When you hear the word “pulp” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe it’s the movie that made the word famous again, “Pulp Fiction”. You might think of something to do with trees or even orange juice. Well, you should be thinking about Dynamite Entertainment’s The Shadow.
This character debuted around 1930 first in serialized pulp magazines and then in radio programs. A lot of people don’t realize that this is one of the most famous pulp characters of the 20th century. Besides print and radio, The Shadow has spawned 5 movies in total with the most recent being released in 1994 starring Alec Baldwin. The comic property has been passed down over the years with DC Comics doing a couple of runs in the late 70’s to 80’s and then Dark Horse buying out the rights to do their own series in the mid 90’s. Fast forward to 2011 and Dynamite Entertainment announced that they had in fact licensed The Shadow from Conde Nast. As most of you know Dynamite has done a superb job bringing a lot of these pulp properties back to life in new and interesting ways. The Shadow #1 written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Aaron Campbell is a fine example of an older property made new again.
The story takes place in New York City sometime in the 1940’s. Our hero, clad in a black trench coat, red scarf, and fedora is going to make a stand against evil. In this case the evil is Nazi sympathizing Japanese Soldiers who are looking to board a ship against the will of the people who are on it. We don’t know exactly what is on it, but we know that The Shadow makes quick work of a number of Japanese soldiers very quickly with his dueling pistols. The action is fast paced and the Shadow is quick to let his guns do the talking. Garth Ennis does a great job sticking with the times in terms of dialogue. The heroic phrases used by the Shadow, brings us back to a more simple time in comics when the division between good guys and bad guys was more black and white than today’s shades of gray.
What would come off as a bit campy in a modern day setting works very well in this particular setting of the 1940’s where you’ll hear the Shadow say things like “I want you, you pair of vermin! Prepare yourselves for death!” and “The rest of you are merely hirelings. Fools. I urge you. Do not make the leap to scum.” The action is quick and violent at the beginning and the rest of the book focuses on The Shadow’s alter ego Lamont Cranston and his dealings with people of power and influence that help him to get the edge on evil doers when he becomes The Shadow. We also get to see him briefly with his love interest Margo Lane and here we get to see the aloof yet suave side of his character typical of male heroes of the time, at least in film. The art is dark and gritty as you would expect in a story like this, but does this type of a book justice given the time period and location. The Shadow is an iconic character and they’ve done a tremendous job sort of turning back the clock and making this seem like a read from the past without being insulting to modern intelligence. If you are looking for a fun pulp/noir detective read then you’d be hard pressed to find a more appropriate book than The Shadow #1.
Parental concern: Medium, some violence and gore