Review by Frank Plowright
This hardcover presents the entirety of Justin Jordan’s rebooting of Shadowman over eleven chapters. It starts well, takes a fair dip, and rallies for the end.
To begin with Jordan co-plots with artist Patrick Zircher, a good artist and a good designer, but one whose style is too clean for a horror title where the needs are more visceral. Still, that’s a comment about what’s fundamentally good art (sample page), and art is the problem in this collection. We’ll return to that.
Jordan and Zircher reboot Shadowman from the start, establishing a dynasty in the opening pages, before switching to Jack Boniface in 21st century New Orleans. It’s a surprise to him when he becomes Shadowman, and initially thrashes around before being supplied with a supporting cast able to, well, support. An efficient first four chapters comprehensively establish Shadowman, his new world and responsibilities, and his greatest enemy, perhaps a little too easily dealt with in the first instance, although that proves no impediment.
However, after those first few chapters Zircher’s contribution rapidly declines, and then he departs. It takes ten artists to draw the seven remaining episodes, only Neil Edwards managing to complete one all by himself. The quality is variable, but never poor. At its best it’s the spooky touch of Roberto De La Torre who’s exactly right for the series, or the decorative Mico Suayan, who combine for Master Darque’s origin. However, there’s a problem of too many occasions where a switch of artist means the characters suddenly look different when the page turns. It’s sloppy editing, and there’s no real excuse.
Even had the same artist drawn everything, the second longer story rambles, suffers from an excess of villainous monologuing, features some strange jumps, and has characters that just drift away (hello and goodbye Doctor Mirage). The plus points are the thrilling finale and the introduction of Baron Samedi whose motivations are pleasingly ambiguous. For all the cleverness in setting him up, though, it’s other writers who’ll take him forward.
Shadowman himself isn’t very interesting. The earlier sax-playing version might have been clichéd, but this Jack Boniface never develops beyond a heroic archetype. He’s at his best when first introduced, contemplating finding out more about his parents. Still, the strong supporting cast carry him though, but it’s telling that the best content overall concerns the horrific origin of Master Darque.
This collection is out of print, and costs a lot second hand. If you are tempted you’d perhaps be better off looking for the original trades Birth Rites, Darque Reckoning and Deadside Blues.