Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Valiant preview 12/04: Coming out of the Shadows

 

Editor’s Note: I haven’t revisited the current SHADOWMAN since the first four-issue story arc that introduced the modern version.  It’s not that I’ve been ignoring the title. I’ve been picking up SHADOWMAN every month and stockpiling the issues for a marathon reading (my preferred method of reading serialized titles).  When the news broke that a new team was taking over, I decided to jump right in and catch up later.  I’m glad I did.  I’m excited for the new direction the always interesting Peter Milligan will take this character.  I urge you to check this out.  Here’s a small sample to whet your appetite . . . . . . .

SHADOWMAN #13X (Valiant Entertainment - - exclusive edition bagged with BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #7, November 2013)  Peter Milligan, Writer.  Diego Bernard, Penciler. Alejandro Sicat, Inker.  Dave Sharpe, Letterer.  Matt Milla, Colorist.

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          If you’re lucky, you can still find an issue of BLEEDING COOL MAGAZINE #7 at your local comics shop.  It’s a real bargain at the special price of $1.99 and serves as a perfect introduction to the changes forthcoming in SHADOWMAN.  Since some of you may not be so lucky, I’m going to try to bring you up to date without spoiling too much of the essentials and attendant surprises.

          With the exception of writer Peter Milligan, this is not the creative team that is taking over the reins beginning in SHADOWMAN #13.  However, this grouping would do very nicely with the art chores on any future issues if needed.  If there is such a thing as a Valiant house style, then this team does what I think it would look like =  Great detail. Expressive faces.  Good use of shading and color.  (Things change up a bit in the art after this issue.  Keep reading.)

          I don’t think I’ve read a better one paragraph summary of the story so far than the one that appears here on the contents page, so I’m going to quote it . . . . . “Jack Boniface was possessed by the same voodoo loa that once possessed his father, and inherited his legacy of the night.  Trained and supported by Alyssa and the late Dox, members of a cryptic magic organization called the Abettors, Jack became the Shadowman - - defender of the living from dark sorcery, spectral horrors, and the twisted monsters of the Deadside!”  Jack Boniface shares his physical body with the Shadowman, who he can summon at the appropriate moments to do battle with dark supernatural forces.

          The eight page story in SHADOWMAN #13X gives some further background on Jack’s upbringing and reveals some character flaws that might prevent him from becoming the premium blend of Shadowman that his trainers and protectors were expecting.  Three senior members of the Abettors meet to review notes and make some critical decisions regarding the future of Jack as Shadowman.

          Milligan does here what he has demonstrated expertly time and again on various projects - - he gets to the heart and guts of his characters and brings their motivations to the surface while shedding light on the past events that helped form their personality.  Jack’s mother Helena tried to protect him from both the Abettors and their foes (the Brethren).  In order to do this she changed their identities and moved the family frequently, up until the time of her death when Jack was placed in an orphanage at the tender age of nine.  When senior male Abettor Copeland questions Helena’s choices and calls her stupid for not coming straight to them for help, senior female Abettor Earlene utters some of the best (and most telling) lines of this preview:  “You’re thinking like a man.  She was thinking like a mother.  She was running from us.  She’d seen what being Shadowman had done to Josiah (the father)!  Shadowman destroyed her life!”

          Unfortunately for Jack, his background includes issues with anger management, violent outbursts, a short prison record, a history of childhood trauma . . . .”all point to a possible intermittent explosive disorder.  In short, Jack Boniface is patently unfit to be Shadowman.”  And that leads us to . . . . . . . .

SHADOWMAN #13 (Valiant Entertainment, release date 12/04/2013)  Writer: Peter Milligan.  Art: Roberto de la Torre.  Letters: Dave Lanphear.  Color Art: David Baron & Shane Davis with David Baron.  Cover Art: Roberto de la Torre, Miguel Sepulveda, Ben Templesmith.

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          This begins in a bad way with Jack Boniface waking up in an alley, surrounded by unconscious bodies and no memory of what has happened or how he got there.  There was hope that Jack’s union with the Shadowman persona would help him manage his internal issues.  Now the senior Abettors have concluded that the result of this is just bringing Jack’s anger and other problems to the surface even more.  The only option as they see it is to destroy Jack.

     Abettor trainer Alyssa finds Jack and warns him of the danger he is in.  She urges him to seek out a backwoods priestess who may be able to help him separate himself from the Shadowman, so he can live a life on his own without those complications.  As Jack makes his way through swamp-infested country to seek out the witch woman, he reflects on his past and suddenly the suppressed memories come to the surface, weakening his beliefs in his own good nature.  Nothing is ever simple when it comes to Jack Boniface, and the witch is unable to complete the separation process.  Once she learns who she has unleashed she no longer wants to and has her own confrontation.  Poor Jack.  He ends the issue in the same place where he began it.

          There’s a change in direction for the art in this title as well.  Roberto de la Torre’s style reminds me most of Alex Maleev, and this book takes on a tone similar to what is seen in Vertigo and crime titles.  It’s a darker, more somber style that avoids vivid colors and creates a more serious mood.  It fits very well with the current nature of Jack Boniface - - a man unsure of his current situation, unsure of himself, unsure of who he can trust or count on for support, a man coming off the hinges.  I’ll keep watching.  I want to know where this is going. Please join me.

Torre art color                    Torre art black and white

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