Shadowman #15 by Peter Milligan, Roberto de la Torre & Al Barrionuevo with Brian Level
I shall admit that I was a little nervous when Valiant first announced that Milligan would be taking over writing duties from Justin Jordan and Patrick Zircher. While Jordan and Zircher’s Shadowman may not have been the best of Valiant’s titles, it was consistently good. Milligan, on the other hand, is a writer I have had a mixed experience with over the years. He can be great, but he can also leave me cold.
Three issues into Milligan’s initial arc for Shadowman, I am happy to report that there was little reason to fear. Milligan has taken the characters and mythology that Jordan and Zircher introduced, and spun them in different directions. Shadowman has always been the Valiant title with the darkest tone, the one closest to horror. What Milligan has done is taken those external terrors and internalized them. Jack Boniface is losing control over the loa spirit which is the source of his powers. Instead of managing his anger, he allows the loa to vent it for him. As a result, Jack comes to his senses in alleyways, while at his feet lay people he has beaten to a bloody pulp. Even more disconcerting is the fact that he remembers how, when he was an orphan, he attacked another boy so badly that the boy was crippled for life.
Jack’s inner demons may be literal, but his struggle to overcome them, is something to which any of us can relate. Jack desires to be a better person, to rid himself of these violent tendencies. He even tries confronting the boy from the orphanage, only to be assaulted and chased away. Despite his good intentions, Jack fears that he lacks the ability to reform. He reaches out to Alyssa, who helped train him to be the Shadowman. There is a great sequence in this issue where the two characters talk on the phone, each of them not hearing what the other is saying. Since the beginning of the series, there has been a pull between Jack and Alyssa, which continues to be felt here, along with the frustration of circumstances. Indeed, Alyssa is forced to navigate her own emotional conflicts this issue. In the process, she proves again to be just as compelling a character as the Shadowman himself.
Milligan’s story is matched well by the art of Roberto de la Torre with assistance from Al Barrionuevo and Brian Level. La Torre, who came onto the title with Milligan, soaks Shadowman in a foggy, sinister atmosphere which is simply beautiful. This continues in #15 with the artists creating a unified style, which expertly suits Milligan’s tale of interior traumas. (David Baron and John Rauch also deserve credit for their moody coloring). Together with Milligan they continue to make Shadowman another great series from Valiant.