While the war against Father is waged in New Japan above their heads, the terrestrial sister cities of Gethsemane and Sanctuary are embroiled in their own conflict on the ground below.
4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 presents us with a bit of a conundrum. On one hand we have capable writers Jody Houser and Rafer Roberts telling a story that on its own is interesting enough, but on the other we have a tie-in book that has almost nothing to do with the current Valiant Universe. Outside of Father’s name being invoked a couple of times and some debris from New Japan falling to Earth, there is no real tie to the 4001 A.D. story line. The ties to the Shadowman series are a little stronger, but still peripheral at best. Sanctuary and its inhabitants are members of the Deadside left on Earth after some ancient failed Deadside incursion. This and the appearance of the Loa are the main references to Shadowman.
What we are left with is the story of some unfamiliar characters from the living city of Gethsemane being manipulated to rebel against their destinies of being sacrificed for the greater good in the dead city of Sanctuary. While it might be laudable that the writers didn’t rely on some shoehorned or contrived method to force interconnectivity with the larger story, they were at the same time given the burden of engaging and endearing the reader, within the span of one issue, to characters that appear to be non-essential and a plot that does little to build the world or mythology of either of the book’s namesakes. Houser and Roberts achieve this to some degree, but ultimately the story feels inconsequential.
I was excited to see Robert Gill’s name come up again after his stellar work on Book of Death (BoD). His art in this issue is still great to look at but lacks a little of the life that BoD had. This could be in part to having less dynamic character designs to work with, as evidenced by the Loa being the most appealing of any of the characters on panel.
The muted color palette that colorist Michael Spicer is working with doesn’t necessarily help matters either. Granted, this does take place in an apocalyptic wasteland, so the abundance of neutral browns, grays, and blacks might have been the most logical choice. Logical or not, they just don’t give Gill’s pencils as much a chance to shine as they did in BoD. Regardless, the artwork more than gets the job done and helps elevate 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 above what it could have been. The whole issue is reminiscent of a standard Vertigo book, which as far as I’m concerned is not a bad thing.
4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 is a somewhat enjoyable book that never really hit its sweet spot. Not quite meaty enough on its own and not quite important enough to the larger picture, this is a well drawn issue that will mainly appeal to die hard fans and completionists.
- Robert Gill provides more enjoyable artwork
- Story that feels inconsequential at best
- Very tenuous ties to the 4001 A.D. event
- Lack of endearing characters