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God of Comics – The Shadow #1

The Shadow #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

I’m never quite sure what to think of Dynamite Entertainment. On one hand, they do thoughtful looks at things like feministic theory set in a fantastic backdrop (the Gail Simone run on Red Sonja) or weirdly introspective time-travel heist stories about confronting the worst parts of one’s self (Miss Fury from a few years back) or weirdly deconstructive stories about the nature of the medium (the latest Vampirella run) or genre (the last Vampirella run). On the other…

Well, there’s a heavy nineties influence in a lot of their titles and some art choices that keep the Escher Girls going, so they have that going for them. They’ve started doing more thoughtful and less tits-and-ass and it’s working out well for them so far, resulting in an increasing amount of attention on their characters and brands. They keep things tight and self-contained, drawing on character history with respect to those characters and working to the strengths of the medium – in effect doing the exact opposite of what Marvel is doing.

It’s weird watching Dynamite be a considered voice in the industry while Marvel shoots itself in the face, but these are the times we’re living in and that ties directly in the comic we’re here to talk today.

The Shadow is an old figure, an icon that has been the subject of movies and television shows and radio plays and books and comics. He’s this weird amalgamation of different mythologies, taking the concept of the white savior adopting foreign powers, but then subverting a trope by directly confronting the emptiness of his own culture. He knows the darkness that lurks in the hearts of every living human being, including himself.

And there is darkness there: the Shadow is a sinister figure, a ghostly giant of a man with two pistols and weird tricks of the mind, a swath of scarlet scarf the only color he offers other than the black of his clothing and the darker black of his eyes. He’s a horror movie monster who haunts the other monsters, Batman taken to the logical extreme: an isolated nightmare that hunts the human monsters that prey on all of us.

This comic gets that. It pulls no punches – we’re given a lot of exposition here, but we get it from the perspective of someone the Shadow saved long after his guns have gone silent. She should have been the victim of a school shooting but the Shadow knew and she walked away. She’s a nurse who is heartbeats away from being a doctor and there’s a burned man who came in, naked and still fierce and strong, a man with no memory of who he might have been.

But she knows. She heard him laugh and that laugh still keeps her up at night – and she was one of the ones he saved.

Writer Simon Spurrier is a name you should recognize. He did the Spire over at Boom and we raved about that. He’s written some of the better Ghost Rider stories, some good Judge Dredd, the awesome and haunting Godshaper. He cuts to the quick of the mythologies he works with and pries out surprising tales that draw strange and relevant parallels to the world we live in and right from the start he’s stated his ambition here: to confront the darkness of political corruption, corporate greed, distractive culture… the grounded crimes that are far more likely to kill all of us than some mere supervillain.

Dan Watters is also on board, doing the writing thing. We’ve talked about him before, too, because he was the guy that wrote the Little Nightmares comic. He’s done some comics for Assassin’s Creed and is working on a tie-in for the latest Wolfenstein, too. This is a writer who knows how to delve deep into the guts of a mythology and pull out the best parts, and it should be interesting to see how he works with Spurrier; the two of them seem like the types that will bring out the best in one another. Time will tell.

Over on the art front, Daniel HDR and Natalia Marques have their work cut out for them: they need to handle flashbacks that harken to the classic tales, the modern era as it happens and as a flashback, and they need to make everything different enough that you can tell at a glance what’s what but still find a cohesive visual language for the whole. It’s a difficult challenge, but one the two of them handle with deft skill.

If stories like this are what Dynamite is moving towards, you better believe that you’ll be making mine Dynamite. Pick this up and find out why.

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