First Impressions – THE SHADOW #1

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only The Shadow knows! And he’s back in a new ongoing series from Dynamite comics.

It’s hard to find an older hero in the crime-fighting genre than the Shadow. Created by Walter Gibson in the early 1930s, the Shadow was a character in pulp and radio dramas that quickly developed into a pop culture icon. Wielding twin pistols and the ability to cloud men’s minds, the Shadow waged a deadly war on crime and evil in its many forms. And by his popularity and influence, a number of characters arose in the Shadow’s wake. These include the Green Hornet, Alan Moore’s V from V for Vendetta, 80s film character Darkman, and of course the dark knight himself, Batman.

In fact, early Batman was basically exactly like the Shadow but with a bat costume, complete with guns and a lack of hesitance to kill criminals.

So naturally, while the icon’s relevance waned alongside the pulps, he’d always be a presence within the cultural consciousness. As such, he’s returned many times over the years, including starring in five films over the decades (with Sam Raimi voicing a desire to direct a new film, though information is sparse at this time). Because of pulp’s strong (some say massive) influence on the comic book medium, it’s no wonder many comic series and graphic novels have come up about the character.

Which brings us to Dynamite comics, and their new Shadow ongoing series.

THE SHADOW #1 begins, oddly enough, with narration explaining the many atrocities perpetrated against the Chinese people by the Japanese military during WWII. I’ll admit I don’t exactly understand why it was necessary to do so, but I guess it’s thematically appropriate given that the Shadow seems preoccupied with Japanese nationals, and illegal shipments of unknown something or others. It must also be noted I appreciate a comic willing to talk about WWII atrocities that aren’t exclusively Nazi in nature. There were other nations fighting in WWII against the allies people, and the Japanese especially committed their share of war crimes.

The Shadow’s arsenal of psionic powers have been bolstered in relation to other depictions of the character. The primary constant is his ability to render himself invisible to enemies by clouding their perception, and in this book we can add limited precognition to the list. I assume the otherwise unrelated narration in the beginning was to illustrate the main character’s ability to predict the future, since the book takes place prior to the outbreak of WWII.

Perhaps I wasn’t quite paying good enough attention, but I found the actual conflict a bit hard to follow. The Japanese nationals attempt to do something with a cargo ship, and the Shadow stops them. But other than him knowing the cargo ship didn’t have what the Japanese were looking for, I’m sorry to say I’m a bit at a loss as to what it all means. Then again it is the first issue, so I suppose the next ones fill gaps better.

Because of this, I’m wondering if I should continue with this series or not. I have plenty of ongoings to pick up every week as it is, so adding another to pull seems questionable to me. On the other hand, I don’t follow anything from Dynamite, and if worse comes to worse I can always drop things like Red Lanterns or Justice League. I have my eye on this series, and recommend it to anyone with a itch for good old fashioned pulpy action.

For additional reading, I recommend any of the reprinted Shadow stories that circulate around, or just watching the 1994 film. It’s not too great, but I liked it well enough, and it’s got Tim Curry in it!

Something worth noting about this first issue, and something I usually don’t talk about, is the multiple covers. It’s common for new series to have multiple variant covers for the inagural installment (some ongoings even having variants for nearly every issue). This one is no exception, with THE SHADOW #1 having four covers total. I personally got the ‘B’ cover, by Howard Chaykin. In the interests of fairness, and to show off the beautiful work the other cover artists put into making this release memorable, here are the other covers:


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