Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shadowman: End Times #1, #2, #3 (New Valiant)

Remember that in my last review of Valiant superhero series Shadowman, I said that for all that storyline's crippling faults, it actually had a happy ending? Yeah, prepare to have that utterly destroyed, and replaced with depression!

Jack Boniface is the latest in the family lineage of Shadowmen, Voodoo warriors devoted to fighting the evil necromancer Master Darque. Jack has successfully slain Darque, but is now facing problems when the malevolent Shadow Loa, the source of his powers, tries to take control. Jack is able to beat back control over his body and mind with the help of his love for girlfriend and magical comrade Alyssa, but the Loa has one last trick up its sleeve. It tells Jack the truth about his father, Josiah Boniface, who didn't die as previously thought, but instead faked his death and secretly fled from the realm of the living. Furious that Josiah abandoned his family, Jack's mind is warped by the Loa as he hunts his father down for bloody revenge...

Last time I talked about Shadowman, I talked about the new creative team that took over the series from Issue #13, and how new head writer Peter Milligan clearly didn't read the preceding thirteen issues of the series, as his starting arc is positively bloated with massive continuity errors and radical changes that make no sense, such as suddenly making the untethered spirit that gives Jack Boniface his Shadow powers an evil Loa (sort-of Voodoo god)! As if that wasn't bad enough, the changes that Milligan made to the Shadowman concept completely ruins the series. This is meant to be a superhero series, but if the spirit giving the hero his powers is evil, what then? Do we see this depressing struggle overtake the series and dominate it for the rest of the comic's run, or would Jack eventually get rid of the spirit? The latter option would end the series, so Shadowman is stuck with the former option, and in doing so has doomed itself! Its shelf life is now minimal at best!

The crux of this miniseries' plot is that Jack Boniface's father Josiah, who died during a final battle with Darque, really faked his death and escaped to a near-inaccessible magical location known as the Voodoo Lands. Cracks start to show in this storyline right away when you start thinking about the plot for even a minute. It makes no sense! Why did Josiah fake his death? He's not a bad guy, and he genuinely didn't want to abandon his family, and doing so was such a great sacrifice that it allowed him access to the Voodoo Lands. It doesn't make sense for him to have faked his death to escape the Shadow Loa, because he has either two choices-One, die in battle, or Two, Reluctantly abandon his family, living the rest of his life in an empty, dead world, alone, doing nothing, with absolutely nothing to do but wear a cloak. What's the point of escaping his death, then, if that's all he has to look forward to?

On top of all of that, there's one final problem regarding this plot point-Josiah Boniface is DEAD! We saw him in Deadside in Issue #3! There was no faking that! We saw his actual, legitimate, unfakeable deceased spirit, and he communicated with Jack, giving him advice and power, and offering to rid him of the Shadow Loa. He could have done it too, if not for Jack needing it to save Alyssa! And this miniseries is treating him as a craven coward for abandoning his family to deal with the evil Loa on their own? No, he didn't! Even if he was alive in that scene, it doesn't change the fact that he has helped Jack greatly.

The Abettors continue to make no sense. They're meant to be good guys, and the protectors to the Shadowmen, but at the first sign of trouble, they instantly have the Shadowmen killed! Not only does this not sync up with previous continuity, as I mentioned in my last review, but it paints the Abettors as a bunch of idiots! They're meant to help the Shadowmen, yet they always, always end up killing them, or the Shadowmen go nuts and kill themselves, or they die in battle before they can be driven crazy! Give up, you Abettor jerks! This arc explicitly says that every single Shadowman went crazy! Every. Single. One! Shelf life, Milligan!

The writing for this miniseries is poor. Jack's inner monologue is constant, the characters are bland and/or annoying, and there's some really stupid dialogue! On that last note, there's even a moment here where, just like in the last arc, Peter Milligan's characters again show that they has no idea that love still exists! That's an oddly specific recurring trend here! He must really want his characters to be deluded idiots! And this guy worked on Grant Morrison's Animal Man series?!

Another continuity error made with Shadowman continuity is in regards to the afterlife of Deadside. In Issue #2, Jack goes into Deadside, and says "Every minute I stay here costs me. Hours, days, even weeks are shaved off my mortal coil." WRONG! Jesus, is Peter Milligan actively trying to retcon ever single aspect of this series?! He must hate Issues #0 to #12 of Shadowman!

Onto the characters. Now that one of the new creative team's many, many retcons is set in, the previously silent and non-sentient Shadow Loa does not shut up!

In the past, Jack Boniface has always been a dull character, but here, he's more than a dullard-He's a whiner! He whines, and whines, and whines, and whines, and doesn't shut the fuck up! He's an annoying crybaby who needs to grow a pair! That's bad enough, but things actually get worse! End Times represents the complete ruination of his character, as it starts off with him as a petulant whinging crybaby dickhead, then turns him into a villain, out of nowhere! I said above that having the Shadow Loa be evil has crippled the series' shelf life, but this has done so even worse!

