Review by Frank Plowright
Birth Rites begins with an ending. The dead are successfully pushed back to the Deadside, and it seems Shadowman is drawn there alongside Master Darque. So how is it that Jack Boniface is then seen no worse for wear working in a voodoo museum?
It’s because this is a reboot brushing past continuity under the carpet. Jack has been searching for information about his parents who died when he was a child, and finally receives the shocking truth, which is bad enough to make him discard the amulet his mother gave him before she died and he swore he’d always wear. That leads to a whole mess of trouble.
Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher co-write, with Zircher also responsible for the art, and Jack is surprised when he becomes Shadowman, but fortunately there are people able to help him out when it comes to what he now is and what he can do. Jordan’s scripting is high on cryptic references, one character even noting that comments say everything and nothing, but they’re kept within control as Jack learns.
Zircher’s a really good artist, but his style is too clean and crisp for a horror title no matter how impressive his designs are. Primary villain Mr Twist looks a horror, and is given the comedy styling of a cream suit, but Zircher has a precision that sometimes works against what’s happening. Still, that’s being picky, and when everything falls to pieces in the next volume his consistency is much missed.
Overall, this is a satisfactory reboot setting up Shadowman for a new readership while seemingly not neglecting the old. It supplies the required spooky thrills and demonic enemies, while also introducing the New Orleans power base in thrall to Master Darque, and desperate for immortality. Combined with Darque’s perennial villainy, there’s more than enough intrigue about the new supporting cast to take Shadowman forward into Darque Reckoning.
Both this and the next volume are available combined in hardcover as Deluxe Edition 1.