Review by From the Booth‘s own KEN
Continuing on with my Valiant kick, I was able to pick up the first six issues of Shadowman through Captain Blue Hen’s Comixology portal around Christmas time. The actual trade paperback seems to be totally out of print and only has issues 1-3 and 6. So this will be more of a review of the first six than the actual trade.
Jim Shooter had a hand in just about every Valiant comic to come off the press and considering most of them are excellent, that is very high praise. Steve Engelhart has worked for the flagship books of both Marvel and DC, writing Avengers, Detective Comics, Green Lantern, Captain America and the JLA. David Lapham worked on another Valiant title, Harbinger, and also took over writing duties from Garth Ennis when he left Crossed.
I’ve noticed a pattern in Valiant’s characters. Each one seems to be a slightly different take on already established popular characters. X-O Manowar has a passing resemblance to Iron Man. Bloodshot is not unlike the Punisher. Shadowman seems to draw his inspiration from Ghost Rider.
One night while playing jazz music at a New Orleans bar, Jack Boniface meets an attractive woman named Lydia and takes her back to his apartment. Lydia, however, has a different idea of fun and proceeds to bite Jack on the neck after drugging him. At this point, Jack witnesses a shadowy figure that comes to his aid and either kills Lydia or at least drives her off. When he awakens the next afternoon, he feels different as the sun sets. You might think that Jack is now a vampire but this is New Orleans and things are not that simple. Jack has somehow become a voodoo-infused vessel for the Darque power which grants him strength, endurance and regeneration while making him fearless. With the guidance of Nettie, his housekeeper and a practitioner of voodoo, Shadowman fights those who would use voodoo to enslave and kill the residents of the French Quarter.
While it’s hard to believe, Wikipedia claims that by its second publication year, Shadowman was outselling Batman, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Ghost Rider, and even the Justice League of America. It even had a second volume written by Garth Ennis. As of October, it is slated to become a movie written by J. Michael Straczynski.
While the tale can get convoluted at times, using voodoo as an explanation for just about everything, the story is saturated in New Orleans flavor which gives the book its own unique flair. Jack is a likeable protagonist who shares little of the fearlessness of his alter ego but strives to do the right thing anyway. Despite a few plot holes, I always found myself relating to and pulling for Jack. It’s easy to see how many comic fans would feel the same.