SHADOWPACT No. 16
"Down in the Zero": Part Three of "The Redemption Contract"
|Asst. Editor:||Stephanie Buscema|
|Cover Art:||Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher
Colored by Mike Atiyeh
Last issue's volcanic eruption in the heart of Chicago's downtown turns out to have been not that bad. Sure, lots of innocent people were made all ashy, but peering back through time thanks to the Phantom Stranger and his helpful if manipulatively disjointed narration, we discover that Nightshade managed to portal thousands of bystanders and half of the buildings in the Miracle Mile to the Nightshade Dimension.
Twenty minutes after zero hour, Superman and pals finally make their fashionably late entrance to the party and begin rescue operations while Zauriel, Ragman, Enchantress, and Nightmaster take the fight back to Doctor Gotham. Enchantress has put together the trick to Gotham's otherworldly power levels. In fact, his cloak contains a pocket dimension in which he has stored many lifetimes' worth of collected mystical artifacts, from which he can draw at will. Expecting a brute force assault, Gotham is aghast when Enchantress plunges inside his cloak and begins laying waste to his vast collection, depowering him enough for Shadowpact to get a few good licks in, but not enough to prevent him from escaping.
Meanwhile...back in Hell, [Blue Devil's] lawyer discovers that his client's contract with Neron was just a rider to a contract already made by Dan's hooligan of a big brother, [Jack (of Fire)], meaning that Blue Devil's soul is still forfeit. So topside, Dan meets with a Catholic exorcist who prescribes him a pathway to reclaiming his soul, by surviving thirteen Herculean trials, first of which is overthrowing the Homo Magi.
Despite the cover depiction, this issue features about three seconds of Zatanna. I like how Willingham has Superman, Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and other big-shots show up, and then shuffles them off to the wings so that they don't get in the way of the Spadowpact. Actually, I'm being serious here—it's a good use of them. It seems as though, typically, when other superheroes guest star in other books, the guest stars usually end up getting the tar beaten out of them, or in any event, prove themselves ineffective, so that the regular stars of the book can prove how awesome they are. Here, the guest stars are merely employed in an equally important role while allowing Shadowpact to do what they do best. It's a good way to build credibility for the team without making other characters look like tools. So good job there, Bill Willingham.
I don't remember if I've mentioned this before, but I finally, just a couple of months ago, got around to reading through some of Willingham's FABLES work, and it's helpful, actually, in figuring out what he's doing over in this book. His success has been less steady in SHADOWPACT, but you'll spot familiar authorial flourishes, such as the way the characters will take indirect or unexpected routes to solving a problem, sometimes making it seem almost like an anti-climax when they've won. But furthermore, I love Willingham's willingness to explore in depth ideas such as the Blue Devil's contract with Hell, showing us a reality that's similar to what we understand, but still fundamentally different. A lot of writers will only ever scratch the surface of ideas like this, simply employing concepts like magic or Hellish bargains to get characters from point A to point B, but Willingham goes a bit further and attempts to pull back the layers of the onion for us to show us that there's so much more going on than it seemed. I'm not sure what I'm saying, exactly. Oh well.
Good issue, all told.
This page last updated 18 August 2007.
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