Review – Book of Shadows #3 (Valiant Entertainment)

Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Lettering: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 25th January 2023

Due to this twenty-page periodical being postponed for four months in September 2022, following the news that its New York-based publisher was sadly undergoing “major editorial layoffs”, quite possibly the biggest question facing fans of Jack Boniface’s super-magical alter-ego when they finally got their hands on this issue was whether the wait was worth it. And disappointingly, the majority probably felt it wasn’t considering just how bemusing Cullen Bunn’s script is for the titanic team-up against “an ancient, otherworldly warlord”.

To begin with Bunn suddenly seems to have turned this mini-series’ central antagonist into a combination of Clive Barker’s Pinhead and Jim Starlin’s ‘Mad Titan’ Thanos, by depicting Exarch Fane embracing the painful flesh chains of Death whilst blissfully wrapped in the female skeleton’s fleshless arms. This notion of a besotted super-villain desperately trying to win the affection of so destructive a cosmic entity by murdering as many people as possible isn’t terribly original, particularly considering “Marvel Comics” delivered a similar storyline some thirty years ago, and also doesn’t debatably even explain how the situation has given him power over savage, space-hopping werewolves, viciously fanged vampires or the all-powerful Book of Shadows.

Similarly as stumping is Doctor Mirage and the Eternal Warrior’s sojourn to their enemy’s stronghold and an utterly bizarre encounter with some sightless wordsmiths who have disconcertingly decided to use the blood of the fortification’s guards as ink so they can add to the pages of their master’s terrible tome. Sure, this lengthy sequence is as enthralling as it is gruesome with one of the facially mutilated scribes chillingly signalling for the brave adventurers to cease their noise by agitatedly placing a particularly wizened finger to his lips. But along with Persephone’s uncharacteristically strange reluctance to continue her fight against Exarch’s army of ravenous lycanthropes and nefarious Nosferatu, the entire predicament arguably appears to have been penned simply to pad out the storytelling for the publication’s length.

Much more successful than its writing is Vicente Cifuentes’ artwork, which in the main provide this comic with plenty of dynamic, pulse-pounding panels packed full of gratuitously-grisly fights and harrowing murders. Indeed, the beleaguered “mystic heroes” valiant stand on Earth against both werewolf and vampire is undoubtedly the highlight of the book, whilst the Spanish illustrator’s sketches of its more sedentary scenes, most notably those focusing upon Shan Fong as she wanders through the halls of Fane’s bastion, aren’t quite as proficiently pencilled; “They’re telling the story of the Book of Shadows… Building its power… with the blood and souls of our world!”


The writer of this piece was: Simon Moore
Simon Tweets from @Blaxkleric ‏
You can read more of his reviews at The Brown Bag

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