"Divinity III: Shadowman and the Battle of New Stalingrad" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Valiant Entertainment
Written by Scott Bryan Wilson
Illustrated by Robert Gill
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on February 8th, 2017
The world we once knew is radically changed. The Soviet Union is alive and thriving and it's invading the United States. No, I'm not talking about current events. This is the Stalinverse, the world of Divinity III, where-in a Russian cosmonaut with godlike powers has changed reality, flipping the script on the Cold War. This one-shot shows the last resistance of Amerika, led by Jack Boniface, aka Shadowman, in New Stalingrad (formerly known as New York City).
Shadowman and the Battle for New Stalingrad opens with a devastating sequence showing the Soviet troops absolutely obliterating the Statue of Liberty as a message to the freedom fighters. In four short panels, the iconic symbol goes from its majestic glory to little more than smoke and dust. This is what pushes Jack Boniface over the edge. As riots spring up around him, he gives into the darkness and unleashes hordes of undead creatures from the Deadside.
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The moment Shadowman unleashes these monstrosities is gorgeously illustrated by Robert Gill. He delivers three straight double-page spreads that work as a great framed sequence. The first has the soldiers with the upper hand, stabbing, shooting, and tearing through the rioters, whereas the third has the exact same layout, but with the tides turned thanks to these demonic entities. Both are incredibly brutal.
The sheer variety of Deadside creatures is astounding. At one point, Shadowman rides in on an undead Triceratops. Now, all I want is a zombie version of The Land Before Time or better yet, an alternate take on Jurassic Park led by a mad scientist. In addition to the dinosaur, there are all sorts of skeletal and demon-like humanoids bursting through this portal with glowing eyes. My personal favorite is a skeleton wielding a machine gun.
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The one-shot culminates in an epic battle as Shadowman fights not only for his own life, but the lives of everyone around him, and more importantly, to prevent his magical abilities from falling into the hands of the Soviets. He takes blow after blow and keeps getting back up again, like that Chumbawumba song, but way more intense. Meanwhile all around him, Times Square and the streets of what was once New York City are battered and broken.
I'm a sucker for alternate worlds in comics and Stalinverse is no different. The overall event is akin to Marvel's House of M or DC's Flashpoint, where we see how one changed event can drastically alter the entire world. You know everything is going to go back to normal sooner or later, but some changes will have lasting effects.
Shadowman and the Battle of New Stalingrad shows a glimmer of hope in this dystopian society as one man stands up against the tyranny of the Soviet Union. Granted, he has some help from undead dinosaurs and demons, but he still kicks some ass. Most of all, it got me really excited about Shadowman again, so I hope Valiant does more with the character in the near future. I heard 2017 is his 25th anniversary...just sayin'.