AICN COMICS Reviews: X-FACTOR! NUMBERCRUNCHER! THE ARCS! SEX CRIMINALS! SHADOWMAN!
(Click title to go directly to the review)
Advance Review: NUMBERCRUNCHER OGN
ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #1
Indie Jones presents THE ARCS BOOK 1
BUCK ROGERS #4
SEX CRIMINALS #4
MARVEL UK’S REVOLUTIONARY WAR: ALPHA #1
Advance Review: Available today!
NUMBERCRUNCHER OGNWriter: Si Spurrier
Artist: PJ Holden
Publisher: Titan Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
I had a very diverse religious background growing up. Catholic father, Presbyterian mother and a gaggle of Jewish friends (so many in fact they nicknamed me the Goy Toy). Despite this great theological mix I never found faith. My most comforting view of the afterlife and the answer to the great question of why came from Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life.” The movie basically made limbo EPCOT Center with the scale of judgment on our souls handled like an episode of “L.A. Law”. It’s important to understand my background because it gives context into why I enjoyed NUMBERCRUNCHER so much. I’m a man who finds peace in math and logic, even though I truly suck at number crunching. So, when you tell me that St. Peter is an accountant and God is merely a supercomputer calculating differentials, it warms my heart more than any harps or stupid halos.
Well, it warmed my heart on the first few pages, that is. Then I remembered my 1300 SAT score was carried 90% by the English side of the bubble sheet. You see, in the world of NUMBERCRUNCHER, you need some Hawking level skills (and I don’t mean with a Speak & Spell) if you want to escape the endless recycling of souls.
Before you think this is a lesson in calculus, you should know that NUMBERCRUNCHER isn’t all about math. In fact, I saw this as more of a love story than anything else. Well, a love triangle, to be specific, but to go forward I need to take a step back.
With math comes rules: unbending and unwavering rules. The record keeper of these rules is our curmudgeonly St. Peter mentioned before, but the enforcers of the rules are the bailiffs. They’re a group of sad sods who were tricked by other bailiffs into eternal servitude for the Cosmic Accountancy office. Each bailiff, when not enforcing the rules of the cosmic machine with their probability guns, spends the rest of their time trying to sucker other souls into leaving the great machine’s soul recycling and becoming bailiffs themselves. One such bailiff, Bastard Zane, is our protagonist and narrator into the specifics of the NUMBERCRUNCHER world. The antagonists (or maybe protagonists, depending on your view) are a young couple in love.
The year is 1969; Jessica Reed is a young, freewheeling hippy. She stands vigil by the bedside of her boyfriend, Richard Thyme, a brilliant mathematician who fortune put in the wrong side of the gene pool. When Richard passes at far too young of an age, the dirty ole’ Bastard Zane is his guide back into the soul recycler of the Cosmic Machine. Richard has other plans, though. He agrees to go back in, but he wants to retain all of his memories of the life he just left so he can find Jessica again back on earth--a sub-plot that is vaguely reminiscent of the Robert Downey Jr. movie CHANCES ARE.
While our surly St. Peter agrees to the deal, it doesn’t come without caveats. For one, when Richard dies again he needs to become a bailiff for the rest of eternity. The only way out of this servitude is the Zero Clause, basically meaning he must live his life without sin. Sin being as subjective as it is makes the Zero Clause very appropriately named – no one has ever been able to leverage it.
Richard comes back, but he comes back now – plus that ol’ bastard St. Peter decides to have Richard be reborn a world away, in India. All of this means that by the time Richard is old enough to find Jessica again, she is on death’s doorstep since she’s now in her late eighties.
Bastard Zane thinks he has a lock out of Cosmic Accountancy servitude, but Richard was already one step ahead by striking the same recycling deal with as many bailiffs as he could, ensuring each contract negated the one prior. So it continues…Richard keeps getting recycled with all of his memories and keeps trying to find ways to get close to Jessica, whether he’s reborn in 1920 or 2020. Bastard, in turn, keeps popping Richard off with his probability gun.
Now, the part I found most soulful in this book (when I wasn’t laughing at Bastard and Richard’s game of cat and mouse) was the torment caused by love. Imagine each time you got close to a person, truly come to love that individual, they died in the most horrific way possible. Even if you had one loss in your life, you can guess the exponential torment caused to Jessica by Richard’s need to cheat death through math.
