Friday, February 22, 2013

Review: THE SHADOW Year One #1


WRITER: Matt Wagner
ARTIST: Wilfredo Torres
COLORS: Brennan Wagner
LETTERS: Simon Bowland
COVER: Matt Wagner (A), Alex Ross (B), Chris Samnee (C), Howard Chaykin (D)
The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S.

“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

He has influenced such characters as Batman, Green Arrow, the Green Hornet, and Alan Moore’s V from V for Vendetta, but The Shadow began as a sinister voice on the radio, the mysterious narrator of a radio series.

Then, pulp writer Walter B. Gibson fully developed the character into the one we know. The Shadow became the mysterious crime-fighting vigilante with psychic powers that appeared in novel-length stories published in pulp magazines. The Shadow became a pop culture icon. The character is no stranger to comics, having debuted in a daily newspaper comic strip in 1940 and having also starred in a comic book series entitled Shadow Comics that ran during the 1940s.

In 2012, Dynamite Entertainment returned The Shadow to comic books with a new regular series. Dynamite’s latest release is The Shadow: Year One, a new miniseries from writer Matt Wagner and artist Wilfredo Torres.

The Shadow: Year One #1 opens in Cambodia, 1929. Chanda, a young gang member, runs to his cousin for aid. It seems his boss, the fearsome warlord, Kai-Pang, has been killed by “a dark spirit… thirsting for vengeance.” Now, that spirit wants Chanda.

Later, on October 30, 1929, the wealthy, world traveler and adventurer, Lamont Cranston, arrives by ship in New York City. A young reporter’s interest is piqued by Cranston’s return to America. Meanwhile, Margo Lane, a kept woman, is having a disagreement with her keeper, New York-based criminal and hood, Guiseppe “Joe” Massaretti. Margo and Joe’s relationship is about to bring The Shadow out of the shadows.

For a time, I was a huge fan of The Shadow. I read Howard Chaykin’s four-issue miniseries, The Shadow (DC Comics), several times. Chaykin, who provides one of four covers for the first issue of The Shadow: Year One, created a very popular re-imagining (before that word was used) of The Shadow. Eventually collected as The Shadow: Blood and Judgment, Chaykin’s miniseries was also controversial.

Whereas Chaykin’s The Shadow was flashy, crazy, sexy, cool and maybe just a tad bit aggressive and in-your-face, The Shadow, as drawn by Wilfredo Torres, is quiet and smooth. Torres’ art is straight from the David Mazzuchelli school of comics-as-Film-Noir, but this is a low-budget Film-Noir, with straight-ahead camera work. It’s no frills, just meat-and-potatoes, as if the camera just stands still and shoots what is in front of it.

Matt Wagner’s script offers intriguing tidbits throughout, but he writes a first issue that is frustratingly and mostly set-up. This is barely a prologue. The way this story is presented seems to suggest that the actual story hasn’t really started. Will this series turn out to be good? I’ll put my money on Wagner to deliver quality, if not excellent, work. But for now, this first issue is so much cock-tease.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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