History and legacy is an important and often overlooked aspect of superhero comics. Creating a legacy for a hero is a great way to add depth to their character and their struggle. In Shadowman #4 Andy Diggle does just that for his title character. Diggle, artists Shawn Martinbrough & Stephen Segovia, color artist Jose Villarrubia, and letterer Simon Bowland dive into the Shadowmen past for what I believe is the first time since the Valiant reboot. It’s an exploration long overdue, and they have a lot of fun with it.
Shadowman #4 cover by Tonci Zonjic
Jack Boniface’s confrontation with Baron Samedi has untethered his soul from his body and sends him careening through the past. His first stop is his great grandfather, Max Boniface. Max is using the shadow loa to fight Nazis in 1940 New York City. The fascists are trying to launch a race war, keeping America out of the European front and making the US an easy target for a new American Reich. Max races to stop them, as well as testing a new weapon (one that’s remarkably familiar to long time readers).
First and foremost, this is a fun pulp story. Diggle writes Max in the same vein as the Shadow or the Green Hornet. He’s a deeply interesting character immediately, to the point that I would definitely be interested in a mini series starring this version of the character.
To go with that though, the story is remarkably relevant. Fascists are trying to disrupt our way of life, and while the story dives into the fantastic here, it’s still very relevant. It was a great parallel to our real world. He also adds some deeper story touches, like the loa being under better control under Max, or the origin of the scythe.
Martinbrough and Segovia’s art fits in so well. The line art is dark, moody and (appropriately) full of shadow. A lot of the character of Max is built through artistic shorthand, with body language and carrying so much. They both carry the action really well to, with some really well depicted chases.
Segovia also tweaks his style a bit when he takes over the issue to match Martinbrough, which is always a nice touch on multi-artist issues. Villarrubia’s color art also really helps with setting the scene. As is always the case in Shadowman, it adds so much depth to what’s happening.
Bowland’s letters deserve a special mention. Music is an important part of the issue, and he makes the music dance off the page in a very cool way. I could almost hear it, and it’s a great thing that he did.
This is a great issue for a lapsed Shadowman fan to jump into this new volume if they haven’t already. You should check it out.
Shadowman #4 is available from Valiant Entertainment in stores and digitally now.