I won’t ruin the end of the book, but let’s just say Richard wins…and he doesn’t win. He does, however, learn that love, true love, is about sacrifice, and sometimes the best way to love someone is to basically leave them the fuck alone.
PJ Holden made some interesting choices with the art, abandoning panel boundaries in heaven, but giving structure to earth. I was also surprised to see the book come half black and white and half color (B&W in the celestial, color on earth). I could have sworn after I highlighted this point in my very early review of issue #1, Titan told me my comp was an unfinished version. Perhaps I misunderstood, or perhaps this is another case of the Jock book I reviewed where so many people complimented the black and white the team just decided to forego color. I’ll roll with misunderstood, since I can never believe the words of one reviewer will ever wield that level of power. Suffice to say, I like the choice and I’m glad it didn’t change from the comp.
If you find yourself bored with tights and capes and looking for a sweet and sour take on love, NUMBERCRUNCHER adds up in every way imaginable.
Optimous Douche has successfully blackmailed BottleImp to draw purty pictures for his graphic novel AVERAGE JOE coming out in 2013 from COM.X. When not on Ain’t It Cool, Optimous can be found talking comics and marketing on robpatey.com and just marketing on MaaS360.com.
ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #1Writer: Peter David
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp
Out of all Marvel’s mutant-centric comic book titles, my favorite in recent years has been X-FACTOR. Under the carefully crafted guidance of writer Peter David, a group of C-List heroes became the most intriguingly well-realized cast of comic characters since… well, since David’s first run on the title back in the early ‘90s. When the previous incarnation of X-FACTOR came to an end a few months ago, I lamented the loss of one of my favorite series, thinking that the next writer who would inevitably inherit this title would have a hard act to follow. So you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I saw that this new direction for the X-Factor team would be penned by none other than Mr. Peter David! But the fact remains: his last run set a high bar—would David be able to match the elevated expectations of readers such as myself? Well, it’s still a little too soon to tell.
One thing is certain: when they branded this series “All New,” Marvel wasn’t making an idle boast. The only cast member to carry through from the last series is the magnetically-powered Polaris (and frankly, she was such a late-comer to the last X-FACTOR team that her presence still feels new to me). The other members of the new crew are, thus far, familiar faces to any X-MEN fan worth his salt—the ragin’ Cajun Gambit and, more interestingly for me, the super-speedy Quicksilver. More members will undoubtedly follow, as one can infer from the cover alone, but just this startup trio alone shows promise of an interesting mix of personalities. Personally, I’m most looking forward to what David does with Quicksilver, seeing as how he was the first writer to give the son of Magneto a more nuanced personality than simply being a fast-running prick.
Also new is the fact that this mutant team has not been banded together due to any shared tragedy or noble purpose, but has been created to work as a corporate-funded super group by the fictional Serval Industries—hence the absence of the traditional “X” on the team’s uniforms in favor of Serval’s kitty cat logo. This change, however, does waken in me the first faint stirrings of unease about the title. Serval Industries professes to work for the force of good, of course…but how many times have we comic readers seen the hoary cliché of the evil, manipulative corporation trotted out in the superhero stories of the medium? Nine times out of ten any fictional business or industry that pops up in a comic will be revealed as using a benevolent façade to mask its true, world-ravaging purpose. If it turns out in future issues of X-FACTOR that Serval is a rank-and-file member of this group of evil corporations, then I will be sorely disappointed in Peter David. Here’s hoping David is better than that…
Though it’s still far too early to rule for or against this relaunch, I will say that ALL NEW X-FACTOR shows promise. Carmine Di Giandomenico’s art is an appealing blend of detailed line work and elegant stylization, while Lee Loughridge’s coloring adds a sophisticated character to the pages. And though the premiere issue was light on the interpersonal relationships that characterized the previous X-FACTOR series in favor of heavier plot exposition, I’m willing to bet that we’ll see more in future issues. After all, the interplay between characters has long been David’s strongest suit, and if he could make mutant fodder like Multiple Man or Strong Guy compelling, fully-realized personalities, then I can’t wait to see what he does with his new cast.
When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
Indie Jones Presents…
THE ARCS BOOK 1Writer: Michael D. Poisson
Artist: Matt Jacobs
Publisher: Fan Boy Comics
Reviewer: The Kid Marvel
THE ARCS is independent graphic novel based in a post-biblically based apocalyptic world in which God has abandoned Earth, leaving his seven Archangels to defend what’s left of humanity against Lucifer’s army of hell. The story is set years in the future, after the Apocalypse. The Archangels are not only in a losing battle against Satan’s demons, but are also losing their own faith, with some angels even turning to the dark side, “Star Wars” joke intended. I was able to review the first book of the series, which is about 80 pages.
