Shadowman #1 Review: A Grotesque and Gruesome Start for an Unearthly Hero

The world of comic books has regularly tapped into dark forces to deliver readers entertaining [...]

The world of comic books has regularly tapped into dark forces to deliver readers entertaining stories, with the 80s and 90s seeing even major publishers mining that darkness to explore macabre adventures. One of Valiant Comics' flagship heroes, when it launched in 1992, was Shadowman, who could harness the powers of voodoo to heighten all of his abilities to wage war with all manner of monster. While he might not carry the same notoriety as figures like Marvel's Ghost Rider, DC Comics' John Constantine, or Vertigo's Preacher series, Cullen Bunn and Jon Davis-Hunt's relaunch of the character marks the perfect entry point for anyone interested in a unique embrace of otherworldly entities.

There isn't much you need to know about this new take on Shadowman, as each issue of the series is set to feature somewhat standalone adventures, though they all feature overall narrative commonalities, allowing the series to build towards something much bigger. This debut installment, for example, sees Jack Boniface (Shadowman) battling malevolent monsters on a journey towards New Orleans to investigate an elite society's attempts to tap into the powers of the "Deadside." As one would imagine, things don't entirely work out well for these interdimensional "sightseers."

As proven throughout the history of Dark Horse's Harrow County, Bunn has shown himself to be one of the most effective storytellers when it comes finding new angles to explore the moody and macabre. What makes his storytelling so effective is that, while he clearly has no trouble getting incredibly grim, it's clear that he prefers to craft an eerie atmosphere and let the reader's mind do the heavy lifting. He continues this trend with Shadowman, showcasing the exploits of Boniface and presenting just enough details to move the story forward without breaking down the explicit ins and outs of supernatural showdowns.

shadowman comic issue 1 cover debut
(Photo: Valiant Comics)

Readers might not be quite as familiar with Davis-Hunt, as he doesn't have as many well-known credits to his name, but even with this debut issue, it's clear that horror fans will be following his work closely not only in this series, but also going outside of the genre. Whether it's a dark and twisted take on typical grappling between characters or blood-covered abominations, there's a grisly precision to all of his work, giving clear definition to the shapes and forms that come together to form things of nightmares. Bunn's strengths might be in his essential storytelling that omits impertinent details, while Davis-Hunt doesn't shy away from exactly executing unholy imagery.

The colors, courtesy of Jordie Bellaire, adds an all-new layer to the experience, with her muted palette amplifying the inherent darkness of the story, while also adding a reality to these encounters. The primary colors are few and far between, establishing the dingey reality of the seedier side of New Orleans, while interiors are awash in pastels reminiscent of Italian horror films, which are especially effective when various ghouls manifest and look more like they've walked out of the pages of an H.P. Lovecraft story than out of a battle with Godzilla.

For fans of superhero comics who prefer seeing protagonists grapple with a darkness that's not only overt but also more conceptual in nature, the voodoo spin on the supernatural subject matter offers unconventional iconography for familiar plot structures, making Shadowman one of the most promising horror revivals to hit the shelves in quite some time.

Published by Valiant Comics

On April 28, 2021

Written by Cullen Bunn

Art by Jon Davis-Hunt

Colors by Jordie Bellaire

Letters by Clayton Cowles

Cover by Jon Davis-Hunt