The Shadow #6
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Writer: Si Spurrier & Dan Watters
Artist: Daniel HDR & Ricardo Jaime
Cover: Kelley Jones
Colors: Natalia Marques
Letters: Simon Bowland
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
When it comes to handling a character like The Shadow, who has existed in publication for decades, there are two general approaches. The first is, such as with the Garth Ennis run, to treat The Shadow as a period piece set in the 1930’s. Those stories often work perfectly well and have led to some good stories featuring the character.
This most recent series by Dynamite has opted for the second approach, which is to treat The Shadow as a blood-soaked immortal who has been active for decades. Sometimes, as with the Batman/Shadow series, this is explained through his semi-mystical background, though not always. The current series focuses less on these elements, showing The Shadow instead as a mystery and almost a force of nature. He’s a character that offers a good deal of interpretation as Walter Gibson originally wrote him, and Dynamite has taken advantage of that flexibility with their comics.
This issue is a good concluding issue to their latest arc that is largely faithful to the character.
Kelley Jones is not a name I’ve seen in a long time, but he’s an excellent fit for The Shadow. While I remember Jones best for his haunting work on Sandman: Season of Mists, he’s also known for his classic 90’s Batman covers. It makes sense for Jones to draw one of Batman’s greatest inspirations, and it’s a solid take on the character. I’ve always appreciated his use of shading to create a dark, atmospheric mood, and he hasn’t lost his touch in that respect. This Shadow looks more like a frightening Dracula-like figure as presented here, and there is a sense of horror in this cover that is riveting. There appears to be a strong Bernie Wrightson influence as well in this piece, particularly in the use of skulls as a visual element in the background. While not a cover that tells the reader what the story is, it captures attention and presents The Shadow as a fearsome anti-hero.
The art for this issue is provided by Daniel HDR and Ricardo Jaime, who do a reasonable job of closing out the story arc. The greatest strength to these visuals is in the layouts, which are presented in a strong, cinematic way. The three-panel widescreen approach works quite well for The Shadow, since he’s a character with roots in different media. Beyond that, the art makes some interesting decisions with respect to perspective, showing certain panels in a first-person viewpoint. For brief moments, the art shows the reality of this world through the eyes of The Shadow, yet he’s still presented with a cool, mysterious flair at all times. The reveal page of The Shadow in his full glory is also dramatic and imposing, showing respect for the character. For the most part, these pages are solid if not the most memorable, but they succeed at the correct moments of the narrative.
The coloring provides some of the most interesting work with the art in this issue. For the most part, the coloring takes the appropriate cues from The Shadow’s main influences, with muted and noir-inspired color tones. All of this is fair enough, and it works as it should. It would be easy to simply apply muted and dark color tones to an issue and call it a day, but Marques takes it a step further than that. To her credit, she draws inspiration from the primary color tones of The Shadow as a character—the iconic red and black—and highlights them at the right dramatic moments. Even when The Shadow is not physically present in the panel, we can sense his presence through the red and black throughout the issue. This lends a further air of mystery to the character and the story and contributes to the overall tone.
For the most part, the lettering by Simon Bowland can be best described as solid, though there are some standout elements at work. In the first place, The Shadow’s laugh is prominent and unearthly, and it’s partly because of the creepy choice of font. The other side of this is the choice of coloring for the font, which likewise uses The Shadow’s iconic colors. The use of red and black to illustrate The Shadow’s laugh is effective and creates the sense of an unearthly presence. The other noticeable element is the use of social media and multimedia in the story, facilitated by the lettering. The TV broadcasts and prominent web sites all look believable and distinctive, largely because of the choice of fonts. This creates a sense of reality in the story that balances effectively against the larger-than-life pulp vigilante adventure.
Although Dan Watters is a name that I’m unfamiliar with, Si Spurrier is an experienced writer with established mainstream credentials. That experience proves invaluable on this issue, which is a finale that is designed to explain the last few issues and bring the action to a close. It’s not advisable to try to pick up this issue of The Shadow cold if you haven’t already been reading it, because it focuses heavily on exposition and plot twists. That having been said, if you’ve stuck the series out this far, this issue is satisfying, and the pieces of the puzzle all come together to form a unified whole.
One interesting aspect of this story, looking at its structure in completion, is that it reads like a modernized version of Gibson’s Shadow. This is interesting because many modern writers focus more on The Shadow as a character, treating him as the protagonist. While that certainly can work in the right hands, the Gibson stories took more of a hands-off approach. Instead, those stories focused on the various individuals who became sucked into The Shadow’s network, featuring The Shadow himself only distantly. Watters and Spurrier more favor this approach, centering the story more on the story of Mary Jerez, bring The Shadow in more to establish backstory and tie certain loose ends. It’s not an easy approach to take, but it’s one of the strongest features of this particular series.
It should also be noted that this arc of The Shadow sets out to make a political statement, and that may not appeal to every reader. In fairness, it’s kept mostly to the level of subtext, though there are clear parallels being made to current political figures. There is one element to the commentary that suffers because of the timing, but that’s due to an event the creators couldn’t have predicted. Otherwise, the writing makes the point that it intends to make reasonably well, and it doesn’t drown out the larger story with its messaging.
I hope that Dynamite continues to keep publishing more stories featuring The Shadow, since he’s one of the most interesting pulp characters in their stable. He’s a character that still offers a good deal of potential and the opportunity for many different kinds of stories. This particular series has been an interesting experiment for them, and one that has been an overall success.
If you’re interested in learning about The Shadow, this storyline is a good one to begin with. This is a fair representation of who The Shadow is as a character. If you’ve already been following the series, the ending should settle any remaining questions nicely. If you’re not already reading this, I’d recommend picking up the complete storyline in some way, whether that means waiting for a collected edition or buying the series digitally. While not essential reading, this series delivers a modernized Shadow that remains faithful to his pulp roots, and I hope to see more.
Written By Steve Sellers
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