By David Liss & Colton Worley
As a long-time fan of the classic pulp-era vigilante, the Shadow, the most recent mini-series starring this character, The Shadow Now, seemed particularly intriguing. This is the first time the character has really been brought into the modern age and it was exciting to think how this concept would be handled. After reading the first installment, it’s safe to say that Dynamite has again shown they know how to tackle this timeless crusader for justice.
David Liss handles the writing duties for The Shadow Now, and issue #1 was excellently paced. It is full of dynamic action sequences which were a pleasant surprise given that this is only the first issue in a new take on the character. The gunslinging sequences are also relatively varied, as Cranston takes on a number of evil-doers in pursuit of his quarry. However, there is a ton of story which carries the action with great effect; there is a lot of internal dialogue from the protagonist which not only provides a lot of helpful exposition that helps keep the reader informed regarding the current state of affairs, but also adds a great detective/mystery sensibility to the story. Explanations for the updated aspects of the Shadow’s world are also delivered swiftly, allowing the reader to relax into the tale early on without any confusion regarding what is happening. These new elements also provide some really interesting new developments to an otherwise classic take on the character. Having cleaned up the crime in his city, Lamont Cranston returned to the Far East, decades before issue #1 takes place, in order to continue his training and meditation. Having studied the mystical anti-aging techniques of his masters, Cranston has once again returned home posing as his own descendant. Furthermore, his network of agents was greatly expanded prior to his departure, and this Shadow Network has maintained a vigilant watch over the city in their leader’s absence. These new additions to the book help integrate this story into a modern setting, while simultaneously providing some wonderfully interesting new material to the overall plot. The fact that a number of these more recent additions are also descendants of earlier agents also makes for some interesting character interactions.
Although the story is off to an interesting start, the artwork is one of the key elements to this series. Colton Worley’s work is absolutely incredible; every page features a breath-taking array of images which are incredibly realistic and well-detailed. The art is hyper-realistic, which at times looks like real photos which have simply been painted over. Aside from the incredible quality of the illustrations, the panelling itself is executed with masterful precision. There are a number of pages which feature some really creative layouts which help enhance the story-telling. The colors are also magnificent and further amplify the inherent realism of Worley’s work. Every panel is deep and incredibly lush in appearance, even those set in much darker environments.
The world of the Shadow is nothing new, but this freshly modern take on the character provides some interesting potential new directions. How will this timeless vigilante deal with the world of modern crime? How effective will the Shadow Network remain? The inclusion of both new and classic elements was fused in a great way that worked on every level. The story thus far, as seen in The Shadow Now #1, isn’t anything revolutionary for the world of pulp-action tales, but it’s certainly an excellent addition to the already terrific catalogue of books capturing this character’s heroic exploits.