Shadow Man #1 Review
“I am the Lord of Deadside” - Michael LeRoi, Shadowman (1998)
Written by Andy Diggle, drawn by Stephen Segovia and colored by Ulises Arreola, Shadowman #1 is a continuation of the 2012 relaunch of the Shadowman line. Jack Boniface has been gone for five years. Liveside, land of the living, and Deadside, akin to the afterlife and described as the place where all passed souls go regardless, both have been without the voodoo warrior for quite a long time and the forces of evil have taken over. Alyssa has set out into the bayous of New Orleans on a personal journey, where she is attacked by a Deadside creature known as The Shatterer of Bones and saved by none other than the Shadowman himself. Revealing his whereabouts for the times of his absence and finding nothing has changed, Jack now must prepare for war.
For those not too versed in the Valiant relaunch of Shadowman, this issue does a good enough of a job recapping the reader on what happened before, while also giving a reason to continue reading: Jack's ex-lover is threatened, as is his kingdom, known as Deadside. There is enough mystery and wonder here to keep an eye on the new run, while also capturing something so few seem to do: the breath of a living world. Reading just this issue alone, Diggle managed to add a heavy layer of involvement with the immersion in the very heavily-inspired voodoo-based world, which made this series feel bigger than what it was, which is most enjoyable. With characters using names and phrases about items and openly speaking about their world, this darker version of New Orleans already has the ground of familiarity and building on that with its own ideas makes for a most interesting read. Outside of the worldbuilding, the plot here is basic run-of-the-mill: introduction, meet protagonist, plot involvement, meet antagonist, cliffhanger.
What is worth mentioning are the character designs, specifically Jack/Shadowman, Damballah Wedo, and Baron Samedi. While the standout designs are basic, Segovia’s designs give the characters a 'cool factor.' Damballah Wedo, “the oldest and wisest of the Loa,” is quite literally a ghost snake, colored with shades of blue and white to show the snake is but an apparition. The choice to cover the body in shades of yellow and orange scribes and voodoo symbols just adds more to the appeal of the book's world. Jack is drawn very broad and muscular, like an athlete, but the addition of scars covering much of the body and malnourishment shows the reader, 'this guy has been through some stuff'. The visual change from Jack to Shadowman is done in a way to show two halves of the same person, before the full on transformation is shown in the next panel. Physical appearances carry over to Shadowman, where skin is colored shades of black and grey and a white skull painting adores the head and face. Lastly, Baron Samedi is the most interesting character here. A skull mask--perhaps it may not be a mask--hides his face with locks of raven hair flowing from the back. Wearing a trench coat, the overall clothing design is very victorian and classic; giving Baron a sort of aristocratic flair. Drawn with hands of bone with what is, presumably, flesh adds a type of disgusting outlook on this character. Arreola did pretty well done in some spots with the background art. While basic, the 'less is more' approach here definitely adds to the horror undertones of the book, especially in the opening pages, where Alyssa and Isiah are traveling down the bayou. Much of the issue, in fact, takes place at night. The dark colors cascade and blend well together, along with the overlap of fog makes an atmosphere that is reminiscent of a horror movie. The heavy shadows and shading help to add to the atmosphere, seemingly adding to the darkness of the book. The overall atmosphere of half the book is immersive and captivating, before it takes a radical shift to the inside of Alyssa’s residence where assorted, vibrant colors are used. Various shades of orange and brown adorn the walls and bookcases, with forest green carpeting on the floors. While a hodgepodge of colors are to be found here, the overall modern feel of the residential home is not lost, though the tone and atmosphere captured in the first half is.
Being that this is issue #1, it sets up for the first story arc and much of the backbone the book has to build from. With basic plot threads introduced, it leaves more to be desired that hopefully whet that appetite in the next issue. Honestly speaking here, the allure of a fully constructed, interesting world with the voodoo and horror tones sets for great things to come, the plot related characters are designed to be cool and visually pleasing, and the backgrounds are set pieces for horror movies. What is not to like?