Past and Present – Shadowman Volume 4: Fear, Blood and Shadows

The fourth volume of Shadowman finds the great Justin Jordan off the book and legendary writer Peter Milligan coming on board.  After finishing up the Master Darque storyline from volume two and three, the book needed something else to do.  So instead of focusing on the villain, which worked really well, Milligan set his sights upon our hero, on the man himself and the loa that inhabits him.  Character studies are nothing new for Milligan, case in point his run on Hellblazer was quite good, so going into the book you sort of know what to expect and he did not disappoint on that front.  Along for the ride is Roberto De La Torre as the new penciller and his moody artwork which is showcased in the book is a perfect fit for the character and the story.

The volume starts out with Milligan giving our hero some blackouts, after which he awakes from with no memory and is always surrounded by carnage.  How and why this is happening is unclear so Jack seeks out help so that he might find a way to stop it before he does something even worse.  Even after finding the help he needs though, he must also confront his past and put it to rest  as well as embrace his loa and his future with or without it.  Neither one of those will be an easy task.  While he tries to do this, there are those who will try to stop him including his friends and foes, not to mention the loa within him.  One thing that is for sure is that Milligan will not let our hero secure that peace without going through a few trials first.  You do not want to make it too easy for our hero.

So as the series progresses, Milligan takes a look at what is bothering Jack now, which is mainly the inheriting and the responsibility of the Shadowman and the loa as it threatens to overpower him.  Milligan also takes us to Jack’s childhood and has him relive the drama and the trauma that unfolded there and how the memories which were buried for so long are playing a part in his life and how they are also affecting the aforementioned loa.  It is an interesting story, especially as he has to balance this personal journey with his duties as Shadowman, not to mention always being under a constant threat and not made any easier as one of those threats are supposed to be his friends.

There is one problem with the book which muddies it up a bit and that is how Milligan throws too much in the pot at times.  While he does manage to strike up a nice balance between the events of Jack’s past and those of the present and it is usually fairly clear, sometimes, whether because of the writing, the art or a combination of both, it does get a little confusing at times.  It is not necessarily because of those events, but the incorporation of his loa the appearance of other loa’s mentioned throughout the book.  Having Jack’s loa who is affecting him and Shadowman is one thing, why the need to overcomplicate things with a few others does not make for a pleasant reading experience during certain portions of the story.

Overall the book was fairly decent, and it was good to see some of Jack’s past and to see exactly what went into making the man that he is today.  It was also good to see the book take a slightly darker tone than the last three volumes with the last three being more conventional horror and this one more psychological in nature.  While it was evident what Milligan was going for, it might have worked better if he could have struck a balance between the two instead of writing the book in a completely different style than what had previously come before.  Justin Jordan did an excellent job of reintroducing Shadowman to a new generation as well as setting up his power set, his supporting cast and his villains.  This volume tried to build upon that and did so successfully in some respects, but less so in others.

3 out of 5

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