Review by Peter Duncan
David Broughton’s Shaman Kane has been one of the most enjoyable and reliable small press titles of recent years. Very much in the spirit of classic 2000AD, with visual and thematic references to the early “Strontium Dog” stories, it relates the adventures of Kane, a “Licensed Occult Operative”, operating in an interstellar civilisation.
Early issues told claustrophobic and tense stories of small-scale terror, as Kane sought to wipe out enemy survivors of a devastating Zombie War and prevent infiltration from the zombie dimension.
With Issue Five, David made a major change in the tone and scale of storytelling, creating a more complete and expansive background and bringing new influences on the universe of Kane.
David’s artwork became more epic, to match the scale of the story he was telling. New ingredients included a more detailed, Kirby-like mythology and the development of the Shamen into an organisation more clearly defined and more sinister than before.
Combined with imagery and themes, reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange, the book changed and developed as it approached a climax to this story arc.
Book Six is that climax. Picking up exactly where Five left off, with much more at stake than before, as Kane attempts to prevent a second zombie invasion. It provides a satisfying end to this part of the saga, wrapping up loose ends and promising a new direction for the title.
David has, admittedly, crammed a lot of world building and exposition into the early pages of this issue, and it seems a little compressed and busy… and when the end comes it, comes quickly.
Ideally, I’d have liked a couple of extra pages to build tension and to show off David’s skills at action scenes and he could, had he wished, have spread this out over another issue.
But I’m being hypercritical here. Books Five and Six are clearly designed to be read as a single entity and reading the two issues together, the pacing and structure of the story works very well.
David’s art continues to show the development seen in the previous issue. His work somehow manages to be both distinctive, and to offer a stylish reminder of some of the greats from the early days of 2000AD. Without copying their style there is always something of Mike McMahon and Kevin O’Neil haunting every page.
His colouring also shows an understanding of the usefulness of colour as a storytelling tool, seamlessly differentiating story elements and changes in scene without ever becoming intrusive. I even liked his sound effects, which, unlike those in so many small press comics, seem to be part of the artwork, rather than sitting on top of it.
Overall, Shaman Kane Issue Six fully lived up to the high expectations set in Issue Five. There is little else in the small press for me that delivers the same mixture of great storytelling and distinctive, attractive artwork.
David Broughton takes influences from all over the world of comics, and part of the fun of reading his books is spotting exactly where they have come from. This time round, I think I spotted some aspects of the Superman mythology and sequences revealing the history of the universe that Jim Starlin would have been proud of.
Shaman Kane Issue Six may not a place for readers new to the series to start. I’d suggest reading, at the very least, Issue Five first.
Overall, David has set extremely high standards for Shaman Kane in these first six issues. I can’t wait to see what he does next!
• Shaman Kane Book Six is available directly from David Broughton. 24 pages, full colour US Format £7:00p via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org. This includes 2nd class postage to the UK only. Outside of the UK, please contact David on the same address for a quotation.
Peter Duncan is editor of Sector 13, Belfast’s 2000AD fanzine and Splank! – an anthology of strips inspired by the Odhams titles, Wham!, Smash! and Pow! He’s also writer of Cthulhu Kids. Full details of his comics activities can be found at www.boxofrainmag.co.uk