ARCS begins by painting a picture of the current world: humankind is quickly falling to violence, pain, anguish, suicide, and overall darkness, with the Archangels no longer able to defend humankind like they have in the past. The army of angels led by the Archangel Michael is continually losing more and more angel soldiers to the demons of hell, along with losing more and more humans to either death or to the path of darkness. THE ARCS also names several other recognizable angels from the Judeo-Christian religion. There are a total of seven main Archangels, each serving various purposes within this divine army and each with distinct personalities; however, the story focuses mainly on the character of Azrael, the head guardian angel. Throughout THE ARCS, each angel is struggling with this losing battle against Satan and whether or not they have been forsaken by God and left to die. This is especially so with Azrael, who is continually trying to save the human race but is constantly losing souls left and right to the demon army, along with his own soldiers.
Overall, without getting into too much detail on the actual story, I thought it was a cool concept but lacked any real story point that hooked me as a reader. I thought the writer, Michael Poisson, did a good job of staying away from actual points and insinuations of religion, keeping ARCS to using only concepts and story elements from the Bible, but leaving it at that. No real religious rhetoric or philosophy is discussed, just the use of story elements, so this book will not step on anyone’s toes on either side of the secular and non-secular fence. But as for the actual story, there was nothing that really grabbed me to want to continue in the story’s growth; I just felt like it was missing that hooky element needed in introductory stories. I’m a fan of supernatural stories, always have been, so prior to reading ARCS I was excited to see what it was all about. However, while it’s a solid story and entertaining, it’s missing that special something that would keep me interested in coming back for future issues.
As for THE ARCS’ artwork, it has a very gritty, dark tone that obviously fit the story setting perfectly. At certain points the artwork was a little too dark, and it was hard to make out some of the details, or had a little too much grit. In other panels, however, the rough and gritty details really enhanced the story setting and made for some amazing scenes. It had some nice Zeppelinesque (the band, not the flying airplane balloon) styled moments that were definitely some nice art pieces within THE ARCS.
My final conclusion for THE ARCS is it had potential; it’s just lacking that something special that makes or breaks a story from being ok or just entertaining, to something that you want to follow as a reader and support as the story grows and adapts. I was only able to read the first book, so I cannot comment on how the story adapts, which means it could find that final piece to the puzzle later on and I hope it does. I understand the hard work that independent comic teams go through to create their art, so anytime I read something independent I wish them the best of luck on their books. This goes the same for THE ARCS team. If you are interested in reading the book yourself to make your own decision, you can check it out for purchase on the Fanboy Comics website, with a free digital preview currently available on www.thearcscomic.com.
BUCK ROGERS #4Writer / Artist: Howard Chaykin
Publisher: Hermes Press
Reviewer: Masked Man
Howard Chaykin's first adventure with Buck Rogers comes to a close, and it's quite interesting that being perhaps the most faithful adaption of the original comic strip (at least in concept, if not direct plotting) is what makes it such a unique sci fi comic book.
As one of the fathers of science fiction, Buck Rogers has been adapted over and over again, each time making the story more modern, yet homogenizing it at the same time. Chaykin has taken Buck back to his roots as an American freedom fighter in a backwater and enslaved country. Like John Carter before him or Flash Gordon after him, Buck becomes our hero of an 'alien' because of his old-fashioned American can-do attitude. But unlike those two, Buck's 'alien' world is our world--our country! BUCK ROGERS was one of the origin dystopian future stories, long before they became all the rage in the 1980's. And even still, we've never really seen anything like this. Chaykin does a great job of finding that initial spark that made BUCK ROGERS something too see before it became all ray guns and rockets.
My only real complaint about the book is the speed at which the narrative runs. Several of Buck Rogers' big villains appear, and they are all dispatched rather quickly (hell, you'd think they each get their own story arc). Aside from Buck himself, we never get to spend much time with the other characters. For better or worse, in the limited space Chaykin had, with I assume no promise of future issues, he solely focused on nailing Buck in his first real victory for America and the world. Chaykin's Buck is no classic hero either, as he has no trouble getting his hands dirty. He's a hero very much in line with Chaykin's other heroes (see AMERICAN FLAGG). Likewise, Wilma Deering is even more no nonsense that Buck. Now that it seems Chaykin will get a chance to tell more tales of Buck Rogers, it will be interesting to see how these two become romantically involved.
