2016 seems to be a good year for Shadowman; first that amazing Ninjak arc, and now this: his first tie-in for a summer event ever. For months I have been wondering how in the world the Shadowman mythos was going to tie into Rai’s conflict with Father in the 4001 A.D. epic. It just seemed like such a far stretch, and I couldn’t be more wrong. Writer’s Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts did a great job bridging these two worlds. Their story was brief, but clear and powerful. Which really seemed to allow the artists, Robert Gill and Michael Spicer, to run free and give birth to these beautiful interiors. Though this book is not without its problems, I think that it is still a great addition to the best comic book event for the summer.
Like the rest of these named tie-ins (e.g. Bloodshot and X-O Manowar), 4001 A.D.: Shadowman is self-contained and starts off on the edge of conflict in an unknown time. Luckily, Jody and Rafer put together a fun behind-the-cover back story to give context. For any creators out there, I suggest taking notes on this because it is one of the most professional story-so-far blurbs that I have ever seen. After the catch-up, the creative team dives right into the life of Kaia on the day she is to be sacrificed to Sanctuary, a city filled with daemons from the Deadside. Which is all the summary you are getting out of me.
Personally, I think that first few pages of Jody and Rafers’ script was a tad slow. I know that they had to squeeze in motivation, antagonists, and world-building, but it came off as monotonous. And the constant repetition in dialogue about it being “the day” did not help. It wasn’t horrible, in fact I loved how concise both the narrative and dialogue were, it was just not terribly fun. The beginning was also a bit ham-fisted with the prejudice of the daemons. Sorry Jody and Rafer! I still love your writing. Just when I was losing interest, however, they awaken the Shadowwoman Loa. Yes, you read that right. From there the issue was flawless, engaging, and just an all out blast. Which put a lot of pressure on the artists to keep up.
This whole book seemed to really push Robert to his limits with what he can do in a single panel. He may have done amazing work during Book of Death, but that is paled in comparison to his work here. There is page where he has Kaia running past daemons escaping a town, who are being gunned down and killed with swords, all while the Loa is protecting her people. And this is all in one panel! The crazy bastard still managed to squeeze in five more before he called it a day. This wasn’t the end of that either. Robert also penciled in some possessed elephants, hog daemons, and a double-splash that will tickle you green with jealous rage. It wasn’t just Robert either. Michael Spicer killed it, simply killed it, with the colors on this book. They may have been drab at first, but as the issue went on I just wanted more. He kept things simple, yet elegant. I guess what I am saying here is this: the art will blow you away.
Now, is this the best issue of the 4001 A.D. event? No. But should that stop you from going out there and buying it? Hell no. Jody and Rafer did a fantastic job with the writing, and towards the end they quit pulling their punches. I will always give huge credit to any writer/s that choose dark and realistic over pop-y and light-hearted. Not to mention the artists Robert and Michael who stole the show. Their art in this book is ineffable. So get off this review and go buy it now! 4 out 5 stars.
Oh, and if you are buying a hard copy, be sure to get that Meghan Hetrick variant!
(W) Jody Houser, Rafer Roberts (A) Robert Gill (CA) Meghan Hetrick