*Review written by contributor Lido Giovacchini
As a kid I was massively into The Shadow. I owned dozens of his radio adventures and would listen to them at night when going to sleep, eve saw that movie with Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston, in many ways this series is what first got me into superhero comics so I’ve been waiting for a chance to take a look at one of his recent adventures courtesy of the fine folks at Dynamite. So when the chance came to review The Shadow NOW! I quickly scooped it up off the stands for a look and boy was the result kind of mixed. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a good and enjoyable book just not quite as good as I think it could’ve been.
On the off chance you have no idea what I’m talking about I’ll elaborate: the Shadow was one of the first ever superheroes, going beyond a lot of the other pulp heroes who were just a domino mask and a pension for fisticuffs and true grit the Shadow was an urban crime buster with the telepathic power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him thanks to his time in the mysterious orient. In reality the Shadow is Lamont Cranston wealthy man about time (and yes he was an influence on Batman.) The Shadow was a big hit on newsstands and eventually crossed over to have various radio play adventures as one of the first really successful comic book super heroes. Recently Dynamite has started to publish Shadow comics once more in their effort to become kings of public domain 30s crime buster titles (see also Green Hornet, Black Bat, and The Spider) but this one is a slightly different spin on it: what if the Shadow was operating during modern times.
That premise is easily what I like most about the comic, though it certainly helps that the artwork is a knock out. Colton Worley does a brilliant job with The Shadow Now though a lot of points have to be given to the colorist (whose name I couldn’t find in the credits sadly) as the blending and color choices are really great here especially the choice of white text on black background for the Shadow’s caption boxes. I know that seems like a weird thing to praise but trust me the starkly white text and bold black blocks are set beautifully against the moody grey and black world created here, it just helps the captions pop really well and look really cool.
The idea of the story here is that after fighting crime back in the 30s when the Shadow was first active Lamont Cranston eventually defeated his greatest enemy Khan (a possible descendent of Genghis Khan, no relation to the Star Trek Khan) and established a network of agents to stand in for him as he went to Tibet for decades to master immortality, and now that he has he returned to New York to once again police it. As a basic story idea I like this, it could in essence be called a Captain America type story of a golden age type character dropped into the modern world but the Shadow’s personality and self imposed nature of his exile help make this particular narrative choice feel more unique and interesting.
There’s a really solid line in the opening when the Shadow is describing various bombings of banks and upscale homes when he says; “The pundits call it terrorism…I call it something else. I call it crime.” It’s that kind of harsh, uncompromising view of our modern world that I think could’ve made this a great comic in the vein of Dynamite’s early amazing public domain books Project: Super Powers and The Black Terror but the plot kind of derails from that relatively quickly when they bring in the Shadow’s old nemesis I mentioned awhile back the Khan fellow. There’s nothing wrong with the story of the book which is mainly focused on his return sparking the return of his old enemy I just feel like the book would’ve been better served transposing the Shadow’s style and cases into our modern world and seeing his view of what the world became while he was gone.
Despite that this is still a very good first issue, it establishes things pretty quickly if you haven’t ever heard of the Shadow before and gets a lot of the key points of the universe laid out for new readers. Steaks are raised and introduced and the ending really leaves you psyched to see what happens next. Overall The Shadow NOW! is a very fun adventure seeing this classic character and his universe transported into the modern day, it manages to stand out uniquely from a lot of the Green Hornet comics or Captain Midnight and is buoyed by some amazing artwork. I’d say check it out, it could’ve been great but pretty good is nothing to sneeze at either.