Art wise, it's pretty much what you expect to see from Howard Chaykin. Big, powerful, graphic images, with his unique storytelling style. I'm still not a fan of these Photoshop tricks, but his unique style goes really well with this unique sci fi tale.
On the Masked Man's scale of crap, poor, fair, good, and great, Howard Chaykin's BUCK ROGERS scores a GOOD.
Learn more about the Masked Man and feel free check out his comic book GOLD STAR, CINDY LI: THREE OF A KIND and CAPAIN ROCKET at www.Toonocity.com
SEX CRIMINALS #4Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee
I want to give Matt Fraction a hug. One of those big, juicy, “come here you silly fucking bastard” squeezes. Because there’s nothing that gets me just right in that bittersweet spot of acknowledging that life can be a bitch but also a grand old time if you don’t take it completely seriously better than a creative person who wears their scars on their sleeve, not as a “look at all this shit I’ve been through yo!” but as a somber “been there, done that, let’s move ahead shall we” inspirational nod. We’ve all been there - some deeper than others - and there’s nothing that brings us closer than our ability stare into that abyss together, extend our middle fingers at it, and go off and have a laugh about it all. This ability to channel life lessons into entertaining and pertinent fiction is the hallmark of a great writer/actor/musician/painter/on and on who shows us why art is relevant in our everyday lives as a focal point for getting past the bad times and emphasizing the good ones. And in the midst of a HAWKEYE run that is significantly more than just a man with a bow and arrow unleashing super-stylized justice and now SEX CRIMINALS here, I feel Matt Fraction is really becoming one of those scar-bearing voices in the comic book world.
SEX CRIMINALS has two aspects that really work for and stand out to me as a special comic even just four issues in: its sincerity and its hilarity. Four issues now we’ve been following the surreal antics of two individuals – Suzie and John – who stop local time whenever they orgasm and, despite that outrageousness, whenever I think of this title I think of it more as an awkward and unusual love story than I do “the book where genitals glow and defy all that we know about space-time when the main characters come.” That is a goddamn testament to the quality of storytelling and character-building that Fraction and his penciling cohort Chip Zdarsky are bringing to the table. The fact that these gentlemen are developing the book beyond such an unusual love story to have some sort of overlaying conspiracy with Sex Police monitoring and arresting these two now bank-robbing lovebirds just puts a creamy substance of some sort on the cake.
But it is that outrageous, wild love between the two and their reckless shenanigans that makes this title easily the best new book I’ve picked up the past year. There’s this frenetic pace to their relationship, like they need to love each other up before time runs away from them even though it stops for them any time they slam their naughty bits together. There’s also an X-rated version of the old “With great power” line that frequently comes into play with these two, and especially with Suzie as her life’s story is what takes priority predominantly. And much like that big opener to this piece discussing Fraction’s penchant for putting pieces of himself out there, a lot of the draw to this book and Suzie and John are how they put themselves out there. Their hang-ups and confusion about life and sex - especially since time comes crashing to a halt when the latter happens and makes the former really awkward - have such a sincerity behind them that you cannot help but pull for these characters, insecurities and all. Then come the big, floppy dildos and practical jokery and you can’t help but crack a smile, even when the book pulls you down a peg with a serious moment like, say, Suzie having to get revenge on some square-jawed jock asshole who took rapey liberties with her roommate. To say this book has wild swings is an understatement, but somehow it all works within its wild and unique confines.
