by Scott Bryan Wilson with Matt Kindt, Robert Gill, Juan Jose Ryp, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe
So, Shadowman and The Battle of New Stalingrad: let’s dive into Robert Gill (artist) and Andrew Dalhouse (color artist) first and foremost, because, wow. Gill has done some great work for Valiant, no question, but this might be his crowning achievement so far in his Valiant career. Let’s focus on three double-page spreads for a moment because these pages were unquestionably the highlights of this issue. The first is an almost down and out Jack, making a tough choice, with Gill taking his pen and rendering some of the most brutal panels we’re seen so far (maybe Book of Death aside). To follow that up, we get a Deadside shot with Shadowman and all kinds of ghouls, resurrected people and other freaky, Deadside… things.
Dalhouse’s colors on these pages, particularly the middle of the three, are out of this world. The various shades and tones of blues really give power to this scene and Shadowman. Definitely one of those pages you spend more than a few seconds on, taking in every detail. That, of course, doesn’t live up to the follow-up page and turns the tables on the first of these three. Of course, this is a spoiler free zone so lets not get into too much detail, but Gill and writer Scott Bryan Wilson essentially take the battle from the first page of these double panel gems and flips it around. Same deaths, same brutality, but on the other side of the spectrum. It really was a masterful piece of comic book creativity.
Of course, all that creativity is complemented by writer Scott Bryan Wilson’s perfect one-and-done look at an under utilized Shadowman. From this small sample size, it really feels like Wilson gets the character – even if it is in an alternate, Divinity-altered timeline. This one-shot fits perfectly in the vein of the overall story crafted from the mighty Matt Kindt and the Stalinverse, sure, but one of the best things to come out of this is that maybe, just maybe, Valiant has found the next Shadowman solo-series writer. Let’s face it, there have been some ups and downs (more the latter frankly) with Shadowman since Valiant returned in 2012. Wilson gave us a glimpse of the goods here and, dammit, we need more.
Shadowman and The Battle of New Stalingrad #1 is a great tie-in to a great Valiant event, but it also stands as an effective gateway into the Valiant Universe if you simply want to get a peek of that captivating cover sitting on your local comic shop’s shelf -if you avoid the other Shadowman books, of course, until you’re more invested in the universe and can understand those books a little better. Invested or otherwise, pick up this issue. Nothing to lose, an entire universe to gain.