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God of Comics – The Shadow #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

October 17, 2017

The Shadow #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)

What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

Maniacal laughter ensues, violent lives brought to a violent end.

There’s a thing about looking backward, perhaps, and thinking that life was better and simpler back in the past, when people lived to the ripe old age of died in childbirth and doctors refused to wash their hands because why would they? A gentleman’s hands are always clean was the excuse given, and thousands died while going to doctors. That’s violent, right? A violent bit of nonsense that resulted in full graveyards.

Someone once said that the conservative mindset is rooted in the idea of moral perfection having already been found, and that any challenge to what is has to, therefore, be evil. It’s an arrogance rooted in the belief that we have already come as far as it is possible to come, when any observer could tell you that everything moves, changes, grows. The only still things are dead, and even they are given over to entropy.

Taking this as an idea, it stands to reason that a still morality is going to become entropic: it must decay, fester, turn evil. Hubris and arrogance are the roots of evil, then, the certainty that comes with feeling that one is done growing, done changing, done trying to make the world better.

Objective reality, of course, cares nothing for ideology. When good men step aside and allow evil men to rule, when lies are not called out and become a matter of policy, the innocents that are murdered remain dead. No amount of thoughts and prayers are going to bring them back. No amount of ignoring the problem is going to make climate change any less real, and no military might is going to halt the destruction to come.

It occurs to me that might be the most horrifying thing about being the Shadow – the Shadow knows that evil. The Shadow has to be able to see the cause, the course, the inevitable ripple effects that result in trauma, pain, more evil. Violence cycling down, tarnishing everything noble with entropy, convincing people to destroy what they believe their god created so that their god will come back and save them. From the everything that they themselves destroyed.

Here’s the truth: we’re all going to die. Sooner or later. There may be a heaven or a hell, but within the context of his own mythos the Shadow will live on. He can be hurt, butchered, crippled, and killed but the killing never takes. He heals and returns, heals and returns, heals and returns because when you know evil like he does you cannot turn away from it, cannot do anything other than fight it with everything in you.

Si Spurrier and Dan Watters are exactly the sort of writers that get this, a sliver of that knowing taking root in their souls. It’s enough to grow into a tale where the Shadow is forced to confront the root causes of the symptoms he has spent a century fighting. Here, we get him burnt and helpless, recovering from wounds that should have killed him but, again, death just doesn’t take.

The stories of the Shadow in that world, though, have inspired copycats that miss the point, because they don’t know. His nurse, meanwhile, is a woman he rescued from a school shooting and she’s trying to do him a solid, keeping him hidden and safe from the many evils that threaten him… all while trying to heal the mind and body, delving into the dark sins that drive one who knows.

Daniel HDR handles art, setting tones, lines, and colors that differentiate flashbacks, time periods, eras, mythologies; it’s a strange confidence that lets him experiment with form and create various styles that work well to build a cohesive whole.

And as good as the individual pieces are, the whole is better still. Do not miss this.

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545

God of Comics – The Shadow / Batman #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

October 4, 2017

The Shadow / Batman #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)

Didn’t this just happen…?

Well, yes. Yes, it did. It started in April and wrapped a few weeks ago. DC Comics had their crack at this crossover earlier in the year, and even used the same writer. Steve Orlando told a solid and harrowing tale that worked with the constructs that both the Shadow and the Batman demand, and yet he sowed them together and showed where their similarities lie. Most importantly, he moved the mythology of both characters forward by weaving a tale rife with fated outcomes and the price of free will, the cost of perspective and redemption.

Heady stuff, but Steve is good like that.

This is the follow-up, the chance for Dynamite to publish the second half of Steve’s story – or so we assume. Previously, we learned that the Shadow is created from evil and given the task of redemption, and that someone who chose evil and murdered their way towards corrupting everything forever. Batman and the Shadow stopped that from happening by combining their efforts despite their differences: while both of them know the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, the Shadow kills and the Bat does not.

Interestingly, Steve put forth the idea that the powers that taught the Shadow were also shaping Bruce, preparing him to take up a different mantle; when Bruce turned them down, the Shadow imagined himself cursed to carry the weight of his struggle forevermore. It’s interesting that Bruce, offered immortality, would turn it down – but then, he has always been human, and always known that some day he was going to die.

So, here they go again: the path to those that taught the Shadow has been lost, leaving two men who cannot stand one another struggling to understand what one of them is and might become. In the process, they have discovered a taint that lies at the very core of both civilization and the human spirit. Can even minds such as theirs stop such a threat without killing everyone in the process?

