Review – Book of Shadows #4 (Valiant Entertainment)

Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Lettering: Dave Sharpe
Release Date: 22nd February 2023

Brutally battering its audience’s senses right from the opening page, Cullen Bunn’s concluding instalment of his Book of Shadows mini-series essentially comprises of an exhausting twenty-page punch-up which enthrallingly ebbs and flows with every other sense shattering scene. Indeed, each time it seems certain that Exarch Fane’s murderous army of werewolves and vampires are about to complete their horrific Ritual of Sacrifice, the supernatural heroes of the Valiant Universe somehow manage to pull the rug from under the all-powerful warlord’s feet.

Foremost of these hooks arguably stems from the villain’s ability to temporarily control Punk Mambo and bend the Voodoo Priestess to his wantonly violent will. This demonic possession quite cleverly serves several purposes, such as providing the terrifying ancient threat with a voice other than Fane’s to persuade Persephone to help build a great Library of Darkness, as well as providing the two female magic users with some humorous banter at the adventure’s climatic end. However, it also enables Doctor Mirage and the Eternal Warrior a little more time to convince a storm of ghosts to aid them in the battle – something which ultimately results in the black-hearted sorcerer’s eventual defeat.

Just as enjoyable is the fact that Bunn doesn’t simply have the likes of Shan Fong trounce the armies of the damned by waltzing back into the main fray at the last minute either. In fact, despite successfully directing all the vengeful souls the protagonists’ ghoulish, armour-clad foe has previously slaughtered right back at him, it’s soon shown that Exarch is still too powerful a magus to be beaten by paranormal means alone. This subversion of expectations genuinely comes as something of a shock, and quite wonderfully then leads into a final swashbuckling swordfight between Gilad Anni-Padda and his long-time nemesis; “Come on, then!”

Phenomenally pencilling all these gratuitous goings-on and psychic shenanigans is Vicente Cifuentes, whose terrifying transformation of Mambo into a wide-mouthed Nosferatu is one of this publication’s many visual highlights. Furthermore, the Spanish illustrator’s ability to surround the central cast with all manner of non-corporeal entities and slavering undead helps sell the impression that this tale is taking place amidst a massive, sprawling street invasion of the unholy, as opposed to just a few characters trading blows in isolation.


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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