Patrick Zircher’s been around for awhile, but this looks to be his first real “showcase” title. And I’m pleasantly surprised he’s acclimated this well to a horror title. I associated him more with Iron Man. He’s surprisingly good with intestines. (Yes, this is a horror book.)
One of the keys to a good horror book is atmosphere and Shadowman has plenty of that. The pacing keeps you moving along fast enough to keep your head in the middle of it, and when things get creepy, Zircher’s visuals give you a good “WTF” jolt as the nasties reveal themselves.
Without getting into spoilers, we have a classic hero’s journey weaving through the book. A young hero born of strange situation who doesn’t know quite what he’s getting into when investigating his past. Dark forces gathering. Forces of the light waiting for a sign. Perhaps more interestingly, I didn’t realize the classic setup was going on until after I was done reading and thought about it, so the suspension of disbelief was definitely working for me.
The only time I had anything jar me out of the story was the exclamation on the final page that, while part of the comic’s title, was a tad too cheesy for the the dark tone of the rest of the book.
One of the striking things about the revived Valiant line is the distinct flavors of their titles. Shadowman is a horror/adventure book that’s moving a hair too quickly to comfortably fit in the old Vertigo confines. Actually, it reminded me a bit of reading the Lemire/Foreman Animal Man #1. Part of that would be the disturbing presence of corpses getting reanimated and reconfigured. Part of that would be the effective use of shock value, not expecting precisely how the dark forces are manifesting themselves and the effective reveals. There’s also a legacy element present in both.
I wouldn’t call this an alternate take on Animal Man. This isn’t about a father trying to protect his daughter. But there’s similarity in some of the tropes being used and the way it comes out of nowhere to surprise you.
Which is to say, if you like the current incarnation of Animal Man, this is probably something you’ll also like.
Valiant has a way of dancing around the edges of the superhero genre, but not quite diving in. It isn’t clear how close to superhero this one is going to fall, but we’re definitely dealing with a flavor of occult adventurer here. Your guidelines here, past Animal Man, would the intersection of horror and adventure titles. The old Hudnall/Ridgeway Chiller comic and Steve Englehart’s “Point Man” novels that come to mind when describing the flavor.
Genre is important when adjusting for taste and this one is on the border of a couple different ones. Either way, it’s well executed and recommended.