by David Walker, Bilquis Evely & Daniela Miwa
After the initial shock and surprise wore off from the first issue of this series, there was a bit of intrigue and reservation as to whether this series could be more than a cash-in on a recognizable property. The creative team opened the series with an unlikely and refreshing story about the fabled John Shaft. But was that an indication of what was to come, or a flash in a pan? Would the series continue to focus on who John Shaft was before he became the character most recognize, or would it jump into that individual after this set up?
The second issue of Shaft picks up a bit after the first ended with Shaft looking for a job with the National Investigation and Security Service. The job: an undercover store agent responsible for spotting and stopping petty crime like shoplifting. It would appear that Shaft is more focused on telling readers more about crime fighting and stopping these injustices that diving into the layers of the character that were portrayed in the first issue. There was so much depth to the opening chapter and the layering that Walker and Evely were able to capture in putting moments of his youth, days at war, and the life he had once he returned side by side. To dismiss that for petty crime and a seventies flare seemed like a real unfortunate misstep. Bilquis Evely is still doing a solid job with the pages both in their construction and the characters themselves. And, the writing is solid enough to see just where the second issue is headed.
What remains is the introspection that Walker captured so well in the first issue. As John Shaft begins navigating his new life, there are moments of reflection on the concepts of growing up, survival and defining one’ self. Soon, the story becomes an unlikely romantic plot wherein John finds himself captivated by a coworker after the two lives collide during a bust. But Walker’s craft begins to shine through again as his ongoing narration through the lead character produces some sense of tension and unease. Even though the plot would indicate nothing of the sort, readers may be hesitant to buy into the new life that Shaft has found here. It’s in this divide between what is seen and what is felt that Walker and Evely squash the doubts that seemed to manifest in the early moments of Shaft #2. There is absolutely a reminder in some of the characters and dialogue that this book is meant to take place within a certain universe. This is not Christopher Nolan putting comic book characters in a different world. Walker is not dismissing the universe from where Shaft comes. However, he is taking that and adding to it in a very compelling way.
Evely and colorist Daniela Miwa do a solid job of maintaining the visual appeal of the story. The setting is never too polished, but the images are well detailed. Miwa’s coloring choices both in the hues used as well as the texture that can almost seem tangible in how it is employed certainly establish a distinct era. But the effectiveness of the second issue and the story as a whole are a credit to the writing craft of David Walker. Though there seems to be a missed opportunity in further exploring the story line that was presented in the first opportunity, Walker brings the second issue to a close in a way that rights the ship. It might not be the unknown origin of Shaft that readers never knew they wanted, but it is possible that in telling a larger story that moves beyond that limited space, Walker and Evely will be able to craft a book titled Shaft that does even more.