by Carl R. Jansson
The Shadow has a long and storied history in radio, dime store novels, and comic books, with many creators bringing new elements to the character and the world he inhabits. The Shadow has had some amazingly talented people play in his world, but none that brought this level of creativity and class to the table until 1973 when Denny O’Niel and Michael Kaluta had their first go with DC Comics. 1988 saw them return to the title, this time at Marvel Comics, bringing with them Russ Heath, and continuing their atmospheric interpretation of the avenging crime stopper.
Out-of-print for over two decades now, Dynamite Entertainment has remastered this thrilling story of The Shadow taking on the Third Reich for a whole new generation, and re-released it in a wonderful 68 page hardcover, giving this fantastic story the treatment it deserves.
On Easter Sunday of April 1941, a young woman pushes through the Manhattan crowds, racing for her life. It’s a chase that will lead from the bustling American metropolis all the way to Berlin, the dark heart of the Nazi regime. Like marionettes dangling from invisible hands, neither Allies nor Axis agents can tell if they are the puppeteers… or the dolls whose strings get cut. Behind it all, The Shadow looms, a master of men with cold, hollow laughter and blazing .45 pistols!
The story, co-written by O’Niel and Kaluta, brilliantly casts The Shadow as revisionist historian, guiding the tide of World War II exactly where he wants it to go, through manipulation and trickery. Using the very real idea that Hitler employed and trusted astrologists plants The Shadow firmly in the middle of real world events, giving the story some weight. The pacing is breakneck, jumping from beat to beat, a real page turner! Each page is packed with excitement, as the storytellers don’t waste a single panel. These are truly creators at the peak of their abilities.
While not a lot is shown but implied, this creative team does not shy away from the violence inherent in The Shadow’s world, or the sadistic nature of the Nazis. These are nasty times these characters live in, and the creators use them to show that violence begets violence. This version of The Shadow is probably the closest I’ve seen to his original pulp roots, and this story left me wanting so much more.
The team-up of Kaluta and Heath is simply gorgeous, looking less like a typical comic book, and more like traditional illustration taken directly from a pulp novel. The pages are lush, highly detailed, and every panel feels as if you could just walk right into their world. Kaluta and Heath are masters at the top of their game, and nowhere is that more apparent than the sword fight between Colonel Wolff and The Shadow. There is so much going on in those few pages beside the fight itself, as The Shadow uses his real weapon against Herr Wolff, manipulation, causing Wolff to end himself.
Mark Chiarello and company give the pages a lush palette, with a painterly look that gives everything an expressiveness and lavish complexity. The rich painted colors brought this story to life in a way today’s computer coloring simply couldn’t.
It’s taken 25 years for this book to see print again, and for a new generation of fans it was well worth the wait. Kudos to Dynamite and all involved, for bringing this brilliantly crafted thriller back onto the shelves.