“ It is better to stand and fight! If you run, you will only die tired…”
― Viking Proverb
If you love demonic wars waged on battlefields in other dimensions with the goal of burning down heaven itself, then Valiant Entertainment’s summer of 2017 mini-series event, Rapture is for you. With issue #2, writer Matt Kindt (Ninjak, Rai, and pretty much most of the Valiant Universe really) continues to expand the spiritual realm and connection between the Deadside and the Earth as it is known to the Valiant Universe. Sprinkled with occult proxy indicators and evil nuances, Kindt’s story places its focus on Shadowman (aka Jack Boniface; aka The Magpie).
As one of the earliest original characters in the Valiant Universe, Shadowman has been a pillar of the Valiant Universe since first appearing in 1992’s X-O Manowar #4 (where Jack made a brief cameo in New Orleans as a saxophone player), and later in 1992’s Shadowman #1 (1st costumed appearance) which ran for 43 and also had a zero issue. After Valiant was sold to Acclaim in 1994, his appearances consist of 1997’s Shadowman Vol. 2, 1999’s Shadowman Vol. 3, and a 1999 video game for the Playstation and Nintendo 64 consoles.
In 2012 Valiant Entertainment re-launched, and Shadowman (Vol. 4?) was the fifth title by the publisher by writer Justin Jordan and drawn by artist Patrick Zircher. The series ran for 16 issues (and a zero and Black issue) before concluding. In June 2017, it was reported that Valiant Entertainment signed Reginald Hudlin to direct a Shadowman movie as well as also co-write the script with Adam Simon.
There has not been a Shadowman series since 2014’s Shadowman: End of Times; however, Ninjak #10 through #13 (“Operation Deadside”) re-introduced the Shadowman character as Magpie.
NOTE: There is a future version of Shadow Woman that appeared in 2016’s 4001 A.D. Shadowman #1 and also in 2017’s Rai: The History of the Valiant Universe #1.
In terms of plot, setting, and tone, Rapture is a Shadowman centric story that re-establishes his role within the larger Valiant Universe. While his powers are not fully understood or explained; honestly, no one really knows what Shadowman’s powers actually are. Clearly he has increased aggression, strength, and speed; however, to what extent or limits is presently unknown…
Writer Matt Kindt creates a story where the “good guys” disagree ethically with how to achieve their goals. While they clearly agree on the direction they must travel and to the ends that they seek, it is apparent that they do not see eye to eye when faced with the degree of harm each is willing to inflict on “the enemy”. The story’s antagonist, Babel, exhibits reverse speech patterns demonstrating the application of the Occult Law of Reversal (as master occultist Aleister Crowley promoted). A primeval being of pure evil, Babel uses occultist principles and logic to demonstrate his motives and goals. As heaven is the reverse of hell, good the reverse of evil, and life the reverse of death, Babel represents the dark side of this balance with an intent for creating a significant imbalance (the reverse of balance, of course) to the Valiant Universe. Kindt uses this to great effect in creating a sinister and menacing threat.
NOTE: During a Black Mass, the entire Roman Catholic mass is performed in reverse (including reverse speech). Additionally, the Cross used in the Black Mass is hung upside down (see also, reverse) over the Satanic altar.
Artistically, CAFU can do no wrong. He brilliantly employs a wining combination of pencils, inks, and warm gray Copic markers to create sharp, well-defined lines with life-like depth and texture. He makes interior pages with the same quality and energy that he make covers. Every character and object has rich detail and shading, without exception from start to finish. CAFU is consistent with proportions, and with faces.
Colorist Andrew Dalhouse is able to work well with CAFU’s inks and signature grey tones. Appropriate to the setting, he is able to use a number of vivid (slightly transparent) colors (for example, the final page) that work fantastic in this story. Virtually each page has a colorful glow from a different and unique lighting source, such as fire, magic, lightning, or supernatural being.
Rapture #2 is very well conceived and executed. It signifies a noticeable center-stage return for Shadowman, and also a significant expansion of the Deadside and spiritual world of the Valiant Universe. Visually stunning and thought-provoking. Not to be missed.