Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Review: The Shadow #1



The pulp renaissance continues with Dynamite's release of The Shadow #1 this month, adding to their roster of famous heroes like The Green Hornet and Darkman. Being one of the more vicious crime-fighters that spawned from the 1930s, The Shadow is aptly captained by none other than veteran blood splasher Garth Ennis. While we're given a framework for great things to come, The Shadow #1 isn't exactly number one with a bullet.

The story opens with scenes of Japanese war atrocities, written in vivid and wretched detail, instantly communicating that this isn't going to be a bright two-fisted tale like its contemporaries. Rather, Ennis' gritty style gives the reader both a sense of unease and the need to see these war criminals brought to justice in the most violent way possible. Enter The Shadow, toting twin pistols and clouding the minds of men in order to bring swift death in a red haze upon the gang responsible for these evil doings. It opens with a great scene, but sadly it's the only time in the whole issue that we see the enigmatic figure in action.

The rest of the issue is devoted to Lamont Cranston, The Shadow's alter-ego. We see him mixing with a couple of associates, delivering a vast amount of exposition and little else. While the middle falls flat, the introduction of  Margo Lane towards the end offers up a viewfinder into Cranston's personality, with his holier-than-thou attitude and air of superiority that so infuriates Lane.

Aaron Campbell serves Ennis' pen well with his art, deftly handling expression and action scenes without overdoing it. The Alex Ross cover masterfully re-creates the iconic image of The Shadow that is simply stunning to look at.

This feels like the entrĂ©e before the main course. We're given a fleck of well-narrated violent action along with a truckload of exposition bloat and a side order of characterisation. As a premier issue it does its job, but we have to hope that Ennis can deliver on what he has built.