I’ve mentioned in previous reviews associated to The Shadow that I practically grew up with his audio adventures. No, I wasn’t around for the original radio broadcasts; I grew up in a small farm town with a local station that played these wonderful reruns on Saturday evenings. In high school (many moons ago), I even had some phonograph records and cassettes given to me (as gifts) of the recordings, and I listened to them over and over and over again. I feel myself lucky to be as familiar as I am with just how ‘the weed of crime bears bitter fruit,’ and I would only wish the same for you, possibly a fellow Shadow enthusiast if you’re here reading my humble words. I hope I don’t disappoint.
As much as I want to love this monthly title from Dynamite Comics, I’m afraid to say that I can only ‘like’ it. It’s far from perfect. This volume takes me up to the conclusion of their twelfth issue, and, thankfully, this collection has given a different writer than Garth Ennis to have a chance at crafting some new adventures for both Lamont Cranston and the Shadow. It’s only a modest improvement, and I’ll try to detail why if you aren’t opposed to having a bit of it spoiled for you.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
See, The Shadow is – for my tastes – the original superhero. True, the main character remains a mere human, but he’s possessed with some savage strength, some impressive trinkets on his person (including those blazing .45s), and that wonderful gift that keeps on giving: the ability to cloud men’s minds. Unfortunately, in these installments, that gift is mostly nonexistent as crime scribe has opted to feature our hero in the curious position of having lost his powers. As such, these adventures – while interesting – involve a more down-to-Earth Shadow or, even, only Lamont Cranston, who now finds himself kinda/sorta on a vision quest to rediscover his gifts.
In and of itself, that doesn’t seem so bad. After all, there were instances in The Shadow’s earliest adventures when he found himself up against some dastardly villain who was his equal or – dare I say? – somehow negated what our hero could do. Despite those obstacles, The Shadow’s cunning and keen intelligence was all that pulled him through. However, these adventures appear less and less involved in that mystical world that The Shadow so often tramples through while favoring things which end up feeling a bit more commonplace – trials and tribulations perhaps more common to conventional human action stars, stuff that normally our central character could brush off easily without another thought.
Some may find that a compelling way to introduce new audiences to a classic pulp character. It just doesn’t work for this guy, mostly because if I wanted that there are already a healthy number of titles on the shelves I could go out and pick up. But, as a die-hard Shadow enthusiast, I want to experience the tales a die-hard Shadow enthusiast wants to read – not some Shadow lightweight or (even worse) some other fellows who may be merely in cahoots with our hero for this issue.
Sure, I can appreciate Gischler’s desire to try something different. Who knows? It might just be the kind of trick or cheap gimmick to pull in others to the fold, and, if that happens, so be it. But it also smacks a bit of artifice – of a lesser deviation from the established norm – and that’s the kind of thing best left to established characters. Heck, DC kinda/sorta killed Superman after five decades; is it too much to ask that The Shadow get five decades of normalcy first before he’s stripped of what makes him so special?
THE SHADOW: VOLUME 2: REVOLUTION (trade paperback) is published by Dynamite Entertainment. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this trade collects previously published issues no. 7 – 12 of Dynamite’s monthly title – and, no, it’s not entirely a single narrative but rather a few smaller stories weakly connected by the fact that our hero is struggling to regain his abilities with have curiously vanished. The story is by Victor Gischler with artwork coming from Aaron Campbell and Jack Herbert. It bears the cover price of $19.99 but I picked mine up greatly reduced via an online auction.
(MODESTLY) RECOMMENDED. I can’t help myself but give THE SHADOW: VOLUME 2 a ‘thumbs up’ but only a modest one, indeed; and that’s only because I’m one of those rarest of profundities in this day and age: a legitimate Shadow fanatic. If you are, too, then you’re likely to feel the same. Because I love practically anything involving the man who clouds men’s minds, I’m strongly impelled to recommend it; yet because it really feels like a title in search of an audience, it’s difficult to give it an enthusiastic endorsement. Author Victor Gischler’s take on the classic pulp character feels more authentic in this second volume than Garth Ennis’s did in the first, but, sadly, that’s really not saying all that much.
What did you think of this review?