Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Release Date: 27th July 2022
As an opening instalment to an epic blockbuster event goes, Cullen Bunn’s narrative for the first issue of Book Of Shadows certainly seems to deliver when it comes to sense-shattering soul-devouring and unpleasant, blood-drenched bodily mutilation. Indeed, this twenty-page tome’s depiction of Vernon Common’s hapless population being gratuitously devoured by a pack of sadistically savage werewolves at a local carnival may well cause even the most die-hard of gore-fans to nervously wonder whether they should have an emesis bag within easy reach just in case they start to feel overly nauseous; “You’re all monsters! St-Stay away! Get away from me!”
Happily however, such barbaric, bestial feasting is reasonably short-lived, and arguably essential to the story projecting just how utterly disagreeable the comic’s central antagonist, Exarch Fane, actually is. Furthermore, there’s so much violent slicing, dicing and beheading contained within this publication that such remorseless savagery soon starts to lose its shock value, and the reader is quickly able to simply focus upon the unification of the Valiant Universe’s supernatural protectors for the very first time, as well as the introduction of the Manhattan-founded publisher’s terrifying new villain.
Bunn has previously made quite a fuss about his newly-created “ancient being from beyond the veil of life and death”, and certainly provides the warlord with an impressive entrance as Fane nonchalantly bests Gilad Anni-Padda with a mighty display of Eldritch powers that leaves the Eternal Warrior devastatingly impotent. Somewhat disappointingly though, the Master of Horror’s handling of Punk Mambo is less impressive, with the voodoo priestess suddenly adopting a seriously infuriating holier than thou attitude towards the Shadowman. Sure, Victoria Greaves-Trott’s disdain for Persephone is understandable enough considering the creature has previously attempted to extinguish all life on the planet. But the British magic-user’s persistent self-righteous sniping and sanctimonious disapproval of Jack Boniface allowing the mortal Blight to live does debatably start to wear a little thin after just a few panels.
Artist Vicente Cifuentes should also get a notable nod of approval for his work here, which, besides depicting the perilous predicament of a scytheless Shadowman getting bitten by a hairy lycanthrope, also imbues Anni-Padda’s diabolical dual with plenty of dynamic vigour. In addition, the Spanish visual illustrator does a prodigious job in pencilling this comic’s considerably sized cast with some great facial expressions, such as a shocked Gilad when he realises his previously defeated nemesis has significantly upgraded his powers, or the increasingly terrified Laney, as the little girl witnesses first-hand the supernatural abilities of her would-be rescuers.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]