Saturday, September 20, 2014

Shadowman: Overall (New Valiant)

I originally wasn't going to say anything more about New Valiant's awful horror-superhero series Shadowman, but I've decided to so I can address all the series' problems at once. Normally, the plan is to do 'Overall' reviews for series' that have run their course and ended, whereas Shadowman is merely on a hiatus...maybe. Either way, it's gonna take at least six months before the series comes back, if it comes back,so I'll talk about all of this now.

Shadowman is about Jack Boniface, the latest in the line of a family lineage of Voodoo warriors. Jack has only recently moved to New Orleans, years after his mother hastily moved away when she was pregnant with him. Due to her efforts, Jack knows nothing about Voodoo, magic, or the Shadowmen, and is abruptly thrust into the dark world when the demonic servants of an evil necromancer named Nicodemo Darque attack him. Jack unwillingly transforms into Shadowman and fights back the demons, with the help of the Abettors, who are a group of people sworn to help the Shadowmen. Jack soon realizes that Darque is trying to break through from a ravaged dimension known as Lyceum to Earth, and will bring about the apocalypse if he succeeds...

Shadowman has a great storytelling engine-A magical superhero fighting supernatural monsters and villains. Unfortunately, due to the comic industry's exceedingly nasty habit of only telling four-issue long stories, Shadowman has only had five storylines over 20 issues! This would be bad enough, but said storylines get across extremely little character, or plot, and they establish very little about the setting, and Voodoo. Over these first thirteen issues, the series wasn't very good, and needed a lot of fixing, but unfortunately, that wasn't what it got.

The original writers left the series after Issue #12, and British comic writer Peter Milligan was brought onto Shadowman starting with Issue #13, and he really didn't get it! The guy seems to have had a good track record, but here, he either didn't read the previous thirteen issues of Shadowman, or he detested them and wanted to retcon everything! There are so many continuity errors between Milligan's issues and the rest of the series, and he's also made radical and unwelcome changes that drastically shortened the series' shelf life, The only thing that can save Shadowman now is a hard reset, whether it be by retcons to alter what Milligan has wrought, or by new writers simply washing their hands of everything that came before and starting fresh with a new main character.

The characters in this series are dull, and have very little to them. We know very little about the series' lead, Jack Boniface, and we never get any insight into his character, such as how he feels about becoming a magical warrior against his will. There's also a really forced romance between Jack and Abettor friend Alyssa. It comes out of nowhere, is set up too quickly, and ditched just as fast. As for Alyssa's character, she's likeable, but nothing special.

Series villain Darque is pretty dull. There's not much too him at all either-He's just an evil guy who's evil because he's evil. There was a #0 issue that tried to give him some character by showing his origin, but this story only shows Darque as a little kid, all the way back in 1812, and therefore creates a huge disconnect between his character there and in the present day. Issue #10 is a sequel to #0, but it skips forward about sixty years, and any character growth for Darque from his time as a kid to present is only presented very briefly in a narrated one-page montage.

Likeably snide British Voodoo priestess Punk Mambo is a very amusing character, but unfortunately her character is stuck in a poorly written series. And then there's Jaunty! He's a character originally from the Acclaim Comics Shadowman series/game, and it's because I know that that I have at least some background on who he is. The Jaunty here comes out of nowhere, and we never have any idea who he is, or why he is what he is (a seemingly living being in Deadside, and a monkey in a top hat).

Finally, the writing. While the stories over the first thirteen issues isn't very good, the dialogue is at least decent, but when Peter Milligan took over, it took a severe downturn! Some of the post Issue #12 dialogue is absolutely terrible! And there are also a few nagging plot holes in the series post #12 too.

Shadowman stopped at Issue #16, and continued with a miniseries called End Times. This was a mistake in my opinion, as End times not only has zero reason to be a miniseries rather than just being Issues #17 to #19, but it's also not accommodating in the slightest. The miniseries is purportedly a jumping-on point, but any readers who'd start Shadowman by picking up End Times #1 will just be confused as hell! And nothing bad that happens to any of the characters and their relationships will have any impact on new readers, as they won't have read the preceding issues where such things were established!

End Times is widely hated among Valiant fans, as it completely destroys the series. Peter Milligan's innumerable extreme retcons, plot holes, and continuity errors are bad enough, but apparently not content with ruining the series via those avenues, Milligan has completely and irrevocably screwed over Jack Boniface's character by abruptly turning him into a whining, stupid, and petulant villain!

Shadowman has been on hiatus ever since End Times finished, and I have no idea what the future holds for it, if anything. It might come back, but in what form is anyone's guess! Either way, if Shadowman doesn't come back, it won't be a big loss. At its best, this iteration of the series was extremely mediocre and wasteful, and at its worst, insultingly bad. New Valiant has much better series going on, so if you're interested in its lineup, feel free to peruse them and skip this...

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