Review - 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 (@ValiantComics)

"On this sacrifice day, will you pledge your allegiance to me?"

There's a lot happening in the Valiant Universe these days, what with New Japan literally falling apart. Such an event will have an impact on everyone within the universe--living or dead. 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 from the publisher offers readers a glimpse at how the dead are faring. The issue is written by Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts, illustrated by Robert Gill, colored by Michael Spicer and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

A blood sacrifice is made, a war looms, and the Deadside...rises! In the synapse-shattering world of the future, witness the dawn of the dead's greatest hero and the fate of a young girl who may be humanity's only hope! As Rai leads a revolutionary insurrection against the forces of New Japan, the legendary hero called Shadowman returns to fight another day in the year 4001 A.D.!

Houser and Roberts are very concise in their approach in 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1. Their script is very fast-moving and gets right to the point, which pits the living against the dead even though both sides aren't really on board with the conflict. The writers do a great job of offering a slow build-up to a pretty climatic battle towards the end of the book in a way that normalizes Shadowman somewhat. Shadowman is a very powerful character, but thanks to the approach by Houser and Roberts the character doesn't rule the book and is instead something of a participant in the action. There's also a loose tie-in to the overarching 4001 A.D. storyline that reminds readers that everyone in the universe is affected by the decisions of a madman.

Gill's artwork is great. Shadowman bears an ethereal presence that commands the attention of the reader, but there's also a good mix of living and dead throughout that show how different the two sides really are. The disparities in appearance are also amplified by the more rigid and structured poses of the living versus the more scattered and loose poses of the dead. Gill uses that to great effect to demonstrate the militaristic differences between the two sides. Spicer colors the issue in a way that casts a pall over the action, reminding all the players involved that the only thing separating the living from the dead is time.

4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 feels like a one-shot, but it's possible the issue will have larger implications further down the road. Shadowman makes a brief appearance even though the real stars of the book are the combatants themselves. The writing duo of Houser and Roberts is very effective and offers up plenty of narrative amidst the fighting. Spicer's illustrations capture the frenetic energy of battle while also offering an imaginative look at what the world of the dead looks like. 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 is a solid book that is poised to make Shadowman a bigger part of the upcoming events slated to occur in 4001 A.D..

4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 is in stores now.