Sometimes it really does blow my mind that this book not only works but also is as fantastic as it has been thus far. A book about people who freeze time when they have sex, become bank robbers, spend a significant portion of their time in a place called “Cumworld”, and, yeah, there’s a rape and plenty of revenge. Again, it’s a testament to what this creative team brings to the table, between Fraction’s willingness to let everything hang out there and to have his characters do the same, to Zdarsky’s whimsical and wildly expressive style that is able to bring the proper weight to the introspective bits and then immediately transition into the outrageous comical beats. Oh those floppy, sweaty comical beats. I’m not sure how the book is going to start separating itself from here between the relationship of these two, the flashbacks and anecdotes that really bring their personalities about, and now this revelation that there’s apparently other people who can access the “Cumworld” and present themselves as policing it but are probably just fucked up fetishists, but my current marveling at even having a piece of fiction in front of me that deals in such themes really gets my comic book boner going. Fraction and Zdarsky have really put it all out there, and SEX CRIMINALS is a beautiful, veiny bastard deserving of much respect. I’d offer up the biggest of those man hugs to all involved for creating such a wonderful comic but given the kinds of adjectives I’ve thrown around here it’d be just as awkward as some of Suzie and John’s sexcapades. So instead I’ll just say buy this book; it’s the most fun you can have that doesn’t involve copious amounts of lube and chucking a rubber dick at someone’s head.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
MARVEL UK’S REVOLUTIONARY WAR: ALPHA #1Writers: Andy Lanning and Alan Cowsill
Art: Richard Elson
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
It seems like only yesterday that I was working at a comic book store on the weekends while in high school, getting paid with comics, and living up to my Marvel Zombie status by buying every Marvel book on the stands. And this being the Nineties, there was a hell of a lot of Marvel Comics on the stands. In the midst of the Marvel oversaturation of the market was Marvel’s publishing wing across the pond, Marvel UK.
I remember picking up KNIGHTS OF PENDRAGON, following modern-day versions of King Arthur and the Table Round, followed soon after by that android merc with a mouth before the merc with a mouth was a thing, DEATH’S HEAD II. Then came the foul-mouthed MOTORMOUTH and her sometime partner KILLPOWER (picture SHAZAM, except Billy Batson is replaced by a kid who turns into a muscle-bound adult and lives life as if it’s a first person shooter game). There was DARK ANGEL, which I never really liked that much, but I remember loving the LAWNMOWER MAN-esque DIGITEK simply for the awesome art and character design. My favorite was WARHEADS, about some grimy grunts that travel through time and space fighting sci fi battles with modern military weaponry. But I got them all, and most of them seemed to be written with a little more grime on the pencil than the squeaky clean stuff happening in Marvel proper.
Well, with Death’s Head and Dark Angel showing up in IRON MAN recently, it appears Marvel has finally realized that those Marvel UK years had some cool characters worth blowing the dust off of. So if history in fact does repeat itself, that means that after Andy Lanning brings these characters back with this miniseries and polishes them up for a good shine to make them appealing again, Brian Michael Bendis will then swoop in once Hollywood turns an eye to the characters and claim it was his work that made it all popular…sorry, I’m just bitter about the forking Marvel seemed to have given Lanning and Abnett for their amazing work on GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
But that’s another set of obscurio characters. This first issue of the new mini-event REVOLUTIONARY WAR uses two characters most everyone knows, Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom, to reintroduce these Marvel UK heroes and their big bad corporation Mys-Tech, which melds mysticism with technology to basically fuck up the world. Though this issue is heavy on the exposition, I was surprised at how much character Lanning and his co-writer Alan Cowsill are able to imbue into them. Pete Wisdom gets some great moments here to shine as the snark and wit of the group who is a little pissed that he didn’t know about Captain Britain’s ties with SHIELD all these years and the existence of Mys-Tech. Wisdom is our fresh eyes here, as Britain and his SHIELD contact bring Wisdom up to date on the secret threat that seems to be resurfacing.
There’s also a fantastic little bit when Wisdom is assigned to bring in Warheads leader Tion Liger, who has devolved into a drunken hobo in the off years after losing his entire team in a wormhole. Even if you weren’t a fan of the WARHEADS series as I was, Lanning and Cowsill give him some moments that will make him immediately appealing and an interesting addition to the team of Britain and Wisdom.
Set up as a series of one shots focusing on one of each of the old Marvel UK series, I love it that Marvel is letting these old characters see the light of day. While it may help to know these characters from the previous series, the writers do a well enough job to tell us enough to get through the story, cleaving the fat from the bone and giving us just the cool bits to sink our teeth into.
The art is pretty capable from Richard Elson, and indicative of the art often seen in the Marvel UK books. I do think the coloring obscured some of Elson’s finer details, but Elson seems to be channeling his inner Alan Davis, which is never a bad thing.
I’m in this mini-event for the long haul and if you’re an old schooler like me you should as well. Newbs shouldn’t be scared, though--Lanning brings everyone up to speed in this issue and the fun only seems to be beginning. For those who wish they would have picked up GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY when it first came out, you might want to check out this new side of Marvel that hasn’t been given attention for a while. Lanning seems to be doing it again with these characters. I’m hoping for the best with this series so that whoever survives this REVOLUTIONARY WAR business will be able to be incorporated into the Marvel U in other aspects as well.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.
