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Review: The Shadow #1


By Philip Schweier
August 15, 2017 - 14:03

I’ve been a fan of The Shadow ever since 1973, when he guest-starred in Batman #253. I’ve followed the character to old-time radio recordings, paperback reprints, comics, vintage serials, and the 1994 Alec Baldwin movie. I like to think I know my Shadow.

This aint it. The Shadow #1 is nothing more than an intro to a story that features a Shadow-like character.

My personal interpretation of The Shadow is that he is not a super-hero. He doesn’t arrive on the scene in the midst of a crisis like Superman, nor is he called into action by the authorities when a super-villain with a gimmick is on the loose, like Batman. Nor does he patrol the mean streets, beating up muggers like Daredevil.

The Shadow is a detective, who brings separate clues together to expose conspiracies, and foil criminals. Perhaps an unscrupulous lawyer out to claim a family’s fortune, or maybe the complex plans of a master spy intending to do America harm.

But in the late 1940s, the urban legend that was The Shadow disappeared, and faded from the American consciousness. Random sighting in the 1950s and ‘60s, perhaps, but he never evolved into the modern age. Like the Lone Ranger or Sherlock Holmes, The Shadow is best left to another time, when prowling the night in ninja-like fashion was more feasible – and gunning down criminals was more acceptable.

The Shadow #1
is told through the eyes of a young intern, who in the fifth panel makes it clear to the reader she’s a Latina. How that serves the story is yet to be explained, unless it’s just diversity for diversity’s sake. To me, it’s just turning the dial up to 11; not just a victim, but an ethnic victim. Her first words to the reader are, “Y’know, I met him once.” Apparently when she was in high school (M.W. Kaluta High School, no less. Heavy-handed much?), a couple of young punks who look WAY too old to be high school students decided to shoot up the place.

And in broad daylight, The Shadow arrives to gun the “boys” down. But then he pauses in mid-barrage to lecture the two on white privilege. This, from a man who spent decades masquerading as Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town. So maybe he should know better than most that crime and entitlement know no economic boundaries.

At the end of the non-story, the young intern is convinced the man whose bandages she’s been changing is The Shadow. He’s been burned, and entered the hospital in a berserker rage. Why? We don’t know yet, but for Shadow fans, it doesn’t really matter much. This interpretation has strayed so far from what makes the character unique that in my eyes, he’s just another super-hero. He’s certainly not The Shadow.

Dynamite has had mostly good fortune publishing new Shadow adventures, but those have been written by people familiar with the character, who were respectful to his roots. The Lone Ranger belongs in the Old West. Sherlock Holmes belongs in Victorian England. The Shadow belongs in gangster-era New York. This current effort to modernize him, and bring him up to date 75+ years later, is in my opinion, misguided.

Rating: 2 /10

Last Updated: February 5, 2023 - 09:06

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