Saturday, October 7, 2017

Shadowman: Rae Sremmurd #1

Went down to the crossroads, Fell down on my knees.

Written by: Eliot Rahal
Art by: Renato Guedes
Cover Price: $3.99
Publisher: Valiant
Release Date: October 4, 2017   

Let me just make one thing clear from the start. If I open a comic book, and the first page shows me, via some awesome Renato Guede art, Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues singers - opening his guitar case, "somewhere in Mississippi a long time ago", then I will be successfully reeled in.

For those of you not steeped in a diet of Delta Blues music allow me to quickly relay the mythos that surrounds Mr Johnson. Robert Leroy Johnson was was born in Hazelhurst, Mississippi on or around 8 May 1911 and died 27 years later on 16 August 1938 at Three Forks, near Greenwood, Mississippi. According to Son House, himself one of the finest blues musicians to have lived (check out his version of John the Revelator), Johnson would watch House and his friend Willie Brown play and when they took a break he would use one of their guitars. According to House he was not good at all, “...such a racket you never heard!...get that guitar away from that boy” people would say, ”...he’s running people crazy with it.” A few years later, in 1932, Robert played again for Son and Willie; this time they were staggered by his improvement. “He was so good. When he finished, all our mouths were standing open.

It wasn't just Son House and Willie Brown that noticed the swift turnaround in Johnson's abilities though. Soon a mythos grew around Johnson, and of a Faustian pact in which he met the devil at a Mississippi crossroads and exchanged his soul in return for becoming the greatest bluesman to have ever walked the dusty roads of the South. This myth is taken and given a modern spin in Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd, which depicts Johnson's encounter, and then shows readers how the success of multiplatinum hip-hop superstars Rae Sremmurd can be chalked up to a similar Faustian bargain.

Thing is though, after 5 years and a lot of success that ole Devil is now comin' a-calling for some souls, and plucks the duo away in a surge of fire and sulphur. Luckily their manager isn't yet ready to cash in on any posthumous sales surge just yet, and goes seeking some assistance from Dr Mirage, who knows just the man to help get our Hip-Hop duo back to more Earthly domains. Enter stage left Shadowman, who goes to Charon the Boatman (you know the one from the Led Zepplin posters) and crosses the River Styx (named after the band?) to launch a metaphorical lifeboat to save Rae Sremmurd from an eternity of serving as the headline act in what looks like a Satantic Live Aid.

Bits and Pieces:

So confession time, I have no idea what Rae Sremmurd's music is like, and had never even heard of them before I opened this book. I do however know the cult of Robert Johnson and all the musicians of the 1960s and 70s that he influenced through reading much rock journalism during a misspent youth. If you haven't heard of either then you will be left with a rather odd story which is likely to leave you asking what you've just read. Despite this however, I had fun with the book, although if it is Shadowman you came looking for, his appearance, to continue the musical terminology, has all the hallmarks of a good support act.  Shadowman fans might therefore consider waiting a little while longer and pick up his new title, coming from Valiant in 2018. One other point to make is that the Devil in this comicbook looked very like Aaron Ekhart...go figure.

Now pass me that six string..."I got the crossroad blues this mornin', Lord, I believe, I'm sinkin' down...."


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