Comic Book Review: Shadowpact #1

I enjoyed the Day of Vengeance storyline that led into Infinite Crisis. So, I decided to give Shadowpact #1 a try. Now, I will admit that I have never been a big fan of any pure magic based comic book. However, I think that this team has an interesting collection of characters. So, with that in mind let’s check out Shadowpact #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Bill Willingham

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: The issue starts with the Phantom Stranger saying that the Ninth Age of Magic has not fully died and the form of the Tenth Age of Magic has not yet fully revealed itself. So, ancient barriers protecting us from dark places are breaking down. New things are appearing and old forces thought defeated are coming back.

We then cut one year ago, to Superman spying a red metallic dome entirely covering the town of River Rock in Wyoming. Superman mentions that it was not there yesterday. (Wait, wait, wait a minute. Are you telling me that Superman flies overhead of River Rock every day?) Superman can’t see through it with his X-Ray vision. His heat vision can’t penetrate it. And when he tried punching it he gets bounced backward. Clearly, it must be magical.

We shift inside the dome where a team of 6 evil magic users have gathered. We have Strega, Jack of Fire, Karnevil, Bagman, Sister Shadow and White Rabbit. Strega tells them to round up all the townspeople into the Town Square. All the townspeople are gathered into the Town Square and Strega addresses them. She tells them that her group are going to perform a significant act of Necromancy which requires human sacrifices. That they will randomly select people to provide that magic power. The spell shall only require a few hundred sacrifices so most of the towns people will survive. If a person does not show up for the sacrifice when their name is drawn then they will kill that person’s family and friends. Also, that this spell will take days to construct so everyone is instructed to go to their homes and stay there. Anyone caught outside their house will be killed.

We then cut back to Green Lantern using his ring to study the red dome. Hal Jordan says tells Superman that the dome is from just a few drops of human hemoglobin. Green Lantern and Superman agree that the dome is magical in nature. Then the Phantom Stranger appears. The Phantom Strangers says that not even he can break through the dome, but he can merge with it and act as a temporary living doorway for others to pass through it. Phantom Strangers tells Superman that he is useless against magic so he will assemble a team better suited for this threat.

We shift to Ragman and Blue Devil laying the smack down on some demon in Mexico. They are contacted by the Phantom Stranger and told that they are needed.

We then shift to Shadowpact’s headquarters where Detective Chimp is staring at a bottle of alcohol trying to come up with 12 reasons not to drink. Nightshade then asks Detective Chimp if he is going to quit smoking, too. He responds with “one addiction at a time.” Suddenly, the Phantom Stranger appears and tells them that they are needed.

In another room in Shadowpact’s HQ, we see Enchantress and Nightmaster talking. Nightmaster is young again thanks to his magical sword. The Phantom Stranger appears and tells them that they are needed.

We then shift back to the red dome in Wyoming and see all the members of Shadowpact assembling. Phantom Stranger mergers with the dome and creates a doorway. The members of Shadowpact rush through.

We then cut to present day, one year later. Phantom Stranger has been keeping watch outside the red dome. Shadowpact has been missing inside the dome for a year.

We then shift back one year ago, and see the members of Shadowpact as they enter inside the dome. Nightshade does a little reconnaissance and encounters Sister Shadow. Sister Shadow transforms into a giant ape and attacks Nightshade. End of issue.

The Good: Now, let me admit that I almost never find that one individual can be both the artist and the writer and to an excellent job in both areas. This book doesn’t make me change my mind about that belief. I thought that the writing was stronger than the artwork.

I think that the general storyline of the Ninth Age of magic ending and the Tenth Age of magic starting is pretty interesting. It should make for a convenient tool to create plenty of chaos and mysteries within the realm of magic.

I thought it was a good idea to establish the importance of Shadowpact by using Superman to find the magical red dome. By showing that this is a threat that the mightiest hero in the DC universe is no use against does a nice job building up the status of Shadowpact as a premier team. If the nemesis is magic based, don’t call the JLA or JSA, call Shadowpact.

The team of villains are pretty interesting. They each have a unique look. Jack of Fire is probably the coolest looking one, but they all look neat. They definitely have the necessary ingredients to be entertaining and strong villains.

The scene where Strega tells the townspeople their plan and for them to meekly submit to their fate. That it is just pure back luck that Strega picked this town instead of any other town. It was nicely written. And it was a refreshing break from the standard insane evil villain who doesn’t try and honestly rationalize what they are doing.

The scenes where Phantom Strangers summons the various members of Shadowpact was a good way to introduce each character to a new reader. Blue Devil has always been a favorite of mine and I like the chemistry between him and Ragman. I think Detective Chimp rocks! He is a great character with a cool personality. Enchantress and Nightshade are too underdeveloped to get me interested in either of them. Nightmaster isn’t that interesting at this point, either. It is neat that his sword has rejuvenated his youth.

The scene where Shadowpact arrives at the red dome was perfect. I like how two of DC’s big guns in Superman and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan flavor) step aside to let Shadowpact take over the situation. It gives Shadowpact instant credibility to a new reader.

Overall, I thought Willingham’s writing was pretty good. I like how he manages to blend action and drama with plenty of sly and subtle humor. No “bwahahahaha” JLI type humor. But, it is definitely humorous and has a “fun” feel to it.

For the most part, the dialogue is well done and has a nice flow. The pacing for Shadowpact #1 was just right for me. We established the background of the world of magic, introduced a threat, introduced the members of the team, engaged the threat and left the issue ending on the mystery of what has happened over the course of the past year. That is a pretty solid storyline for a first issue.

The story hooked me with the first issue. I like the general premise. I like all the various characters. I was not expecting to add this title to my pull list, but if Willingham keeps this ball rolling over the next several issues, then I’ll probably stick with this title.

The Bad: I have a few quibbles with the writing. I thought that Superman just happens to fly over River Rock all the time and noticed this red dome that wasn’t there before just too convenient. That part of the story was too much of a forced plot tool. I also think the timeline is a little to murky. The story starts one year ago with Superman flying around. So, is this one year ago before Infinite Crisis or one year ago after the One Year Later where Superman is powerless? If it is one year ago before Infinite Crisis then that matches up with the current time being in line with the rest of the One Year Later comics. If it is One Year Later from when Superman regains his powers then that means this issue takes place one year in the future from the rest of the One Year Later comics. Maybe it is just me, but the time frame for this issue in relation to the rest of the DCU wasn’t really clear.

Overall, I did like the dialogue, but some of the lines were a bit on the cheesy side. Especially Superman and Phantom Stranger.

Willingham’s art is average. I don’t dislike and I don’t love it. It pretty much leaves me neutral. I think some panels look others and others look weak. His art lacks a lot of detail. The overall panels look to plain and simple. It may be his inking that is too heavy and gives a very simple look to the art.

Still, I thought Shadowpact #1 was a well done and entertaining issue. My probation period for all new titles is six issues. So far, Shadowpact has a good chance of making it to my regular pull list.