Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: John Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 28th April 2021
[WARNING: Review contains Spoilers]
Absolutely chock-full of some serious occult beatings and buckets of blood, Cullen Bunn’s narrative for issue one of Shadowman certainly seems to live up to his claim that he “could make some of the horror heroes sing in a way that readers might not be expecting.” For whilst the North Carolina-born writer initially appears to have penned a fairly standard storyline concerning Jack Boniface’s alter-ego physically battling a crocodile-headed demon down a New Orleans back alleyway, Bunn soon ramps up his tale’s paranormal qualities by transforming the titular character’s mass-murdering opponent into an unlikely wannabe saviour of sorts.
Indeed, by the very end of this issue the bestselling master of horror ably demonstrates that this comic’s true monster is not the multi-fanged grotesque who has been systematically slaughtering a number of supposedly innocent Masqueraders. Instead, the culprit is actually the elderly widower Elsbeth Martinique, who along with her ‘church’ of gore-splattered devotees, plans to use the creature’s ensnared partner as a means to pass through the veil of reality; “Th-They summoned me. Shackled me. Harvested m-my blood… For their games. But… Y-You… Have come to rescue me.”
Intriguingly, this twenty-page periodical doesn’t just depict a straightforward battle between the Shadowman and an over-ambitious amateur sorceress either though, with Bunn instead managing to manoeuvre all sorts of other interesting characters and uncanny conundrums into the mix. Foremost of these has to be the skeletal King of Death, who despite apparently being far from one of Boniface’s friends, undeniably lends the powerful protector a hand in keeping the world safe from Martinique’s misguided night-time soiree. However, Baron Samedi isn’t the only enthralling insight into “the other realm”, as Jack comes face-to-face with a ravenous swarm of flesh-eating corpse locusts and a spectral figment of the man’s imagination.
Adding enormously to this fright-fest is artist Jon Davis-Hunt, whose excellent layouts really draw out both the dynamic nature of Jack whenever he resorts to fisticuffs as a solution, as well as the truly horrific unpleasantness which can occur when ill-meaning laypersons attempt to pervert demonic magic to sate their own depraved appetites. In fact, the scene portraying Elsbeth’s face literally being torn asunder by a swarm of carnivorous devil-insects will doubtless haunt many a perusing bibliophile well into the night.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]