In this terrifying nightmare called Stalinverse, there isn’t a record of the fall of New Orleans. In this history, it might have been called a minor skirmish, but Jack Boniface remembers. He recalls every detail as if it’s all too real. ‘Divinity III: Stalinverse Shadowman’ opens with what was once New York City. It’s called New Stalingrad and they’re taunting Jack Boniface with their tanks and threats. However that man that has that special gift to become Shadowman is too busy remembering what has led up to this moment. He has memories of his mother telling him of his destiny, a cat, and friends. He loses them all when New Orleans falls to the Stalinverse juggernaut. Still, he resists, finds a new family and continues to be a major thorn in the side of this regime. It is what the Shadowman does best.
By pulling power from the deadside he uses these dark forces for the greater good along with his own survival. The thing is Jack Boniface can feel the breath of the wolf on his neck and he, more than anyone, understands that when you constantly reach for the darkness it reaches back for you.
Overall the series of comics surrounding how this universe came to be has lacked a sense of humanity until now. The storytelling is tight and stellar in the other books regarding X-O Manowar, Bloodshot and the dynamic albeit dangerous duo of Ninjak and Harada. Still, it isn’t until we see how this history has impacted the individual when things begin to truly feel real. The need for urgency to find out how and why the person behind this is doing all of these machinations becomes more than just a romp through a dystopian fantasy. The damage could be irrevocable. Perhaps, in some way the world we live in may be damaged as well. Think of it this way, if Valiant’s world is a reflection of ours, then what of our future? Who’s to say that a dictator won’t attempt to take over the world, one fragile nation at a time? Then the Stalinverse reads more like a guidebook clothed in a warning.
Essentially ‘Divinity III: Shadowman’ is a gift to remind the reader that what they do matters. It has impact. There’s a panel where Jack’s mother whispers in his ear. The tension and fear on the mother’s face as she attempts to disperse all her wisdom to her young son before it’s too late looks like a modern day Michelangelo’s Pieta in reverse. She senses what he will become, but tells him anyway in hopes that he isn’t corrupted or engulfed by the darkness. For Jack there is only one way this is going to go. And it seems as if the good guys are losing. To punctuate the hopelessness of the situation there’s a telling of how Baba Yaga came to be. At best it’s not pretty. Rasputin turns his back on his creation. But Baba Yaga survives. It’s possible that is the one takeaway from this issue. The fact that no matter what demoralizing circumstances people endure, they survive. Although it will be interesting to see who comes out of the other side of this. No matter what no one will be left unscathed.