Not only does Jack have an out-of-character obsession, which as I said above, doesn't even make sense, given his previous interaction with Josiah in Deadside, but to gain access to the Voodoo Lands, where Josiah lives, Jack has to make a great sacrifice, and he does so by cruelly breaking Alyssa's heart. Then, when he's in the Voodoo Lands, Jack decides to ask for help from someone who was present when his father died-Darque! That's right, the so-called most evil sorcerer to have ever lived. The man who tried to bring about the apocalypse! The man the Shadowmen literally exist to stop, and Jack brings him back to life! AND THEN HE MAKES A BLOOD PACT WITH HIM! Ignoring that idiocy for a second, it doesn't even make sense for Jack to consider Darque's help, because One, Why would Darque help him? He's evil, and his mortal enemy! Two, Jack impaled and killed him, so I really doubt he'd want to help. And Three, Why would Darque know what happened to Josiah just because he was the last person to see him before his 'death'? If he had, he probably would've done something about it, or perhaps mentioned it! And of course, to make all of this even dumber, Darque doesn't know a thing, so Jack brought back pure evil into the world for no reason...And is now tied into a blood pact with him. *clap clap clap*.

Unfortunately, we're still not done yet! Jack finds Josiah, then after whining petulantly, he snaps his father's neck! And that causes the horrible death of his mother's spirit. And then Jack decides to team up with Darque as his servant! I was on the official Valiant forums when End Times ended, and most people hated this miniseries with a passion, for its flagrant continuity errors, and for what it does to Jack Boniface. Now, I'm a Michael Leroi fan (the Shadowman of Acclaim Comics, and more importantly, the video game), so while I don't give a shit about dull Jack Boniface, I do care when a series completely screws over its protagonist!

Seeing as Jack Boniface is now beyond the 'moral event horizon', I guess he's a permanent villain now, or at least won't return to being the hero. Or maybe he'll suddenly get the power to kill Darque again immediately, then go home to Alyssa with the most screwed up 'The funniest thing happened to me on my way to the Voodoo Lands' story ever!

Maybe the series will get itself a new Shadowman, and if so, I hope its Michael LeRoi. I've never been endeared to any version of Jack Boniface, as they're all dull, and useless Shadowmen! The Shadow powers the Jack of the original series possessed only extended to being able to hit people slightly harder than a regular human. Michael Leroi, on the other hand, not only had numerous Voodoo abilities and weapons, but he was immortal! Despite an extremely harsh background, he never whined, and was instead a powerful voodoo lord. He was in control, and he was the Shadow Man! There was no split-personality driving him to be the heir to the mantle, but he instead did it because he was the one who had to.

Alyssa does practically nothing this arc but be put down by Jack. Also, it doesn't make sense for her to believe Jack's cruel words to her at the end of Issue #2. The first issue of Shadowman implied that she's either a psychic, or at the least, a sensitive, so either way, she'd know that Jack was lying*. but to be fair, the entire series since Issue #2 forgot that, so that's not only just the fault of the new creative team.

*Though of course, she'd already know he's lying, because she's not stupid.

As with the last Shadowman storyline, British punk Voodoo priestess Punk Mambo is still the only good thing here. She's likeable and amusing...But unfortunately, she's still in a poorly written series, so there's no shortage of dumb moments with her, such as when Alyssa talks to her, saying that Jack is obsessed with Punk Mambo, and vice versa, which is bull! Yeah, the two have interacted a bit, but neither are obsessed with the other! Alyssa also says that Jack made a connection with Mambo, and "I know that somewhere in that warped brain of yours, you care for him". Wrong! Jack didn't make a connection with her at all, neither does it make sense for Mambo to care about him! He's just some guy who came to her for help with an exorcism. Also, when they first met, one of the few times they've even interacted, Mambo set him on fire as she forced him out of her home! That doesn't sound like the act of someone caring for another to me!

Deadside dude Jaunty returns in this arc, completely out of nowhere, and as if the artwork for him wasn't bad enough, his character has now been altered to that of a servant and suck-up. His character here doesn't mesh with previous appearances at all, and one really annoying problem, with the entirety of Shadowman, is that everyone calls Jaunty 'Trickster', even though he's never displayed any such personality!

Another returning character from a previous storyline is Baron Samedi, and his only scene leads to some really idiotic dialogue from Jack. He goes to visit Samedi, and rudely asks if his father is alive or not, and Samedi kicks him out of his domain, telling him to learn some manners. Cut to a few scenes later, Jack is saying to Alyssa that the Baron told him Josiah is alive. NO, HE DIDN'T!

The artwork for this miniseries isn't very good. It's not terrible, but the at style is poor, blocky, and far too simple in places. The covers are crummy. Not only do all three have a radically different art style, not only are they dull non-sequiturs, but the action on Issue #2 and #3's covers obscure the damn title!

My final problem with Shadowman: End Times is that it has literally no reason to be a miniseries! It's just the next storyline, nothing more. Also, this is not accommodating to any newcomers, who will likely be confused as hell, despite picking up an Issue #1.

I've ranted long and hard about this, and I'm relieved to finally have nothing left to say about this putrid mess of a series! Don't get it! Never get it! It's just a waste of money! This series never stays consistent, never establishes anything well enough, whether it be characters, or the setting, and the continuity errors and retcons are so numerous and dreadful that there is no saving this series. It's dead in the water, and has been ever since this miniseries. What does the future hold for it? Well it might come back, once sort-of spinoff The Death Defying Doctor Mirage, and the spin-off Punk Mambo one-shot are out, and I admit, I am curious to see where Shadowman will go next. Will the ruination run deeper, if such a thing is even possible at this point, or will a new new creative team be in charge, and will they retcon everything Peter Milligan has wrought as merely being a fever dream? I bloody hope so!...

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