This is the question that Steve Orlando asks: can evil be fought without destroying everything? Can one look unblinking into the Abyss without the Abyss looking into that one? Dynamite brings Giovanni Timpano for another crack at the Shadow, and if there is anyone that illustrates that character better you’d be hard-pressed to find him or her. The man lives in noir, regardless of what other genres he finds himself bringing to life with his clever pens: science fiction (Eclipse), horror (Infestation), Action (Justice, Inc), or even camp (Plan 9 From Outer Space Strikes Again!).

Do not miss this – it’s going to be incredible. And be sure to pick up DC Comics’ version of this when it comes out in trade, too.

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602

God of Comics – The Shadow #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 14, 2017

The Shadow #2 (Dynamite Entertainment)

This comic has me conflicted.

Not about reading it, or loving it. This is definitively something I need to read and recommend, and I know I’m going to feel strongly about pretty much every page. Rather, I’m conflicted about where to start this diatribe. There’s a choice, see, two starting points that are equally valid and important. I’ve been staring at my computer screen for minutes, silent and static before even writing this much. All this was meant to do was quiet the terror of the blank page but now I’m lost in the mire.

Let’s flip a coin.

Okay.

I knew this comic was going to be good the moment that Si Spurrier was writing it. He’s the genius behind some of the deepest, most complex, and politically charged comics of the modern era – and, yes, he’s British and so there also a stint on Judge Dredd and the associated stuff, but coming out of that he’s done the Spire and God Shaper and Weavers and Cry Havoc and… listen, if he’s working on something it’s going to be great and full of a simmering anger at social injustice and the complacent idiocy that allows corruption to fester.

Mind you, Dan Watters is not a writer to pass over, either. He lives and breathes in the darkest parts of the human imagination, having written Limbo and Little Nightmares and Assassin’s Creed. Each of those titles speak of the societal ennui that has murdered the soul of a generation that knows there is nothing for them, that the lies of their parents have led to a nightmare from which there is no waking.

Lastly, there are artists Daniel HDR and Natalia Marques, the former of whom adds moody inks and ghostly lines to the latter’s eerie color palettes and love affair with shadows. Something this bright should not be this haunting, and yet…

And yet.

With that in mind, could there be a better character for them to write than the Shadow? You’d be hard pressed to think so; the Shadow stares unblinking into the evil that lurks in the hearts of every living thing. Traditionally, this means that the Shadow fights gangers and thieves and the like, the symptoms of crime rather than the causes. Is this truly what the Shadow, above and beyond any other hero, would be fighting?

Yes, there’s anger and hate and evil in the gangs and thieves and all the rest, but the police are all too happy to shoot and kill people they even suspect of doing bad things, regardless of whether they do them or not. We have all sorts of fictions dealing with crime lords and their lackeys finding judgment at the hands of some reckless madman with a gun, which only leads to more madmen and more guns.

The question is often asked: why don’s superheroes deal with real world problems?

The answer is that superheroes deal with the real world problems of their worlds, but the Shadow is unique in that his arch-rival is literally the evil that lives in the heart of every living thing. He’s shooting gang members, sure, but that doesn’t actually fix the problem of institutional racism and enforced propaganda and media compliance that makes those gangs look like the only way out of a terrible situation.

Street gangs, terrible as they might be, are still only a symptom. They’re victims of generational abuse that are lashing out, a reflection of the pride and greed and wrath that have hurt them and degraded them and demeaned them time and again. The same pride and greed and wrath that feeds false narratives and pushes for border walls and thinks racism will make anything great and looks back at false histories and believes in alternative facts.

The real causes are the people that hide behind corporate personhood while crashing national economies to make themselves rich, that ignore the health and suffering of the people they steal from to make themselves a little wealthier, that believe that an accident of birth gives them the right to a pride they have done nothing to earn. The real causes are the people that are killing the planet and everything on it to feed a strange death cult that venerates the worst impulses of the human soul.

And who looks unblinking into the heart of human evil?

The Shadow. The Shadow knows.

He is alone in this, sad and evil. Sad because he is alone and immortal, more force of nature than anything human. Evil because he has stared into the abyss too long, his laughter tinged with the madness he found there, an insanity he uses to keep the evil at bay as much as he uses his guns to cleave the cancer out. There is no forgiveness for some things, and salvation has always been the lie those who do evil use to abdicate responsibility. The Shadow knows all of this and is terrifying because of it.

So bring him into the modern world, bring him into reality and turn him loose. Burn him and steal his memories, lock him away and try to forget he exists. The Shadow knows. Give him the chance to recover and he will come for you, a righteous madman full of anger, written by two writers and an artist that understand the broiling rage of eight billion suffering souls that have been lied to in order that they might feed a paltry few. Their work comes down from the highest authority.

