SHADOWMAN: The dark side of Valiant
SHADOWMAN #14 (Valiant Entertainment, release date 01/08/2014) Writer: Peter Milligan. Art: Roberto de la Torre. Letters: Dave Lanphear. Color Art: David Baron.
SHADOWMAN #13 ended in a bad way, with the voodoo priestess Punk Mambo failing to separate Jack Boniface from the Shadowman loa. That loa was also establishing itself as the stronger of the two sides to Jack Boniface, speaking (internally) to him and calling for blood, exorting him to seek and destroy. I was anticipating a very bad start to Issue #14, with Jack/Shadowman tearing apart everyone in sight, including the priestess as well as Alyssa, Jack’s only sympathizer and friend.
Instead, the crafty scripter Peter Milligan open up the issue by revealing another layer of the history of the Shadowmen and the link to the Boniface family. Trust Milligan to never opt for the obvious. Instead of a bloody battle on the surface world, we are treated to a brutal internal battle for possession of Jack Boniface, body and soul. When the back-story that opens the issue ends, the only battle that occurs is between the various voices in Jack’s head trying to lead him into his next best option.
Marius Boniface, the family member who became the very first Shadowman, had a very strong will as well as a solid purpose. He was able to control the internal loa and curb its dark appetites, allowing it out only for a greater purpose in service against more evil forces. On the other hand, Marius’ grandson Leroy Boniface lacked the internal strength to control the Shadowman loa, and became the unwilling accomplice to its bloody missions. So, which of these ancestors is Jack Boniface attuned to? The strong or the weak? SHADOWMAN #14 offers evidence for both viewpoints but doesn’t conclusively answer either. Milligan is teasing the reader; and most of us will like it.
As was shown in Issue #13 recalling earlier days, when Jack Boniface gets into a rage he suffers from selective amnesia, not remembering who he beat up and how it happened. His memory loss is even more severe when the Shadowman takes over, and Jack usually comes out of unconsciousness surrounded by the bloody evidence. Readers can’t be sure if Shadowman came forth to battle more evil demons in their human disguise, or if Jack has just killed a human being and left another in a coma.
Meanwhile, as the past history of the Boniface family is shared with Alyssa, she is given a reason to hope that she may be able to calm Jack and help him confront and control the inner demon. However, she tentatively tests that theory and doesn’t get results that make her confident that anything will work. By the end of the issue, she too is torn between hope and doubt. As are we, the readers. Exactly in the place where Milligan has placed us.
The art team purposefully depicts all this trauma in spot-on fashion. The style employed by de la Torre and the magnificent colors and shading of Baron are perfect for this tale.
Good work here, on what is obviously a dark tale. The storm clouds are gathering, and it’s sure to be a torrential downpour. Brace yourself and jump in now.