The third volume of Shadowman finds some of the strongest stories within its pages and one of the first fumbles by Valiant in one of its titles. Justin Jordin writes the first two issues of the collection, Jim Zub the third and various writers the last. This volume also features ten different artists as well, making this book something of a hodgepodge of creative teams. Half of the book is exceptionally strong, while the other half is just good. This collection also finds Jordan exiting the title after a much acclaimed run and doing so in grand fashion.
When you think of complicated family relationships, you probably never encountered one quite like the Darque family. Narrated by Sandria, the sister of the man more commonly known as Master Darque, but in this book referred to by his first name, Nicodemo, she recounts her life from childhood to adulthood and her brothers rise to power and descent into evil. All of the good and all of the bad are on display and it is the best Shadowman story to date and one in which he rarely appears. We also see Sandria’s flight away from her brother to the wilds of the Civil War where she meets a young man named Boniface. They fall in love, even though he knows she is a ‘witch’ and has a troubled past. And for the two of them, it all seems fine, that is until that past, Master Darque, comes calling. Just when everything seems lost, a Shadowman is born.
Again, this was the best story of the series to be published so far. Justin Jordan really pulled out all the stops to give us one emotional and action packed tour de force. The first two arcs were pretty good and after the confrontation between Jack and Darque in volume two, it is interesting to see just where our protagonist and antagonist originated from. The relationship between Darque and his sister is complex, if a little unnerving at times. Such utter devotion, while good in some cases, is not so much in others. It is also nice to be reminded once in a while that monsters are not born that way, they are made to be so, and seeing Nicodemo’s past as a child, and actually giving him a name, let us know that once upon a time there was a little humanity in the man.
The one thing about the book that takes away from it being a great collection is the loss of direction that has guided the title from the beginning. The two origin issues by Justin Jordan, the series writer, are great and every title could use a break in between story arcs. Standalone issues are not terrible things but the second two issues written by others, who are not Jordan, while not bad, just seem unnecessary. The single issue by Zub is well done, and the short stories at the end are fine as well, but it almost seemed like whatever was guiding the book was lost after Jordan wrapped up his storylines. It is understood that Peter Milligan is taking over the book as of issue thirteen with a new storyline and a new direction and that can only be a good thing, though Jordan’s loss will be felt.
This collection is still recommended despite the slight bump. The first couple of issues are two of the best origin or year one tales put out by any company today. Jordan knows how to write drama and horror quite well and hopefully Valiant can find another book for him. The future of Shadowman does look bright though with a new team coming on board, and even though the focus might move away from Master Darque, he will find a way to come back at some point and plague Jack Boniface, the Shadowman, once more.
3 out of 5