“Shadowman” #5 by Justin Jordan, Patrick Zircher, Lee Garbett, Stefano Gaudiano and Roberto Delatorre continues young Jack Boniface’s initiation-by-fire. It also widens the mythology of the Valiant Universe, but unfortunately, many of these story and world-building elements feel prefabricated instead of custom-built.
Much of Jordan and Zircher’s plot for “Shadowman” #5 falls into very predictable and stereotypical molds, without adding much that is different or subversive. Half of the issue follows Jack Boniface, new Shadowman and titular hero. The hero is reckless, the forces of evil going after the hero damage an innocent blonde woman, and as a result, the hero is shaken but his commitment is strengthened. It feels right out of an action movie, doing its part to add excitement and gore, but unfortunately, the contribution to character development is shallow.
Jack Boniface is still green as any rookie and he takes the forces of darkness arrayed against him too lightly, but these features were apparent already. They are part of the default archetype. Making Jack fit the mold feels unnecessary to the development of the world of “Shadowman.” The worldbuilding, layered mythology and more subtle characterization were moving swimmingly along at a rapid clip in previous issues, which makes the decompression of this scene stand out even more as just treading water.
On the positive side, Jordan and Zircher’s dialogue for the scenes with Jack and Alyssa flow easily and the art and pacing are great. Zircher, Garbett, Gaudiano and Delatorre’s styles mesh well. More than one artist is usually too many artists, but in “Shadowman” #5, it wasn’t too much of an issue, because it looks like the editors and creative team wisely delegated separate scenes and different characters to each penciller. My guess, based on his work in other Valiant books, is that Lee Garbett handled the Jack and Alyssa scene, and it’s impressive that his skills with action sequences and facial expressions are strong enough to make it emotionally effective despite its intrinsic banality.
“Shadowman” #5 also is the debut of Dr. Shan Fong, also known as Dr. Mirage, a parapsychologist who assists the police in their investigations. In other words, she is an updated version of the archetype of an occult detective. Her character design is incongruous, especially since there seems to be no good reason for a doctor, or a professional of any kind, to visit a prison in a skin-tight, low-cut spandex costume. Despite her name and the use of Eastern Mysticism, she looks much more Caucasian than Asian.
The scene introducing her also uses well-known plot tropes, starting with the usual parapsychology tropes like being able to speak with dead people and a belief that spirits leave a connection with their worldly possessions. However, the scene does get the job done in that it links Dr. Mirage’s work to the mysterious and sinister Mr. Darque. I look forward to seeing how she will inevitably cross paths with Jack Boniface and The Brethren.
The first page of “Shadowman” #5 enigmatically features a character called “The Baron,” before moving into an explosive action scene. The action here feels fresh, as does the equally brief closing scene in the Deadside. The last few pages also have a classic horror movie look to them. The backgrounds are rich with feathery, gothic architecture that is complemented by Reber’s palette of moonlit bluish gray shadows with accents of blood-maroon for Mr. Darque.
“Shadowman” #5 ends on a mysterious cliffhanger that introduces a new player. One of the virtues of “Shadowman” is its quick and deft development of its mythology and cast, and I hope that the plotting in future issues will rely less on stale plot elements while continuing to maintain the strong pacing.