“A Valiant Read” is a regular column in which we highlight some of the best jumping-on points for the Valiant Universe. Find out more.
A Valiant Read is back for another episode of Valiant Universe goodness! This time around we’re digging into the horror-tinged Shadowman Volume 1: Birth Rites. Created by Justin Jordan (The Luther Strode trilogy) and Patrick Zircher (Action Comics, Savage Sword of Conan), this collection covers the first four issues of the series that kicked off in 2012.
As usual, there will be an explanation of the character, a review of this volume, our awards, and much more.
Who Is Shadowman?
In the Valiant Universe, Shadowman is a generational concept. Handed down from father to son, those who have been chosen become the host of Loa, a shadowy voodoo spirit.
The current host, and the one we’ll be reading about, is Jack Boniface. He’s a New Orleans based museum worker but has recently been thrown into this crazy new world. As Shadowman, he faces all kinds of demons and users of dark magic.
You might’ve had some exposure to Shadowman in the past without even realising it. He had his own video game which was released on PC, PlayStation, Nintendo 64, and Dreamcast in 1999.
(Off-topic: it was recently announced that Shadow Man will be remastered.)
Written by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Art by Patrick Zircher. Coloured by Brian Reber. Lettered by Rob Steen and Dave Lanphear.
This debut volume of Shadowman covers a lot of groundwork to introduce readers to the character. We’re treated with a full origin, while also setting up the rules and concepts that define it. By doing this, it shows that Shadowman is a rare superhero comic that not only dabbles not only in the supernatural but goes into horror territory.
The Louisiana Voodoo influences of the previous version of are toned down. The comic purposely shy away from the negative stereotypes and uses the influences lightly. Instead of zombies and witch doctors, the threats are demons and dark magic users. Shadowman’s design borrows visual queues from voodoo but this consists of giving him a simple voodoo mask instead of an elaborate get-up.
Beyond the inclusion of the supernatural, Shadowman plays up the horror through the inclusion of gore. It is used sparingly in moments of horror as a way to shock the reader. These moments are rendered by Zircher with plenty of detail, showing the blood, guts, and rearrangement of body parts.
The comic also has a heavy focus on magic but portrays it in an atypical manner. Instead of going down the stereotypical voodoo route, the magic in Shadowman is science-based. While it’s certainly not the first comic to do this, the approach is refreshing and separates it from other comics.
As mentioned earlier, this opening arc is an origin story, which allows the comic to be character-driven. By making it so, readers get to explore Jack’s decision to be Shadowman, his search for his parents, and much more. It makes for a far more rounded story, that gives weight behind character actions and greater reader investment.
Overall, Shadowman Volume 1: Birth Rites is a satisfying read that subverts expectations. If you’re looking for an element of horror in your superhero comics then you cannot go past this series.
The V Awards
Each edition of A Valiant Read I give out awards to various concepts, characters, and ideas. The winners this time are…
The Bad Hygiene Award
Winner: Mr. Twist
In this time of social distancing and better hygene, Mr. Twist is a greater villain than when he was first divised.
It doesn’t matter if you claim to be a herald of “good news”, you can’t go around flowing disgusting flesh at people.
The Punny Award
Winner: Demon possessed police officer
It seems even demons love a good pun…
Best Dressed Award
Winner: Mr. Twist
Mr. Twist gets another award for his appreciation for a tailored suit. He’s certainly the best dressed demon in all of the Valiant Universe.
Do you want to read more Shadowman? If so, these are the additional trade paperbacks you’ll want to track down.
Shadowman Volume 2: Darque Reckoning
Written by Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. Art by Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Neil Edwards, and Roberto De La Torre.
Collects: Shadowman #5-9
Shadowman Volume 3: Darque Reckoning
Written by Justin Jordan, Jim Zub, Ales Kot, Christopher Sebela, Duffy Boudreau, and Neil Dvorak. Art by Roberto De La Torre, Mico Suayan, Lewis LaRosa, Diego Bernard, Andrea Cuneo, Miguel Sepulveda, CAFU, Matthew Southworth, and Neil Dvorak.
Collects: Shadowman #0 and Shadowman #10-12
Shadowman Volume 4: Fear, Blood, and Shadows
Written by Peter Milligan. Art by Roberto de la Torre and Al Barrionuevo.
Collects: Shadowman #13-16
Join me next time when we cover Harbinger Wars, the first event of modern Valiant Universe.