by David F. Walker, Bilquis Evely and Daniela Miwa
Until reading the first issue of this new series, the idea of reintroducing the character John Shaft sounded pretty uninspired. The character has become mostly a shell as years have passed and a series revisiting him appeared as though it would be nothing more than shallow fun. After just one issue, David Walker and the team of Dynamite’s Shaft series proved that this book deserves an audience. Walker appeared to be fighting an uphill battle, and has conquered that at every release. With the support of great art and colors by Bilquis Evely and Daniela Miwa, Shaft #4 continues to be a fantastic book.
One of the most understated aspects of Shaft is the art direction and set design of the series. Evely does an absolutely stunning job depicting New York City in this era. The backgrounds are never simply shaped around the characters. Instead, the setting always feels as considered as the facial expressions on the leads. Shaft #4 brings readers back into the world through a return to Harlem, as John reflects on the city and his history with his hometown. Walker’s use of The Wizard of Oz in this sequence paired with Evely and Miwa’s construction of Harlem truly make New York its own character with as much influence as any individual on the page.
In issue four, Shaft must find any leads he can to a woman named Marisol Dupree. Her connection to Arletha is how Shaft’s life was turned upside down. And somehow, the muscle in Harlem can smell blood in the water. Since this incident, the demons of his past have seemed to surface all to quickly. As Shaft returns to Harlem looking for answers, now under the thumb of Venneri, others turn up and set him on a course that sets the tone and direction of the future of the series. Walker’s craft is absolutely apparent and his control and understanding of Shaft shines through in the monologue’s that weave through each issue. Evely and Miwa echo these introspective moments by flashing in scenes of moments the readers have not been privy to as they occurred. These quick cuts of recent events range from cherished memories of his time with Aletha to the dirty work he has had to do for Venneri and establish not only a tone, but also a state of mind for the character.
Suddenly, Shaft has transitioned. After masterfully reworking the character and the setting in the first few issues, Walker has set the lead on a path that seems tragically inevitable. As this issue comes to a close, Shaft begins to share similarities with Frank Castle. And while Walker has a definite sense of restraint in his writing, the crafting of the issue heads towards a more classic story type by its end. Walker’s story telling over these four issues have earned this direction and made it one that is all the more compelling to witness. Paired with excellent art from Evely and Miwa, Shaft continues to be fantastic each and every issue and readers will definitely be anxiously awaiting the next chapter.