Abettors, realize Jack is struggling, hence they want to kill him, and implant the sacred power to someone they deem to be more stable. In an effort to evade their attempts on his life, Jack goes into a desolate Louisiana swamp, where the mysterious Punk Mambo is reputed to live. She tries to help him, but Jack realizes that the Loa (sort-of Voodoo god) inside him is a malevolent, nasty being, intent on violently slaughtering other criminal Loas for its own purposes. Meanwhile, an evil fear Loa named Tremble is taking advantage of the Shadowman's weakening position, and starts spreading chaos over the city of New Orleans...

Beginning with Issue #13, a new creative team took over Shadowman, and they screwed things up really badly! I am not kidding when I say these new writers did not read the previous fourteen issues! Either that, or they detested them, which begs the question why are they working on the series to begin with! The continuity errors are many and vast! Let's dig into this before anything else.

First of all, it retcons Jack's backstory. He's always been a nice, well-adjusted guy, but this new storyline suddenly shoehorns in a past of constant violent outbursts, and a severe anger problem. Now you could theoretically have a past like this for the character, but springing something this major about his backstory on your readers after fourteen issues isn't very good writing, in my opinion. Also, At the start of Issue #1, Jack was furious to find out that, according to police files, his parents were violent criminals. If he himself was had violent tendencies, he wouldn't have felt as betrayed as he did there. And no, he wasn't angry because he 'realized that he was violent because of genetics'. The reason for his anger at that revelation is explicitly explained.

The Shadowman power isn't really a sentient being, but is rather an untethered, unborn spirit-That's it. Yet this storyline is now treating the 'Loa' inside Jack as a conscious being, which is wrong! It was only ever a mindless spirit that empowers the Boniface's, not a malevolent spirit that slowly destroys its hosts! This power was created by Sandria Darque from the soul of her dead newborn baby to empower Marius Boniface and defeat her evil necromancer brother Darque, yet this storyline says she used a Loa. It also calls her 'a young woman well-versed in the art'-She was about seventy years old! And 'well-versed' is the friggin' understatement of the year! She's the sister to the most powerful necromancer in Voodoo history!

I already mentioned how much the origin for the Shadowman lineage in Issue #10 irks me in a previous review. This storyline makes things worse. Now that the Shadowman 'Loa' is an evil spirit, every single Shadowman was corrupted or destroyed by it, save for Marius, as it slowly drives them insane, bringing up all the darkness in them and warping their minds, driving some to madness, and others to alcoholism and suicide. One, WRONG! Two, the Shadowman legacy is a pretty shitty one if literally every single Shadowman went insane and offed themselves only a few years into the job! What must the Abettors think when the spiritual warriors they're supposed to protect invariably go crazy and/or suicidal?! I'd give up after the third one jumped off a tall building, and just go after Darque with a high-powered rifle from a faraway hill!

Speaking of the Abettors, they're now a huge 'network'! In the last several issues, the only ones we've ever seen are Dox and Alyssa. Now those issues don't say that they're the only remaining Abettors left, but it's implied, given that they are literally the only people helping Jack out. There are no other Abettors around when Jack first became the Shadowman, or when the Brethren tried to bring Darque into Liveside by way of a horrific gestalt demon, or when Darque started his plans for the apocalypse!

These  Abettors' motivations are iffy due to poor writing and poor continuity. They view the Shadowmen as their their messiah, which is wrong! It's just a Voodoo lineage created to stop Darque, and the Abettors are meant to help! Also, Darque is dead! There's no more need for a Shadowman! But what about his cult, The Brethren, you ask? Well for one, it never seemed all that big to begin with, and two, their messiah is now dead, and one of their biggest players is out of the game, so they can hardly do much of anything, and three, they never appear again after Darque's death, nor are they ever mentioned, so the implication is that they were indeed destroyed thanks to Darque's demise.

As the power inside Jack is now being written as an evil spirit, he's now desperate to be rid of it, but no-one he approaches can exorcise the 'Loa'. Hmmm, Jack, maybe you should, I dunno, go find Sandria-The one who gave your family the power to begin with! She is immortal, so you have no excuse not to look for her! The series never bothers to explain Sandria's whereabouts, so if she's dead, we wouldn't know.

Ok, all of that aside, how does this storyline stack up?...It sucks! It's poorly written, for a start! The biggest problem is that multiple plot points are extremely rushed. The Abettors want Jack's head on a pike, but suddenly switch to helping him, the blooming romance between Jack and Alyssa is really abrupt, and the way the Tremble fear Loa is dispatched makes little sense, and only takes a scant couple of pages. As for the dialogue, it's terrible in places!

