Writer Garth Ennis holds nothing back! His first issue of ‘The Shadow’ opens with him… or rather lead hero, Lamont Cranston ruminating on the Japanese invasion of China in the early 20th Century. It’s a fairly graphic and brutal account! Cut to “the present” (pre-World War II) and The Shadow, the legendary pulp hero is searching for two men, Akira Ito and Tateo Kondo and tracks them down to a pier in New York. They are being protected by some hired thugs, who open fire on The Shadow, but mysteriously miss due to his psychic abilities. One thug drops his gun, but another tries to rally the rest against The Shadow, so he kills them all, except the one that dropped his gun, Paul Muller. He allows him to flee, and interrogates another that has already been shot.
Presumably the next day, Cranston meets with an official named Mister Lancaster and his protege Pat Finnegan. Lancaster seems in the know, as to Cranston’s other life, but Finnegan serves as the requisite skeptic. Lancaster reveals that all of the men killed the previous night were done in by the same gun, from the same spot. “Fancy that…” Cranston muses. He agitates Finnegan by vaguely alluding to his “misspent youth” without further elaboration, but this seems to provide him with great insight. Lancaster discusses the two men The Shadow had targeted, stating that they were Japanese Army Intelligence, who’d apparently ruffled some feathers belonging to “the local talent.” Cranston reveals he knows quite a bit about the Far East.
Finnegan flat out asks Cranston which side he’s on, “Are you on the team?!” he demands, to which Cranston replied, “Indubitably.” (There’s a humorous follow up to that.)
As Cranston exits the restaurant, he has an exchange with the mother of a young boy, which further hints to his psychic abilities. He goes home but has his girlfriend, Margo Lane fetched to his abode. The two share an intimate evening, but their relationship us clearly rocky to say the least.
Well, this series is off to a good start. Though the major plot is still unclear, the dialogue is crisp, evoking black and white films from that era. If nothing less, this book delivers soundly in that regard. The art, though not flashy or stylized, serves the story quite well. It’s detailed where it needs to be, but overall is fairly simplified.
Dynamite has proven quite successful in reviving long-dormant projects like John Carter and The Spider, but The Shadow is definitely their biggest score in terms of licensing. Can this book live up to that character’s rich history and fan base? The first issue certainly seems to indicate that it can! Though it is somewhat light, the dialogue and characterization is strong enough that I’m intrigued to come back for more.
THE SHADOW #1
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Aaron Campbell
Covers by Alex Ross, Howard Chaykin, John Cassidy, and Jae Lee