The Blaxploitation era of early 70s films was a fun time. There were lots of great characters that couldn’t have come out of films otherwise, Cleopatra Jones, Coffey and Dolemite to name a few. The one with the most crossover appeal was probably Shaft. From that classic Issac Hayes theme song to Richard Roundtree’s performance it was the epitome of the genre as well as strong enough to transcend it. The problem with films from this era is that they must be viewed in context. They can perpetuate stereotypes and come off as insulting in the modern era. That is why I went into Dynamite’s new Shaft comic with some trepidation. Would they play to the old Blaxploitation tropes or try to update the character and lose him in the attempt? I needn’t have worried. Shaft #1 gets everything right.
We open before a boxing match. A young boxer is being pressured to throw a fight. The men doing the pressuring are not the type you want to cross. The young man has a dilemma. Do what they want or be true to himself and risk retribution. It’s pretty clear from the start which way he’ll go. He’s obviously not someone who bows to authority when he knows it’s wrong.
I loved this book. It starts before Shaft is the Shaft we know and love, which opens it up to tons of story possibility. It tips its hat a bit to the era it springs from but moves on quickly so as to not get caught in the quicksand of caricature. It never feels dated or exploitive and starts building a background for making this beloved character more three dimensional. I loved the art as well which creates the atmosphere and makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Also an interesting note from Dynamite upon Shaft #1’s release:
December 4, 2014 – Mt. Laurel, NJ – Dynamite Entertainment is serving up two heaping helpings of the man who would risk his neck for his brother man this week! As fans who picked up Shaft #1 from writer David F. Walker and artist Bilquis Evely found out today on the very last page where special sneak peek of the upcoming prose Novel Shaft’s Revenge is offered. This first section includes the first eight chapters of David F. Walker’s novel counterpart to the comic series based on the original stories of Ernest Tidyman.
Shaft’s Revenge takes place between the third and fourth books in Tidyman’s original series (Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft Has a Ball). Detective John Shaft is at something of a crossroad in his career, as he’s been working little more than a series of divorce cases for a circle of wealthy women that have hired him to get the dirt on their cheating husbands. Shaft has taken to sleeping with many of these clients, and he is starting to feel like more of a gigolo than a detective.
“When David pitched us the idea for an all-new Shaft Novel, it was simply the icing on the cake,” said Dynamite Publisher and CEO Nick Barrucci “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Tidyman’s original series that with an new contribution in the franchise’s first medium. We wanted to get the first chapter to as many fans as possible by adding it to the digital edition of issue #1 through all channels. And to reward fans who purchased #1 from their local retailers to be able to download the 7 chapters as well with a code inside the comic.”
Shaft #1 is in stores now and is available for individual customer purchase through digital platforms courtesy of comiXology, iVerse, and Dark Horse Digital. The first eight chapters of Shaft’s Revenge are included as a QR code with each purchase. Each issue of the mini-series will contain a section of the prose book with its release. Issue #2 will feature chapters nine through fifteen when it hits stores next month, and the full length novel is expected to be released next spring.
Sadly this wasn’t included in my preview issue but I’m looking forward to reading it when I get my physical copy at my comic shop.
I’m giving Shaft 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a great start to what looks to be a great series. I’m looking forward to reading all the adventures that lead Shaft to become the man he did.
Here’s a peek inside:
Shaft #1 (MR) Cvr A Cowan Main
Writer: Walker, David
Artist: Evely, Bilquis
Cover Artist: Sienkiewicz, Bill
On Sale December 03, 2014
Diamond Id: OCT141248