Shadowman: Birth Rites is yet another solid Valiant Comics successA comic review article by: Jason Sacks
Valiant's revival has been a smash hit so far. Most every series they've revived has been true to the classic Valiant line while not just ensuring that the characters live up to their legacies or that the old stories are refitted for new generations.
The revival has also been true to the original Valiant line because of the consistent level of craftsmanship present in these books. In all the New Valiant comics I've read there's a sense that the stories are well thought out, that the worlds and people in them are thoughtfully planned and consistently detailed, with a level of thoughtfulness behind them that speaks to the two years spent planning these series before they were launched.
As well, this applies to the method in which these stories are constructed. Shadowman: Birth Rites is written with the story elements of a Hollywood blockbuster summer movie. The major story beats are right where you expect them to be, the saga builds in a powerful but understandable pattern. The conflicts are spelled out in ways that readers can easily understand and that seem specifically planned – from speech patterns to clothing design to personal interaction – to please readers.
Appropriate for a comic with its history and setting, Shadowman is a legacy book. From the instant we see Josiah Boniface standing behind his pregnant wife Helena, with a mystical amulet in his hands and an art deco spiritual image behind him, we grok what the story will be about: we know that Josiah is the original Shadowman, that he will soon die in battle. We also recognize that Helena will give birth to the boy who will follow in the footsteps of the father that he never met.
I'm not revealing too much of Shadowman: Birth Rites's plot by saying that is exactly what happens here, because so much of the joy of an introductory graphic novel like this comes from the manner in which the story is told rather than the surprises that writer Justin Jordan and artist Patrick Zircher deliver. We can tell that we'll meet young Jack Boniface at the moment when he first needs to manifest his powers and that as soon as he does, he will start to complete the work that his father couldn't finish.
Along the way, we see some spectacular design of villains, at least one completely horrific scene, along with a cast of supporting characters that feels fresh and fun. As well, in the journeys that our legacy hero takes across the Deadside with a tophatted talking monkey called Jaunty, we likewise get an amusing, weird element that's surprisingly deep and thoughtful. Zircher's art is clear and modern feeling while delivering solid storytelling – another sign of New Valiant's attention to detail is the manner in which their comics read very cleanly.
I assume Shadowman will become more unpredictable as it moves ahead – a really entertaining aspect of the New Valiant line has happened when the series go just slightly away from what we expect. But this first collection is a fun intro that gives you exactly what you want from a comic like this.