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Kickin’ It Old School: Shadowman #1

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It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another new edition of Kickin’ It Old School, our weekly column in which we look to the past and review books from the original Valiant universe! This week, I’ll be discussing Shadowman #1

Shadowman #1

Published in May 1992
Written by Jim Shooter and Steve Englehart
Penciled by David Lapham
Inked by Joe Rubinstein
Colored by Jorge Gonzales

Synopsis

Jack Boniface plays jazz saxophone in a New Orleans club. He has his eye on Lydia, a woman who begins frequenting the club. She invites him home and Jack, ignoring her odd behavior, accepts. Lydia drugs Jack, transforms into a vampire, and goes in for the kill. She gets interrupted by bright light coming from the balcony.

Jack wakes up the next morning with a wound on his neck, wondering if it was from Lydia. While searching the house for her, he discovers dead bodies in the attic. He debates calling the cops, decides against it, and then heads to the streets. While walking around, he begins to realize that he’s feeling compelled to find Lydia and “cast her out of the night.” He finds a carnival mask on the ground, hears a commotion, puts it on, and investigates to find a masked man with knives eating a woman. They fight, the cannibal escapes, and Jack is left wondering why he has abilities and courage that he didn’t before. And he disappears into the shadows.

Review

This book was so damn good!  I’ve heard as long as I’ve been a Valiant fan about how good the VH1 iteration was, and it did not disappoint!  Now I understand why the VEI Shadowman was such a disappointment in general to longtime fans.  There are many things that made this book great, but for now I’m going to focus on the art.
It wasn’t flashy.  No big explosions like in many of the other books, but the use of the “space” in each scene helped tremendously to set the mood.  In the club, there were a lot of low, partially obstructed angles that, along with the lighting, really set the mood.  As Jack walks over to pick up on Lydia, we see them from a distance with a table of people separating them in the picture.  Just looking at it gives me the feeling of tension and anxiety that comes with approaching a woman you don’t know to start a conversation.  The use of bright lights and smokiness makes the club feel saturated with the murmur of individual conversations and the anonymity that comes with being in a crowded public space.

Further on, the lighting and panel layouts drive the story telling as Lydia drugs Jack before transforming herself in preparation for the kill.  The images get darker and more obstructed by bubbles in his vision before going to black, followed by blinding, disorienting light as the morning comes.  The perspective remains first person through Jack’s eyes the whole time, adding to the disorienting nature of the events, until his realization that morning has come and his is still alive.

It should be expected that light and shadows would play a part in a book entitled Shadowman, but David Lapham wastes no time in using them to his advantage in this story.  The book begins with Jack in the spotlight, playing his saxophone on stage.  It ends with him fading into the shadows after an improvisational fight with a mad man.  In one issue, we’ve clearly been shown that Jack has changed, although we may not understand how or why yet.  This is great story telling and a great example of using the art to tell the story as much as possible.  This is a Jack Boniface that I want to become better acquainted with.

Originally from ValiantCentral.com

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