Review by Frank Plowright
Jack Boniface is newly Shadowman, a hero with powerful connections to the Darkside, a realm where the dead and far worse lurk, constantly jostling for access to Earth, something Shadowman is pledged to stop at all costs. The only trouble for Jack is that while Shadowman is a hereditary position, it’s also one for which people train from birth, and he’s an adult with no practical experience when it comes to the arcane. As seen in Birth Rites he has people who can help him, but it’s still a significant problem and Shadowman has accumulated powerful enemies over the centuries.
Birth Rites was co-plotted by Patrick Zircher, who also drew it very nicely. As the listing of artists shows, that’s no longer the case. Zircher contributes a few pages to the first couple of chapters here, and then he’s gone, which hurts. Seven different artists draw the remainder, anything up to four on a single chapter, leading to an unholy mishmash of conflicting styles and in some cases characters looking wildly different from one page to the next. Only Neil Edwards (sample art) illustrates a complete chapter. Visually, this is a mess.
The changing art affects things, and there’s additionally a disjointed and jumpy feel to the entire story. Doctor Mirage is seen helping the police before approaching Dox, then isn’t seen again, and Baron Samedi is seen being renewed, but it’s a jump to his earthly appearance. However, while the supporting cast introduced in the opening volume looked to have some traction, almost all disappoint here, and it’s a surprise when Samedi becomes the most interesting character, even moreso than a thrashing around Shadowman. Among the disappointments is Master Darque, who under Justin Jordan really loves the sound of his own voice. His monologues describing torments to be endured are repetitive and tiresome.
Despite the overall disappointment Jordan rallies to produce a blockbuster finish, but it’s not enough to save the remainder.
If you disagree and would prefer Jordan’s entire run in hardcover then it’s available as Shadowman Deluxe Edition 1. That includes Jordan’s contributions to Deadside Blues, which follows.