Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Shadowman #5, #6, #7, #8, and #9 (New Valiant)

Did I say that New Valiant's Shadowman series was decent in my review of Issues #2, #3, #4 of its run? Yeah, I'd like to retract that statement. Parts of this series, and/or single issues on their own are decent, but as a whole, this series is terrible! Is it really so hard to write a good voodoo horror series?...

Jack Boniface has recently been forcibly entrusted the legacy of the Shadowman Loa, and he has no time to train with his new abilities when the evil necromancer Master Darque begins to break the veil between the world of the living, and that afterlife of Deadside. Darque has turned Deadside into a nightmare, and as reality fractures and his malevolent troops invade Liveside, Jack Boniface-Shadowman-must team up with Baron Samedi, Lord of the Dead, to stop the apocalyptic threat...

Comics have followed the four-issue storyline pattern for a few years now, and it's really annoying! Because of it, you'll read the first five issues of a series, over the five months they're released, and since this is only the first storyline, only the bare minimum has been established! The effect this has on New Valiant's Shadowman is that over the course of nine, friggin nine, issues, we barely know the main character, his motivations, or his powers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, given how little we know about the Abettors, the Brethren, Master Darque, or Deadside! We don't even know anything about Voodoo, or what a Shadowman is! Nine issues in and we still don't know what a Shadowman is!

Jack Boniface is a dull character! He always was, in the original series, and he's a goddamn dullard here too! Where's Michael LeRoi when you need him?! I'd take Doctor Facilier at this point!

The storyline's villain Darque talks like a pretentious hipster, and while the plan he's enacted has some neat horror behind it, nothing he actually does is scary, or makes him an entertaining villain. We don't know who he is, or what his powers even are! It's so bad that a #0 issue was released in-between Issues #6 and #7, which only barely elaborates on Darque's origin, as it just shows him as a kid.

Baron Samedi is the best character this arc. He's nothing special, but he's likeable, and ooky. He's supposedly 'not to be trusted' and 'bad news', but nothing here indicates that he's a psycho evil lord of evil or anything. He doesn't seem like Funshine Bear, but neither does he seem like Darque in the slightest. Naturally, this doesn't exactly endear those characters to you when there's still nothing to them either. Alyssa's character is that she's a chick with magical powers, and Dox's character is 'wizened old mentor who dies in the second act'. Yeah, he dies. It's so predictable and cliche that I'm surprised he didn't die sooner! That's not the only reason why I don't care that I'm spoiling his death though. The main reason I am is that his death affects nothing! He's not even mentioned in the next three issues! And of course, he had so little character in life that when he died, I felt no sudden void.

One character who really gets screwed over is Anne Alafair. She's a waitress who has the hots for Jack, and she exists solely to get killed. The problem is that she dies really abruptly! You read her talking with Jack, turn the page, and she's instantly dead. I was expecting at least some buildup! Her death is completely pointless, as we know nothing about this character, and she only had one other scene in this series, four issues ago. She doesn't even get any dialogue as she dies! Her death doesn't teach Jack a lesson about superheroics, or affect his character in any way, nor does her death serve to show just how big a threat the Brethren are-We already knew that when they were summoning demons from beyond the veil to ravage the world! The only thing to come of this is Jack being regretful for a couple of pages, before the series gets sidetracked and literally never mentions Alafair ever again! Her ghost does briefly shown up to say one line near the end of Issue #6, but after that, she vanishes!

Shan Fong, New Valiant's version of Dr. Mirage, is interesting ,but extremely underutilized, as she too just vanishes from the story. Also, between her appearances in this storyline, and in Shadowman Issue #12, there's zero indication that she has a husband, so the fact that her own miniseries (that started last month) starts with him already dead is bad writing!...But I'm getting off topic. That's an entirely different review for later...

Deadside dude Jaunty is wasted here, mostly just reacting to things (although he does get the best scene of the series, at the end of Issue #7). The Jaunty in the N64 Shadow Man game was a hilarious Irish snake guy who always had something amusing to say, while this Jaunty is just some non-Irish monkey who does not stop saying 'hoss'!

Darque's troops look cool, and their design looks like something from the disturbing Shadow Man video game, which would be really good if not for the fact that nothing else in this version of Shadowman bears any similarity to the game.

The artwork in this story arc is very inconsistent. It's mostly very good, but sometimes the quality really drops, especially in Issue #9. Jaunty fares the worst, as at first, he looks radically different to how he did last storyline. The covers are all really good, save for #9's, which is bland (and the red eye makes Darque look more like the Terminator than an evil necromancer). Also, #7's has a few problems-Jack's pose is weird, like he's about to break into song and dance than fight the hordes of evil, and the mere presence of Shan Fong is annoying when she's not in the comic! She's front and centre on the cover, bigger than the series' main character, and she's not even in the comic! Wow, that's some dumb non-sequitur-ing!

Pop quiz-Name one good Shadowman comic. BBBZZZZZZ! Wrong, the N64 game is not a comic...But you picked the only option even remotely applicable, so you still win. Congratulations. Now go forth and enjoy some other horror or voodoo related things, and forever ignore this lacklustre piece of crap!...

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