Thursday, 30 March 2017

Shadowman, Volume 2: Darque Reckoning Review (Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher)

Deadman cosplayer Master Darque wants to (sigh) take over the world – Shadowman to the rescue! …

Shadowman, Volume 2: Darque Reckoning loses the momentum set by the really good first book, instead delivering a vague and uninteresting story.

It doesn’t help that Shadowman himself is a pretty boring main character. He’s interesting visually but Jack Boniface doesn’t have much of a personality and what little he learns about his character’s legacy in this book ain’t gripping. Darque comes across as vastly more interesting though he’s reduced to playing the clich├ęd cackling evil sorcerer here, while Baron Samedi is equally compelling, particularly as he’s an anti-hero than a straight villain, but he’s also given a limited role. Doctor Mirage has a pointless cameo but Jaunty, a Mike Mignola-esque talking monkey demon from the Deadside, is a cool character.

The story is sketchy and unengaging. Darque wants to come to Earth for undefined reasons; Baron Samedi is being used by Darque but he knows he’s being used and he wants to help Shadowman defeat Darque; Darque’s building a big soul tower that’s meant to do something… err…

It’d have also been better if Shadowman/Darque’s powers and the Deadside had been explained. As it is, two magical characters fight and I never knew whether it was close or uneven, what their weaknesses were, why Shadowman can pass between Earth and the Deadside and Darque can’t. That’s the problem with magic stories: because magic is rarely quantified or defined it always comes off as contrived, there to suit whatever the plot demands. The ending is rushed and abrupt too.

I really enjoyed Roberto de la Torre’s Deadside artwork – it’s scratchy but immediately eye-catching, dramatic and appropriately gothic. Jaunty and Darque look very unsettling and I loved Samedi’s imposing Manse Ghede home. Patrick Zircher and a roster of artists including Lee Garbett also draw some decent pages that unfortunately pale in comparison to de la Torre’s.

If you liked the first Shadowman, don’t get your hopes up with its sequel – Darque Reckoning is a tiresome, uninspired follow-up. Shame because this title has some great characters like Darque and Samedi – hopefully we’ll one day get an awesome Shadowman series from Valiant.

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