SHADOWMAN #14Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Robert De La Torre
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
While not the bottom of the bottom barrel, ol’ Jack Boniface and the rest of the SHADOWMAN crew have had a hard time gaining the same notoriety as other Valiant superstars like HARBINGER and X-O.
Bringing on A-lister Milligan and the insane PR push that heralded a new direction last issue helped this little title surmount books like BLOODSHOT in the rankings, but still fall woefully short of catapulting the book to the top of the list. Part of me finds this absolutely insane given the gravitas of Milligan’s name coupled with my firsthand knowledge of the effects of marketing spend, but then after the past two issues of this rebooted reboot, I believe I’ve been able to suss out the culprit. I also believe I can help this title move beyond its current obscurity to some new heights of at least indie level success.
Everyone thought issue 13 would signal a massive game changer. The problem is that everything that was wrong with the book prior stayed pat. Yes, Milligan wisely chose to give Jack some new demons in the form of anger management issues (even before the loa of Shadowman possessed him) as well some new external demons in the form of those that should be protecting him (i.e. The Abattoirs). Hell, Milligan even set up a nice romance of necessity by highlighting Jack’s predecessors all controlled the Shadowman within through the love of a good woman, forcing his lady sidekick to fall on the SHADOWMAN sword. These are all great story threads rife with potential; unfortunately, none of these reasons are why SHADOWMAN hasn’t succeeded.
Before anyone tells me this title needs more sax, let’s remember that Jack’s prior incarnation didn’t set the world on fire during Valiant 1.0. Any success was tied directly to the following of Barry Windsor Smith at the time versus fan adoration for a character with nebulous powers. Annnnd that point serves as a perfect segue to tee up my top 5 fixes for SHADOWMAN.
What the Hell Does Shadowman Do? I understand comic fans no longer want to be spoon fed. I also get that this medium relies on us filling in some blanks from our brainpan between panels. However, after reading this issue 20 years ago and now this new version, I still don’t know what this fucker does. He’s kind of strong, kind of fast and he has a stick. I think this is a really simple fix. Let’s make Jack the master of shadows. Let’s let him ride the shadows for transport, to feed on their strength, and to derive strength from the infinite blackness. If this has been the point all along, it hasn’t been articulated very well.
Break from the Big Easy! I get it, I get it…voodoo and whatnot. Here’s the thing: no one else gets it. Unless you’ve been to New Orleans (as I was twice this past year), and I specifically mean the French Quarter, the allure and mystique of this area will truly escape you. Given the French Quarter is the size of a postage stamp and a costly affair given all the vices available, it means in a sluggish economy no one will get the weirdness of this area. Or…or…or, start going balls deep with the area: a little less time on skulking and a little more (even though it’s clichéd) Mardi Gras.
More Master Darque! Hands down the best part of this series to date. We need more of this freak, his freak sister and more freaks to fight in general.
Meld with the Rest of the Valiant Universe! One of Valiant’s staples has always been an almost obsessive-compulsive following of time and continuity between titles. This isn’t like the Marvel Universe, where Spider-Man is swinging around nabbing purse snatchers while Magneto twists the Hudson tunnel into a pretzel in the same week. All Valiant titles respect the continuity of their siblings, and all seem to gently touch one another without cramming full crossovers down our throats. ALL EXCEPT SHADOWMAN. I get this separation with books like QUANTUM & WOODY; since it’s a jokefest structure we can allow it to live separately. SHADOWMAN, though, is a superhero, albeit a somewhat dark one. There’s a place for him, though, especially with the mysticism angle. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the more science-based HARD CORPS, BLOODSHOT and X-O.
Who the Hell is Jack Boniface? Milligan is already on the path to correcting this one, but I think he needs more. Secret identities or the man behind the mask is an essential element to this medium unless you find some other way to humanize a character. We need some slices of Jack’s life beyond his time in the shadows or simply trying to grapple with the shadows. I’m not saying to make him a jazz player again, but I will say that one little facet of his personality has stuck with me through twenty years and thousands of other comics read.
SHADOWMAN has never been a bad book, and I do believe Milligan is on the path to correction, but in a saturated market a book needs to jump off the shelves to jump up the sales charts. Stop sheltering the Shadow, guys, and let him see the sunlight in his own title and others.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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