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Pulp comics: Dynamite’s ‘The Shadow’ mini-series

Posted by at 10:10 am Friday, March 3, 2017 in Comics, Review, The Shadow
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Pulp comics: Dynamite’s ‘The Shadow’ mini-series
'The Shadow: Year One' #3

The Shadow: Year One #3

Since 2012, Dynamite Entertainment has had the rights to do The Shadow comics. In addition to an on-going series (now ended), they have had several mini-series and one-shots with The Shadow. This is the second of three articles looking at what they have produced.

Here I will be looking at the several mini-series staring The Shadow: Year One, Shadow Now, Midnight in Moscow, and Death of Margo Lane. Masks and other minis that have The Shadow with other characters will be covered in other postings.

The Shadow: Year One (2013-14, 10 issues) is written by Matt Wagner, and as the title indicates, is meant to show The Shadow’s first year of operating in New York. It actually starts in Asia, with The Shadow on the trail of another man. We will learn The Shadow’s background as the aviator-spy The Dark Eagle, and sadly adds in that in Asia he became a drug lord (an element I never cared for) and later would be taught by masters in Shamballah in the psychic disciplines.

We see him moving into Lamont Cranston‘s estate (we learn of his agreement with Cranston) and starting to setup his first agents (he saves Claude Fellows). We also see Commissioner Weston, Joe Cardona, and Fritz the janitor. But like with the psychic stuff, the series plays a little loose with things, such as having Margo Lane appear from the beginning and having a somewhat “interesting” background for her. It also has his headquarters at the “B. Jonas” office, when that was just a dead-letter drop, and his sanctum was elsewhere. We also see someone investigating Cranston and also Kent Allard, and when he confronts The Shadow, we learn he’s Maxwell Grant and wishes to write up his stories.

But despite the issues, it is a good series.

The Shadow Now (2014, six issues) is written by David Liss (who wrote Dynamite’s The Spider series, which was set in modern times) and brings The Shadow into modern times. Artwork is by Colton Worley who did the first storyline of Dynamite’s The Spider series, and gives an almost photo-realistic quality to the artwork.

The Shadow returns to modern day New York after years in Shamballah. Thanks to what he’s learned there, he hasn’t aged, and presents himself as Lamont Cranston III (no mention is made of him really being Kent Allard). While gone, he had setup “The Shadow Network” as an information gathering organization, staffed by many of the children and grandchildren of his original agents. Shiwan Khan is aged and imprisoned. But he has put his own people into The Shadow Network (how is not revealed), and destroys it, breaks out of prison, and has The Shadow on the run. Khan finds his granddaughter, whom he trains to take over as he works on a scheme to restore his youth.

The Shadow is aided only by the granddaughter of Margo Lane. But he soon starts adding new aides, and is able to defeat Khan’s granddaughter and tries to stop Khan, but he escapes, which sets things up for possible sequels.

Some may not like the idea of bringing the pulp heroes into modern times, but here The Shadow is not as over-the-top as Howard Chaykin did in his series at DC.

'The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow' #1

The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #1

Midnight in Moscow (2014, six issues) is by Chaykin (story and art) and is a sort-of prequel to his Shadow mini-series done at DC. Set in 1949 (the year the pulps ended), it has The Shadow working on an international conspiracy that takes him from New York to London, Paris, Berlin, and finally to Moscow to stop a plot that may plunge the world into a new war. Several of The Shadow’s aides appear, and he goes up again against Benedict Stark, the Prince of Evil (who appeared in four pulp stories written by Theodore Tinsley). But the real villain is someone else.

At the end The Shadow retires and disappears (but he will re-appear in the mini-series Chaykin did at DC). And there is an interesting scene where The Shadow had a holiday dinner with several other unnamed characters that are clearly Nero Wolfe (their host), Bulldog Drummond, Doc Savage, and Tarzan.

It’s kind of a mixed bag of good and bad elements, but mostly good. The trade collection includes the script for the series as well.

The Death of Margo Lane (2016, five issues) is also by Matt Wagner (story and art) and has The Shadow confronting a new enemy: The Red Empress, who turns out to be the daughter of Shiwan Khan, looking for revenge against The Shadow after his death. And the title of the series has a big impact on the story, which you’ll have to fine out for yourself. Again, I could have done without the psychic stuff, and I’m not sure about the ending, but overall it’s another good story.

All these series are collected in trade paperbacks. I have no idea what further series they may be working on, though we are getting a Batman-The Shadow team-up.

5 Comments

  1. John. Always a good review read from you.
    I agree with you, especially regarding the injection of the drug-lord history. It was what I really didn’t like about the Baldwin movie too. Why do that? To show he has an actual dark side?
    I think there are other ways. Like the slipping down the path of “dark side” in the Star Wars story line.

    • Who’s John?

      I guess some modern writers feel they need to justify or give explanation for the Shadow’s war on crime. I guess giving him a “dark background”, especially one he’s overcame, works better for them.

      • Hello. Can you please help me?=)
        Did Batman have his own “calling card”?
        I’m from Russia and there is a site where said that Batman (in1940s) sent living bats to the criminals who became his target by mail. I think that’s a nonsense. Because it’s the Black Bat who left paper stickers of a bat stuck to his victims. Am I right? Or did Batman do something like that?

        • You might have better luck on the many comics-based boards and Facebook groups out there.

          AFAIK, the Batman had no “calling card”. Certainly not that. He didn’t target criminals in that way. And since his Golden Age stories are easy to obtain thru the many reprints of late from DC, there is little excuse to believe that.

          Now, some pulp characters had calling cards. The Spider had a spider stamp in his cigarette lighter he stamped the foreheads of criminals he killed. The Grey Seal left gray diamond stickers behind. The Black Star had his men leave black star stickers. the Black Bat had the bat stickers.

          Some comic book heroes who were more pulp-like left messages behind, like the original Sandman, and the later Night Raven from Marvel UK.

          • Thank you so much for the answer=)

What do you think?