Jack Kirby once said, “You fellas think of comics in terms of comic books, but you’re wrong. I think you fellas should think of comics in terms of drugs, in terms of war, in terms of journalism, in terms of selling, in terms of business. And if you have a viewpoint on drugs, or if you have a viewpoint on war, or if you have a viewpoint on the economy, I think you can tell it more effectively in comics than you can in words. I think nobody is doing it. Comics is journalism.”

Who are any of us to doubt the King?

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480

God of Comics – The Shadow #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

August 11, 2017

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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424

God of Comics: Batman / The Shadow #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

April 25, 2017

Batman / The Shadow #1 (DC Comics / Dynamite Comics)

The Shadow beat Batman.

Got your attention? Good. The Shadow was a radio play serial that debuted in July of 1930 and followed that up with print in April of 1931. Batman, of course, debuted in Detective Comics in March of 1939. It’s safe to say that Bruce took some things from his forbear, though he upped the theatricality and lost the faux East Asian mysticism. Both characters did originally use guns and outright murder evil-doers, though Batman gave that up shortly after his origin was firmly established, but Bruce still follows a lot of rules the Shadow started.

The Shadow only hunts after dark. So does Bruce. The Shadow has sidekicks and supervillains and a secret lair. So does Bruce. The Shadow has a multi-millionaire alter ego whose life was touched by tragedy. So does Bruce. The animated series even paid homage to the Shadow and his influence on Batman with the Grey Ghost character.

Here’s the set-up: there’s been some spectacular murders happens in Gotham, which is very much the sort of thing that attracts Bruce’s attention. Trick of it is, all the evidence points to Lamont Cranston as being the culprit – but Lamont has been dead for more than fifty years, and is the alter-ego of the original Shadow~!

This is very much the sort of mystery that Bruce loves and can’t let go of, so he’s going to dig deep and peel back the layers until he gets to the truth at the core of Lamont’s life… but the Shadow is out there, trying to stop him, and the Shadow knows exactly the sort of evil that lurks in the heart of every man.

Also, the writing team on this is Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando, the former of which has a reputation as one of the best Batman writers of our era and the latter of which has been doing amazing things all over post-Rebirth DC, so that has a lot of promise. Both of them are also fans of the Shadow and they’ve promised that this is going to be a classic mystery, a meeting of the minds as much as anything else.

As if that wasn’t enough, Riley Motherfucking Rossmo is handling the art on this. You might recognize his gorgeous stylings from Rasputin, Constantine, Hellblazer… the man is unspeakably good at creating mood with a sketchy style that is utterly unlike anyone else working today. His artwork is perfect for a story like this, where nothing is certain and everything is always in danger of falling apart, a world where truth is a vague ephemera, more promise than reality.

Yeah, this sounds like exactly the comic we need right now. Bring it on.

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Odin loves comics

502

God of Comics Afterthought 2013-08-28

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 1, 2013

This week: Young Avengers #9, Scarlet Spider #21, Batman ’66 #10, Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted #9, Batman/Superman #3, The Shadow: Year One #6, Green Hornet #5, Grimm Fairy Tales: No Tomorrow #1, Itty Bitty Hellboy #1, Overtaken #1

We are Living Myth Media, and we are here to read comic books! Every week, we go and feed our addiction (single issues mostly online, trades mostly from conventions or Big Pete’s). And every Wednesday we respect Woden, the God of Comics, and we speak of the stories that he, in his greatness, has brought us. We speak of it on twitter.

That’s a preview, though, and there’s time we don’t pick up the things we were looking for or end up picking up things we didn’t talk about on twitter. So, here’s what comics we got this week and what we think about ‘em after the reading.

Once again it’s Gregory Milne here subbing in for this week’s God of Comics Afterthoughts. Aaron Golden, your regular host, likes to rate things on a five star scale. I, however, am not Aaron Golden. He’s much more svelt. That said, I’m not big on ratings myself and since I am in charge this week, I say to heck with the rating system!

We good? Cool. Let’s do this:

 

Itty Bitty Hellboy #1
A throwback to old Sunday funnies, the characters of the BPRD are re-imagined as children in a collection of short strips. Very cute and quite entertaining. This was brought to us by the creators of the Teeny Titans and they’ve knocked it out of the park again.

Batman ’66 #10
This book has to be one of the most consistantly fun, entertaining and creative books going right now. It’s the old Adam West/Burt Ward dynamic duo, but if the show had a huge budget. All the camp and cheese is in full effect and its just gold. This particular issue sees our caped crusaders voyage to Jolly Old England in pursuit of The Mad Hatter, who is stealing various crowns around London. The scene where Hatter gives a soapbox speech mid-heist to impress upon the present crowd the importance of hats is priceless. And two words: British Batmobile.

Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted #9
In a lot of ways this is a comic book adaptation of the recent Wolverine movie. It follows very similar paths story-wise. The difference is that it is set in current Marvel continuity so it features Sabretooth, Sunfire and the current incarnation of the Silver Samurai. Much like Batman ’66 does, Japan’s Most Wanted takes full advantage of its digital format giving a sense of cinema to the story and movement to the action. It’s been very exciting along the way. This issue takes a sidestep into being damn near an anime episode with Wolverine battling classic tiny elderly master character, this one a fire-wielding member of The Hand.

Batman/Superman #3
This surreal and nightmarish time and universe-hopping tale continues. I’m not sure if it has gotten any clearer as to exactly what is going on, but its has still remained interesting. Jae Lee was a perfect choice as an artist for this series. Everything seems just off and that helps keeps the tension going. Unique to this issue is flashbacks (done by a different artist) showing us the first childhood meeting of Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent that really illustrates the common ground these two different characters stem from. Darkseid is being introduced to the story and his herald is prophetically teasing the necessary death of one of the characters. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

The Shadow: Year One #6
This series has kept me swaying on whether I enjoy it or not. Matt Wagner definitely keeps the script strong as one would expect, however it has been for from the original tale that I went in expecting given the title. It ends up being just another Shadow book, although that is hardly a bad thing. That aside, its the art that honestly throws me. It often feels inconsistent and swings from perfectly moody and noir to bordering on overly cartoony. While there are always campy elements to The Shadow, at its core -and especially in this iteration- is a serious crime book, and that isn’t being reflected in the visuals like it is in Dynamite’s regular series. The story itself does make it worth a read still.

Green Hornet #5
Given the recent modern updates on the character (both in the film and Dynamite’s Legacy series), its great to see The Green Hornet taken back to his roots in 1941. The city is gritty and ruled by mobsters. This dead-serious take on things has been hitting every note perfectly. The only real change to the costume is Green Hornet’s new full-face mask which I love. Both more mysterious and intimidating. The story has gotten very meaty with Hornet and Kato parting ways and alter-ego Britt’s plan to expose members of the crime world blowing back in his face. Do pick this one up if you like crime books.

Grimm Fairy Tales: No Tomorrow #1
The latest in Zenescope’s flagship Grimm Fairy Tales umbrella begins this week. Not really a fairy tale this time around per se, but rather the Grim (Grimm?) Reaper. I would definitely say that this issue hooked me. The Grim Reaper in question (a gorgeous woman in Zenescope’s regular style) is present at two back-to-back disasters, an earthquake and a building collapse. The sole survivor of the collapse being the only person to have seen her. It was a tough read in the opening for me given the tragedy of the material, something that while brief, wasn’t shied away from.

Overtaken #1
Speaking of first issues, Aspen’s newest series debuts this week and I have to say that was a fun read. Now I do need to note that the seven page introduction establishing the war of the aliens was kind of tedious and likely exposition that belongs later in the series, the remaining pages were a nice ride. A couple from Chicago move to the small town of Turtle Creek and we’re introduced to the colorful small townsfolk. This leads up to what seems to be an old school alien abduction story. The teasers for the next issue, however, give me the impression that the series will be headed into more of a John Carter of Mars/Flash Gordon direction. I’m just fine with that.

Young Avengers #9
This issue seemed to be teased as a big finale and it really wasn’t. That serves me for reading the previews I guess. It was still a solid issue however and Young Avengers has never failed to be one of the very best books in Marvel’s line-up. Our heroes find their way back to Earth but are still being teased by a spectre in the form of deceased team-mate Patriot and Speed is still missing. Even in all that, Young Avengers does what it always does best and focuses on the relationship and lives of the teen heroes and in the regard we do get a big shift (that I will leave spoiler free).

Scarlet Spider #21
This is the first time that I have ever been able to say that I’ve been disappointed in an issue of Scarlet Spider. Much like Young Avengers, its not to say that it wasn’t a good issue but there were elements that let me down. The cliffhanger from last issue was Kaine still having his scars and theoretically dying a slow death again. Having that resolved about fifteen pages later felt like a bit of a cop-out, even though it served the story. The same can be said for the arrival of the thought-dead Ben Reilly, the original Scarlet Spider (also a clone of Peter Parker). This also seemed (especially where the story ends up this issue) as something that could have been strengthened by stretching it out even one more installment. At the end of the day still very much worth a read.

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