Saturday, 19 April 2014

Shadowman, Volume 4: Fear, Blood, and Shadows Review (Peter Milligan, Roberto de la Torre)

Justin Jordan did a fantastic job reintroducing Shadowman to readers new and old when Valiant relaunched a while back but unfortunately he’s long gone and has been replaced by Peter Milligan, a very sketchy writer whose work is sometimes good (Submariner: The Depths, New 52 Red Lanterns Vol 1) and sometimes terrible (New 52 Stormwatch Vol 2, Batman: The Bat and the Beast). His Shadowman though is not only the worst book of his I’ve read but also manages to be the worst book Valiant have put out since they returned.

Jack Boniface is having problems with the Shadowman loa - he’s waking up in alleys surrounded by dead or dying bodies whom he’s beaten severely the night before but can’t remember doing. The Abettors - who abet hosts for the loa, real imaginative name! - have noticed and want to kill Jack and put the loa into someone more stable, so Jack has to find a way of controlling the loa or he’ll be dead.

So even though he’s been Shadowman for three books already, he’s only now having problems controlling the loa because of his past? Riiiiight.

The worst thing about this book is the confused plotting. At various points the reader is told: a) that the loa is killing Jack and that he has to ignore it and somehow defeat it to survive, b) he needs to find a saviour to help him, c) the loa is actually helping him by taking him back to a critical point of his life that he needs to face and resolve, d) Jack needs to fall in love with Alyssa to control the loa.  A and B actually turn out to be irrelevant because C is what the book is really about and D is a total waste of time.

The idea behind the half-assed “love” subplot is that Marius Boniface, Jack’s ancestor and the first Shadowman, and his love for Sandria allowed him to control the Shadowman loa - if Jack could fall in love with someone, ie. Alyssa, he could maybe control the loa too. So Alyssa is doing this maybe because she wants to help Jack and/or maybe because she really loves him, and Jack refuses because he doesn’t love her - I think that’s it. But then they fall in love at the end out of nowhere?! It’s one of the lamest and most unconvincing “love” stories I’ve ever read!

Then out of nowhere, once Jack’s miraculously gotten control of the loa luckily as the book’s coming to a close, a completely different villain shows up called Tremble Loa whom he has to conveniently defeat to prove that Shadowman is back - it’s so damn contrived!

The screaming whip, a magical whip made from the skins of slaves which especially hurts people of African descent, was a cool addition to the story in a creepy way, in keeping with Shadowman’s dark magic themes, but that’s really the only plus I can think of with regards this book.

Shadowman Volume 4 has absolutely diabolical plotting and features a very weak story that isn’t the slightest bit interesting. Milligan’s taken Jordan’s good work and driven the series off a cliff. I like the Shadowman character but, wow, you can really see how crucial it is to have the right writer to make him work well.

Shadowman Volume 4: Fear, Blood, and Shadows TP

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