Sunday, September 14, 2014
Shadowman #2, #3, #4 (New Valiant)
Shadow Man is one of my favourite video games ever made, yet the rest of the franchise is borderline cursed! The original series was dull garbage, while the Acclaim version was immature, dull, and terribly drawn, the second Acclaim version was merely good, and the present day version, while starting off ok, veered waaay off the rails with the End Times miniseries a few months back!
Jack Boniface is the latest in the Shadowman lineage. Gifted Voodoo powers by a Loa to fight evil, an inexperienced Jack is thrust into an unfamiliar and highly dangerous world as he has to stop a gestalt demon known as Mr. Twist from opening a portal to summon his master Darque from beyond the veil and into our own world...
The story to this four-part opening arc is pretty negligible. The whole plot is basically 'a bad guy wants to come through a portal', and nothing more. No elaboration on who the characters are, or on magic, or what the world of the supernatural is like. There are definitely good scenes in these issues, but the whole isn't as good as its parts. As for Jack Boniface, he's not dull, or unlikeable, but there's not much to him at all, which is the biggest problem to this arc, and ultimately the biggest problem of the series.
The writing is mostly decent, but one moment is terribly cliched! At the start of Issue #2, when Dox and Alyssa come to Jack's aid, one of Twist's henchmen says "You kill the Shadowman, I'll take these two.". Oh, that easy huh? Do you 'guys' normally regularly battle Shadowmen? It's not like they're the most powerful warriors in Voodoo-oh wait....
A scene I didn't like all that much is when the character Dox is explaining magic to Jack. It seems like the writer was nervous about the idea of having real magic in the same universe as sci-fi series such as XO Man-O-War or Harbinger, and therefore attempted a half-assed 'magic is merely a higher form of science' excuse. This is a bit annoying, as when your series' magic has a literal pantheon of gods, as well as an afterlife behind it, you can no longer use the 'this magic is simply a higher form of science' excuse. Now, this is only a bit annoying as this is dialogue from a character trying to explain magic in layman's terms to someone, so it could be that Dox is just equating magic to something Jack will understand and believe easier. It's better to think that, as the alternative paints Dox as a dumbass who knows nothing about the very thing he's devoted his entire life to.
This latest version of Shadowman has nothing in common with the video game, which is infuriating! I'm not asking for a remake to be exactly like the previous 'incarnation', but I wish it would at least utilize some of its aspects, given how great that version was! And no, the use of character Jaunty doesn't count, as this pushover monkey is not Jaunty!
This series' afterlife, Deadside, is pretty interesting, but extremely underused, which is a criminal shame! Speaking of underutilized, that's also the case with the city of New Orleans here.
Onto the characters, Shadowman protectors Dox and Alyssa are likeable, even if there isn't much to them. Mr. Twist is an ok villain, with some decent dialogue. As I said in my Shadowman Issue #1 review, I would call out his wearing of a tuxedo as being stupid and silly...but the Shadowman game is hardly bereft of its own silliness (such as Jaunty, or Marco Cruz), so I can easily swallow this.
This series has the best version of evil necromancer Master Darque thus far, but that's not saying much. The Darque of the original series was dull and boring, whereas the one from the Acclaim universe was an annoying punk. This latest iteration of the character is tolerable in Shadowman's second storyline, but here, he's dull, appearing only to issue a few commands to Mr. Twist, and be annoyed at the end.
Jaunty is tolerable here (except for his constant use of the word 'hoss'), and not as annoyingly wasted as he later becomes. His use later on is insulting to the original Jaunty, but as of this arc, your only question will be why he's now a monkey with a top hat instead of a snake in one.
The artwork here is very good. The covers are pretty meh though. They're cluttered, random, and all favour blank gradient orange backgrounds, which hardly scream horror! There's an annoying panel layout problem at the end of Issue #2, with the faces all over the place during a conversation.
This is a pretty disappointing opening arc to New Valiant's Shadowman series. It establishes little, and we barely know why we should care about anything here...