Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Shadow: Blood and Judgment

The Shadow: Blood and Judgment
by Howard Chaykin (story and art)
Dynamite, 2012

This trade paperback from Dynamite compiles the four-issue miniseries first published by DC comics from May to August, 1986.

The 1986 Chaykin / DC reboot of the Shadow garnered controversy when first it appeared, with many fans disapproving of the comic's seeming glorification of violence, and the depiction of the Shadow as an individual whose 30's - era attitudes and sensibilities were in decided contrast with the more progressive, liberal nature of society in the USA in the 80s.

[The trade paperback features a reprint of a 1987 interview between Howard Chaykin and DC editor Joe Orlando, in which Chaykin discusses what motivated him to do a Shadow miniseries. Chief among Chaykin's motivations was a desire to see if he could convincingly place the character in the modern era.]

I won't reveal any spoilers, save to say that the plot, which is set in the mid-80s, focuses on a campaign of harm aimed at the elderly survivors of the Shadow's network of friends and associates. While some of these survivors are able to fight back, the mastermind behind the campaign eludes detection, leaving the Shadow's associates at a disadvantage.

But all is not lost. Although he has not been seen in 35 years, the Shadow is aware of the mayhem unfolding among his associates.........and he will be out to revenge their deaths.....

While I am a fan of some of Chaykin's work - his contribution to the 1970s graphic novel The Stars My Destination is one of his most significant achievements - The Shadow: Blood and Judgment is a dud.

TA major problem is the plot: it is incoherent. Chaykin tries to keep too many story threads running at the same time, and the result is utter confusion, a situation aided and abetted by the failure to include any sort of omniscient narration.

The artwork is subpar; too many panels have a sketchy, hasty quality that makes them difficult to decipher. The color scheme, which was handled by Alex Wald, doesn't help much, either, as it suffers from the flat, dull coloration that characterized the majority of comic books published during the 80s.

But probably the biggest fault with The Shadow: Blood and Judgment is that it assumes the reader to be entirely familiar the whole Shadow mythology. If you are not a fan of the Shadow, than this series will be unintelligible to you, for Chaykin makes no effort to give the reader even the most basic introduction to the myriad characters appearing in this series. I had a vague idea of who Margot Lane was, but.... Clyde Burke ? Harry Vincent ? Without knowing who they are, it is difficult to get all that invested in the drama surrounding their struggle to survive.

The Shadow: Blood and Judgment also gives the impression that when he wrote and illustrated it, Chaykin was consciously (or perhaps unconsciously) trying to emulate Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which, by early 1986, was the template for rebooting a franchise and making it relevant to the modern era. As I made my way through Blood and Judgment, I found it filled with not-so-subtle evocations of the visual style and design used by Frank Miller in Dark Knight.

The verdict ? The Shadow: Blood and Judgment never really comes together as a rewarding re-envisioning of the classic pulp hero. This one is for Chaykin completists only.

No comments: