Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Shadow #1

He's the only character from the pulps who has achieved enough fame to be familiar to the general public - but The Shadow is actually famous for the old radio show and a movie from a couple of decades back, not for his pulp adventures (most people probably have no idea what "pulp" means) and certainly not for his comic book stories.

The obvious inspiration for Batman, The Shadow is much more along the lines of The Punisher - a hard man who provides final justice for those beyond the reach of the law.

In other words, he's perfectly happy to use his .45 automatics to gun down the bad guys - he's not out to reform anyone.

When the character has appeared in comics, he's generally been watered down into a more generic crimefighter. The less said about his Archie incarnation in the mid-'60s, the better.

Since then he's fared well in comics - especially with such luminaries as Denny O'Neil, Michael Kaluta, Russ Heath and Howard Chaykin on duty - but the character has never been popular enough to sustain his own comic.

Perhaps that's about to change, as Dynamite Comics hands the reins over to writer Garth Ennis. He sets the story (it seems) in the 1930s, the perfect time for the character to flourish.

Sometimes the Shadow has been portrayed as a normal man, sometimes he's a mystic with superhuman powers - or is he just using clever tricks to make it appear that he has powers?

This version definitely seems to follow in the "superhuman" category, and he's ruthless in his war against evil - but we do see a human side to the character (thank goodness).

This is definitely a character in touch with his pulp roots - and while I'm not a big fan of gore, I certainly appreciate Ennis' ruthless, brutal approach.

The story is illustrated by Aaron Campbell, and I really like his work here. Lush yet stark, he evokes the era nicely - and has a good hand for the brutal action sequences, too.

I've been a fan of The Shadow since discovering Bantam's short-lived paperback reprints of the original stories in the '60s, and it's great to see him back in comics - and back to his old self.

Grade: A-



Glen Davis said...

I think Ennis confused the Shadow with the Spider.

Chuck said...

Glen, both characters are brutal - and you're right, The Spider probably has the edge there - but The Shadow never hesitated to open fire on the bad guys when needed.

-> Ray said...

This felt very much like what someone might extrapolate a 1930s Shadow would be like if he only knew the Chaykin mini-series set in the 1980s.