“Shadowman” #1 from Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher is a debut that shows promise, yet doesn’t completely deliver on it. This issue hints at scope and depth of character within legacy, but by the end of the issue, too much is left as pure set up without it feeling ultimately engaging. A flashback sequence informs of Shadowman’s roots and that something went wrong. The present day follows Jack Boniface through a personal trial leading to a reveal that ties it all together.
The main problem with “Shadowman” #1 is that it feels like any generic “chosen one” tale. Jack Boniface has struggled against inner demons his whole life, and done so with charm, grace and bravery. He is now pushed through a turn in the path and comes across some real life demons. The action drops plenty of exposition and while it’s not bad, it doesn’t sing out as anything special or original. The cliches are all in place — including Boniface hurtling a familial object into water, both real and metaphorical. A moratorium needs to take place on people throwing what once meant most to them into the water. “Top Gun” did it (which should be reason enough) and “Hot Shots” aped it, which is the rotting death knell for the move.
Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher do choose an engaging and warped villain to take center stage quickly and effectively. Mr. Twist is a hulking brute of demonic malice and exposed muscle and sinew like something straight out of a Clive Barker nightmare. His special move of hurtling chunks of meat that infect and overtake people to become his minions earns points for sheer grossness alone.
Patrick Zircher has long shown his art is the real deal. He has moments to shine in this issue where his work with colorist Brian Reber is dynamite. The double page splash early on where the dead and the living wage battle on the streets is stunning. The ethereal glow of the attacking monsters is captivating and the way Reber uses it to color the scene is great. However, when things become darker, the contrasts and spot colors don’t work as effectively. Skin tone is bland and the world feels just a touch flat. However, when the issue comes back to the weird with Mr. Twist, the art hums along again. This book needs to play to its strengths — less cafe chat moments and more dizzying action sequences of insanity.
“Shadowman” #1 is an introduction that shows what works and what doesn’t for this title. The weird and wonderful moments are intriguing, but the character moments lose any momentum the issue built. This will need to improve for the title to compete against the other Valiant relaunched titles. There is promise here, and a few tight moments, but the second instalment will be the test to see if this is something you need to read monthly.