Seraph’s Sanctions: 4001 A.D. Shadowman # 1

Writers: Jody Houser & Rafer Roberts
Art: Robert Gill
Colors: Michael Spicer
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: VALIANT ENTERTAINMENT ( July 2016)

 

 

The4001-SM_001_005 Breakdown:

Welcome to the town of Gethsemane and the Deadside outpost known as Sanctuary. Both places have lived next to each other for centuries. Gethsemane and Sanctuary have kept themselves away, sustaining each out through the use of a sacrifice from Gethsemane to Sanctuary every few years. Yet, on the dawn of the war between Rai and Father, Gethsemane’s local xephobic zealot, Drub Tarley, builds the humans into a xenophobic frenzy in order to lead them to gain the power to make their town self-sufficient. Meanwhile, our protagonist Kaia, grows to believe that the plans of our xenophobic antagonist is what’s best for the town … till Kaia sees the truth herself inside the walls of Sanctuary at the height of an undercover attack.

The Bad:

This really isn’t a tie-in as much as a book set in the same landscape. It doesn’t tie into the main event at all except for a fall piece of New Japan crashing into Sanctuary. There’s no other connection to the main conflict at all. I really enjoyed Kaia and our new “Shadowwoman” but I feel like there was something missing in the story between them. It’s a complete story, but something feels … left out. And while Kaia, Kym, the Loa and Tarley are nicely fleshed out, there was definitely some missing parts of Jargon and his “change of heart.”

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The Moment of the Issue:
Kaia’s harsh realization of the true “monsters” of the conflict.

 

The Good:

It is rare that humanity is painted in a negative light compared to demonic beings. And even rarer is it done well. Houser and Roberts knock it out of the park here. Monsters are not necessarily demons or creatures that go bump in the night, but the people next door. Houser and Roberts use xenophobia and reverse use of demons being sympathetic while humans being inhumane really makes the story captivating. The landscape and mythology of Gethsemane and Sanctuary add mystique to the tale; also building atmosphere for the story. The story is fairly solid from start to finish. Kaia’s a lead whose motivations are understandable … she wants to the the right thing and what’s best for everyone. Her idealism is not necessarily stated, but Houser and Roberts show it through her actions.
Houser and Roberts also did a solid job playing with the mythology of the Deadside alongside of creating interesting characters. The Loa that has the Shadowman entity … which is now clearly female, is prominent alongside Kaia for screen time and it is very intriguing. This Loa is still a protector, much like its predecessors, and plays that role well. Tarley is a power hungry, racist who Roberts and Houser is beautifully. Tarley was sly and disgustingly charming; truly passionate about his racism without a hint of shame or remorse for what he wants to do. The overall issue was well written, with a good beginning, middle and end. The fact that Jargon was ready to kill a family of defenseless demons just because they were demons speaks volumes … and the fact that Houser and Roberts made the situation and the demons left in Sanctuary feel sympathetic definitely speaks to the mastery of their craft.

Gill’s art has never looked better. The gritty art that we seen during the course of last year’s Book of Death looks more refined a cleaner here. The desolate post apocalyptic world is rendered in stunning fashion, thanks to Gill’s finer pencils and Spicer’s colors, we get to have part of 4001 that’s a bit grittier, dustier and amusingly fused; with broken down cities and homes alongside a large demon landscape. It’s a fusion that works well in this book. Gill pulls of this local well and our characters even better. There’s some really frighting visuals, including Jargon aiming a gun at a family of demons … the symbolism in this issue is staggeringly well rendered. Gill’s to evolve as an artist in ways that just makes his work look better and better. Meanwhile, Spicer’s colors really make the elements of human stand out from the more demonic nature. Sanctuary has slight slants of the Deadside, but with demons, and it’s presented well.
The Verdict:

While 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 isn’t a tie in that truly connects to the event, it presents us a wider view of that universe and, much like the 4001: A.D. : Bloodshot one shot, it sets up a major character to be used for a later time. It definitely feels like we haven’t seen the last of this Shadowwoman or Kaia. Houser and Roberts give us a wondefully multi-layered one shot that challenges the definition of a monster and the concepts of good and evil as well as racism in a well written piece. The art is superb by Gill and Spicer makes it look better. My real problem is that this one shot has a small thread to the event that barely connects while also feeling like something is missing. And Jargon’s change of heart is pretty much only seen, not really developed like Kym or Kaia’s … and just happens. All that aside, this was a pretty strong one shot that worth a read.