Examples include when the Abettors are discussing Jack's stability as Sadowman. They say that Marius Boniface, the first Shadowman, was able to tame the 'Loa' due to his love for Sandria Darque, and they maybe they could find someone for Jack...but then one of them says that this would be a futile plan, as "that kind of love probably doesn't exist anymore". What?! Wow, way to be dumb, and insulting, writers!

Then there's Alyssa offering to help Jack's stability by asking him if he'd be able to fall in love with her. Because that's how love blossoms, right? No, it isn't? Of course! Also, Jack and Alyssa have neither shared any chemistry, or romantic/character building moments together in this entire series, so this seems really out of character on her part! Her badly written blase response to his surprise at her question is "Come on, don't tell me you haven't even thought about it a little. I'm not totally repulsive, am I?". People don't talk this way about love! What's worse is Alyssa's supposed attitude to Jack's response. After she says that "Maybe I could be your Sandria", Jack says "I...I don't know. I c-can't think about anything like that. Not now. Not until I get my head straight. You understand right?". Because he said that, Jack then thinks that he hurt Alyssa's feelings, and she'll hate his guts for how he 'rejected' her. But he didn't reject her! His response wasn't a rejection in the slightest!

More terrible dialogue is pictured below...

Along with Issues #13 to #16, this arc also has a bafflingly named #13X, which is an eight page short story. It's a prequel to this storyline, but covers nothing that isn't said in the story itself multiple times, so it's basically a $2 dollar waste in every way possible.

There are quite a few stupid plot points. I'll focus on just the one here, because I want to end this monster of a post soon! Since they're planning on killing Jack, the Abettors have a fallback host for the Shadowman 'Loa'...who's a priest! This fallback host must have only known about Voodoo for a few days at most, because the Abettors say they only sought her out when they uncovered Jack's chequered past. I can buy that they were able to convince this that magic actually exists in only a few days, but convincing her to abet in a friggin' murder?! She's a priest!

The artwork in this storyline has changed just as radically as the writing, and it sucks just as bad! It's gritty, muddy, and sketchy, like this was drawn by someone with a splotchy broken pen, and a shitty photoshop program! Some may find it merely mediocre, or ok (and it is better in some places than others), but I don't take to muddy art on the best of days! What's worse is the inconsistency, as other moments more resemble the more normal art style of previous issues.

The covers are crap! #13X's is a total non-sequitur, the one to #16 is the best drawn, but lacks a background, while the covers to #13 and #14 almost look good (#14's looks very stylish), but are dragged down by the shitty, smudgy-gritty artwork, and #15's is confusing! I originally thought it was a non-sequitur, with two trucker crims getting the drop on Shadowman, but actually, they're Abbettors, who actually show up in the comic! The art is so bad that the guy's grey hair looks like a trucker hat!

I'll give Shadowman's new creative team only two compliments. One, Punk Mambo is an interesting an amusing character, and I'm glad she's getting her own one-shot later this year, and Two, they actually bothered to have Voodoo in the series that's meant to be about Voodoo! While Voodoo is stated to be the core of magic in this universe, nothing has ever been drawn from Voodoo mythology or lore, aside from Baron Samedi, and occasional uses of the word veve. Here, they namedrop a few words like wanga and mambo, introduce rogue Loas, and a Voodoo pantheon known as The Mysteries. Does it utilize them well? Hell no, but it did at least try, and for a Shadowman series, that's a more impressive feat than you know (the original series had no Voodoo elements, despite that supposedly being crucial). For example, the Shadowman power was continually called a Loa in previous issues of this series, but at no point was it actually a Loa. The new creative team are actually treating it like one, but it was never meant to be a Loa, so the problem still stands (also, I know that the power talks at the end of Issue #1, and no, it didn't make sense there either!).

Valiant Comics' shared universe normally keeps its continuity straight, but between Eternal Warrior, and Shadowman, it takes a beating! Thankfully Shadowman's ruination is only affecting itself, unlike how Eternal Warrior's brazen fuckups have ruined everything in continuity about the character of Gilad and the Geomancers. Even ignoring the huge continuity errors, this isn't a good storyline of Shadowman. It's total rubbish! Thankfully it has at least a few small positives, including a happy ending, which I appreciate, as opposed to a grim dark depressing mess for an ending...This positive conclusion doesn't last however, as this new creative team hasn't quite pummeled Shadowman into the ground yet. That's in the miniseries End Times, and believe me, I'll be having words about that!...

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