Or – “Final Destiny Of The Rook…”
I admit it…Â I initially only read Shadowpact for Nightmaster.Â As a student of the obscure and ridiculous heroes, the idea of a hippie guitar player becoming Sir Lancelot spoke to me on a deep and meaningful level.Â Yes, I enjoy Detective Chimp, and The Enchantress is compelling (and beautiful, even for a collection of lines on paper.)Â I enjoy the Steve Ditko history of Nightshade, the ‘weirdness magnet’ that is Blue Devil, and some of my earliest comic memories are of an issue of Batman Family with Ragman in it.Â Heck, even Zauriel has a place in my heart, but it’s really Jim Rook who brings me to the party.Â I first read of him in “Who’s Who in the DC Universe” decades ago, and have since collected just about anything with him in it, even Primal Force (which, to be honest, has it’s moments, but mostly “ugh.”)Â This issue does something that I never expected it to do…Â makes me both happy and sad at the same time.
Previously, on Shadowpact: The Shadowpact has been splintered, with members going to and fro, and Blue Devil seemingly quitting the group.Â In an attempt to stop a group of extradmensional demon/zombie/ninja/pirates (sort of) called The Unbound, several of the members of the Shadowpact have travelled into the Nightshade dimension, only to have Nightmaster realize that the cities and countryside look very familiar…Â so familiar in fact, that he realizes that the lost land of Myrra where he gained his sword and powers decades ago.Â Going underground to avoid the tide of zombie-esque creatures, the team finds that they are infected by sound, specifically by repeating their philosophy to others.Â Realizing that the creatures they’re fighting are the same kindly souls he sought to protect years ago, Nightmaster vows to free them, but is slowed when Enchantress breaks through the dimensional barrier to save her teammates, allowing the Unbound to go through to our world…Â to pillage.
This issue begins with The Enchantress, the Warlock’s Daughter and Zauriel arriving in mid-air, and plucking their partners from out of the grasp of the Unbound in a last-second rescue.Â Nightmaster is horrified to see the carnage in his beloved land of Myrra,Â then tries to greet The Enchantress with kiss, but she stops him cold, implying that their on-again, off-again relationship is off again.Â Â She claims that the only smart course of action is to close the rift and let the Unbound eat themselves alive, but Nightmaster will not here it.Â When the team members try to talk to him, Jim Rook puts his foot down. “NOT ACCEPTABLE.Â NEXT SUGGESTION.”Â Marrin, a magician of Myrra, has a plan, but it involves the death of many people, and possibly some innocents.
As the Unbound get ready to sail through and eat the DCU, Zauriel, Ragman, and Nightshade wade in to fight the creatures, while Nightmaster and Enchantress snatch a zombie.Â She tapes his mouth shut to keep him from infecting them (“You just happened to have a roll of duct tape on you?”Â Heh.) and sets about ‘decoding his mojo,’ as Miss Rosenberg might have it.Â Enchantress manages to create a counter-virus to the Unbound spell, but the dangerous bit comes when they try to spread it.Â In order to counter their message, Enchantress has filled her spell with the power of virtue, and courage, and needs a huge well of it to counter their magic.Â The source of that well?Â None other than Nightmaster himself…
Our team continues to fight, while Nightmaster walks brazenly into the city square, and calls “Can one of you guys tell me about the Unbound?Â I couldn’t find any brochures!”Â As they try to infect him, Nightmaster finds himself nearly overwhelmed, falling to one knee before rising again, realizing that their message is one of freedom, but not the kind we celebrate every July.Â “Freedom from fear, freedom from uncertainty, freedom from responsibility…Â There’s a word for that kind of Freedom.Â They call it death.”Â He unsheathes the Sword of Nacht, and the Unbound suddenly scream as one, as the spell, powered by his own courage, rips out of Nightmaster, boiling his very blood.Â The sword keeps him alive, but many (far too many) of the Unbound die in the attempt.Â But suddenly, the battle is over, their plan has worked, and the Myrrans are freed…Â But it’s only then that Nightmaster knows what he must do.Â
“I’m not going back with you,” he tells his friends, “They need me here.Â I can’t turn my back on them, not again…”Â It may have taken decades, but Jim finally accepts the burden that he couldn’t accept as a callow youth in the ’60’s.Â Enchantress tries to talk him out of it, and they end up kissing passionately for a few minutes before she walks away, flippantly entreating him “Just try not to get yourself killed, okay?”Â As the Shadowpact head home, the last image we see is Nightmaster, riding his coal-black steed into battle with a dragon, Sword of Night held high, laughing…Â “Now THIS is the life!”
It’s telling of the craft that went into this issue that it’s my favorite Shadowpact to date, even as the events of the issue make me as unhappy as any so far…Â To see Nightmaster finally completely embrace his destiny, as leader, as hero, as knight, is awesome.Â But, it saddens me to see him go, even if the series is winding it’s way down to cancellation.Â The art (by Phil Winslade) is excellent, and the story is a nice capstone to a short but dragged out heroic career.Â Matthew Sturges has taken up where Bill Willingham left off, keeping the snark and the down-to-earth aspects of the Shadowpact while not skimping on the heroism.Â All in all, the issue is very well-done, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars.Â Nightmaster’s arc is at an end, but at least I’m happy about how and where he ended up…