Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: The Shade #1

James Robinson's Starman was one of those really special comics that highlighted everything great about older comics while doing something that felt new. Robinson's ambitious saga had this strange sort of rhythm to it that made you feel completely immersed in Starman's world. Starman himself, Jack Knight, was a wonderfully crafted character, but the book's supported cast felt three dimensional as well. One of the most fascinating characters was the enigmatic Shade, a sometimes villainous immortal who had connections to generations worth of Starmen. The Shade had a brief miniseries in the 90's, and has had a few minor appearances in DC comics since Starman ended, but those longing for more of the character were best served re-reading old Starman issues.

Now, The Shade is back, in a 12 issue miniseries that recaptures everything that made Robinson's Starman run great. This isn't really for people who didn't read Starman. In a way, that's what's so great about it. It's written so specifically for the people who did read and love the series that it feels like an undiscovered issue. Robinson doesn't make any attempts to make this fit in to the DCnU continuity, and I'm grateful for it. He just sets out to tell a great story with characters he knows very well. I've heard rumors that this series, much like Robinson's upcoming JSA series, is set on Earth 2, but for now, I'm choosing to believe that these are the exact versions of these characters I've read about in the past.

william von hammer

This issue is mostly a character piece, but there's still some nice story and action. I can't say I'm particularly drawn in by the assassination plot, but I love the way the fight scenes were handled, and I really liked getting to see Hope again. Robinson's dialogue has a really unconventional style, and every character has their own unique way of speaking. Changes in narration are so distinct that something like stylized narration boxes would feel redundant. Starman was a pure superhero comic, but when I read it, I often felt like I'd be happy with an issue of nothing but the characters chatting in a record store. Shade isn't a superhero tale in the same sense, but it has that same vibe. Reading anything with these characters will be a joy, and I'm looking forward to whatever settings Robinson chooses to put them in.

When I saw the Shade's rotating team of artists, my jaw dropped, and Cully Hamner's work gets the comic off to a great start. For me, this is the best work he's done since the 2003 miniseries Red. His lines are strong and sharp, and he injects a sense of energy even into the book's quieter moments. With a character like The Shade, many colorists would choose a dark, atmospheric palette, but Dave McCaig's colors are wonderfully bright and establish mood in an unexpected way. The way some of the early panels cut between scenes makes for great visual storytelling, and there are some really gorgeous uses of texture. There's a slight cartoonish vibe to the book that works well with its most violence moments. With the wrong artist, this would've felt very over the top, but with Hamner, it's just right.

hope o'dare

As I said before, this isn't really for people who didn't read Starman. If you go into this issue blind, you need to be comfortable with not knowing who characters are, or what they're talking about. I suspect that more information will be provided to new readers as the story progresses, but for the time being, I can't recommend this as an entry point. They're pricey, but The Starman Omnibuses are very easy to get into, and I suggest anyone intrigued by The Shade give them a look. The books themselves are high quality, and the stories inside are some of the best the 90's has to offer.

I urge anyone who loved Starman to give this series a look. This doesn't feel like James Robinson writing Cry for Justice. This feels like the James Robinson who gave us one of the best superhero stories of all time coming back for more. As the series continues, we'll get to see talent like Frazer Irving, Darwyn Cooke, and Jill Thompson try their hand these characters, and plot-wise, I think the story is only going to get better from here. There are a lot of directions Robinson could take the series in after his final page cliffhanger, and I'm interested in reading them all.

By Marceline with 1 comment


Nice review. The only part I don't agry is that the new Shade miniseries isn't people who didn't read Starman. I haven't read any Starman book, but I got and enjoyed the book just fine!
As for the whole blog, it's really good. Keep up the good work!

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