Review: 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1

Though very predictable, the plot of 4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1 rolls along at an entertaining pace. The state of the 4001 world is established in a single page where we're taught the Twilight Zone-like high concept of this one-shot. There's a wall with humans on one side and monsters on the other side. The continued safety and comfort of both groups depends on the work of the monsters and a "sacrifice" on the part of the humans. Some misinformed, xenophobic firebrand is edging the humans toward a conflict with their rarely seen neighbors and Kaia, our protagonist, is preparing to take the first shot in the revolution. But things don't go as planned. And you can probably guess with near perfect accuracy how things don't go to plan. 4001-SM_001_COVER-B_HETRICKOur main character narrates and speaks in a very peculiar fashion. I can't say you'll grow accustomed to it. However, it does highlight the lack of continuity of culture between the scattered people of Earth and the floating city of New Japan. This story takes place in an overly familiar post-collapse future where humanity is picking up the pieces of the past, but not really learning from its mistakes. Kaia is shown to be both irreverent toward and shackled by the traditions of her culture. She seems so very eager to go to war, but not because of some deeply held sense of injustice against humans. She's just kind of dumb and gullible. As a result, she's an easy target for zealotry and rhetoric. But what she sees on the other side of the wall has a rushed and not especially well explained effect on Kaia. It's all so darn predictable, the book seems to "yadda yadda yadda" its way toward a generally exciting climax. Shadowman's writers gloss over the dramatically shifting mindset of their protagonist with little explanation. She's capricious to a fault, which makes her choices less acts of heroism and more the flailing impulses of a lunatic. I'm not routing for her to win; I just want as few casualties as possible.

Those looking for a concrete connection to the 4001 A.D. event aren't given much to work with here. The whole 4001 Valiant universe feels very much like an editorially mandated mix of loose affiliations. The writing team does an acceptable job shoving the Rai/Father war into the context of a largely unrelated conflict. Shadowman is a satisfying short story that doesn't require its connection to 4001 A.D. to hold together. I'm ambivalent as to whether or not that needless bond holds this story back or if it injects an exciting instigating event in the third act. Since you can enjoy this one-shot with zero knowledge of the summer event, I'll hesitantly recommend 4001 A.D.: Shadowman on its own merits, though only if you're very curious about the dark margins of the future Valiant universe.

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4001 A.D.: Shadowman #1
Writer: Jody House, Rafer Roberts
Artist: Robert Gill
Colorist: Michael Spicer
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99
Format: One-Shot; Print/Digital