Shadowman Vol. 5: End Times
by Peter Milligan, Valentine De Landro, Livesay, David Baron, Allen Passalaque
Collected as Shadowman vol. 5, this trade is actually made up of the three-part Shadowman: End Times mini-series. Given the title’s struggles as an ongoing, the change in format makes a certain amount of sense (and I’ve argued that it should continue to be the title’s format). This is writer Peter Milligan’s second volume on the title, and given the lack of direction prior to his run, it was refreshing to see him to continue to explore the conflict between Jack Boniface and the Shadowman Loa which began in the previous volume. That said, this volume isn’t quite as strong as Fear, Blood, and Shadows due to some unwarranted assumptions regarding how the reader feels about Jack. Overall, this is still the second strongest trade in the series, but that speaks more to the overall weakness of Shadowman itself.
In Fear, Blood, and Shadows Peter Milligan introduced the idea that the Shadowman Loa was a force which with Jack had to constantly wrestle for control of his body (to be fair, this was vaguely alluded to in the first three volumes), which was a promising direction for the title. Here Milligan picks up those threads once again with Jack initially seeming to have gained the upper hand over the Loa, only to completely lose control once he discovers that his father, whose example he had been striving to follow, is still alive.
Since Josiah Boniface had been placed on such a great pedestal throughout the previous volume, the reader might have guessed that this was coming; at the beginning of End Times, Jack’s situation mirrors that of his father’s with his love for Alyssa keeping him grounded and in control. In some ways, this makes the feelings of betrayal from his father’s abandonment an effective direction because it serves as the trigger which escalates the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde themes of the fourth volume. Additionally, the relationship between Jack and Josiah is one of the few instances of his character actually being defined in the series (as opposed to the Loa, which had already been well-characterized by Milligan).
Interesting enough, as Jack’s anger towards his father grows, the reader is left wondering whether his actions are his own or if he is being influenced by the Loa (Milligan achieves in spite of the fact that Dave Lanphear differentiates Jack’s voice from the Loa’s in the lettering). Although this gradual transformation has been done numerous times before—Anakin Skywalker and Frodo Baggins being the most prominent examples—it’s well-executed from a technical standpoint. However, the problem is the “fall from grace” story needs to be earned by first making the protagonist a likeable character who readers can invest in. Unfortunately, Jack has been so poorly characterized since the beginning of the series that it’s hard to have any kind of emotional bond with him, so when he does fall to the dark side, so to speak, the reader doesn’t really care. Thus, what should be the series’ climactic moment—Jack killing his father in anger—is instead reduced to a cliché.
This is first Shadowman trade since Birth Rites to be drawn by a single art team, which, due to the low expectations established by the previous trades, at least gets points for consistency. The change from Roberto De La Torre in the fourth volume to Valentine De Landro is bit jarring, given the contrast in their respectively styles. De Landro has a more minimalistic, cartoony style. Normally, I prefer this type of artwork (with artists like Clayton Henry, Pere Perez, and Emanuela Lupacchino demonstrating how effective it can be), but it wouldn’t necessarily seem appropriate for this material. Surprisingly, the art does actually work, although much of the credit undoubtedly goes to David Baron’s colors. Like many of the artists with a cartoony style, De Landro excels at conveying emotion through facial expressions, and the scenes are characters talking are the strongest of the book. However, his art isn’t as strong when he’s asked to depict any kind of action. Fortunately, this is a book which is heavy on dialogue and light on fighting, which means that, as a whole, the art is solid.
This is by no means a bad story, but it is a poorly-timed one. Had Milligan first written another arc in which Jack was presented as a likeable hero prior to this story, End Times might have achieved its desired effect. Instead, it feels as if Milligan assumed that the readers already had a bond with Jack rather than establishing one himself. Granted, emotionally investing in a character occurs on individual level, and it’s entirely possible that this story actually worked for many readers. For myself, I’m still waiting for a reason to care about Shadowman.
Originally from ValiantCentral.com