As a true pop culture icon, Batman has been around for almost 75 years. He’s considered such an archetype ( having influenced other characters within the comic book genre ), that it is hard to think that there could be another character considered a progenitor of his. Sure enough, tho, among the many characters that Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger lists as having influenced the Dark Knight there are Sherlock Holmes, Doc Savage, the Phantom, and ( the subject of this review )…….the Shadow.
The character was first made popular through the Detective Story Hour radio show ( at one time voiced by actor-director Orson Welles ) back in the 1930’s and refined in print by author and professional magician Walter B. Gibson. Clad in a black fedora, and high collared overcoat ( his face concealed only with a red scarf ), the Shadow is a mysterious crime fighter gifted with a vast array of mental powers ( chief among them is the ability to “cloud men’s minds” ). His secret identity is that of Lamont Cranston, a rich playboy ( much in the same vein as Bruce Wayne ) who frequents the Cobalt Club to solicit police information from Commissioner Ralph Weston and his uncle Wainright Barth. As he fights the villainous denizens that make up the city’s underworld, he is also assisted by the lovely Margo Lane, one of the town’s most beautiful socialites.
As with Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, the focus of the “year one” plot device mainly revolves around the central hero’s early days in his/ or her career. We get to see them with none of their much-needed experience. Their strengths unrealized and untested. Their faults more of a danger than any gun or knife. In short, they are stripped down to their basics and awaiting “a baptism by fire”. These are not ace crime fighters , but true neophytes who must make painful and sometimes tragic mistakes in order to find their path.
So… What lurks in the heart of these pages of the first issue of The Shadow: Year One???
My opinion…it’s too early to tell. The action starts in Cambodia where a familiar red scarfed clad stranger is on the trail of a westerner known as the White Tiger, who exhibits similar mental powers as the mysterious pursuer. The action then shifts to New York City and the long-awaited return of millionaire Lamont Cranston. As Cranston re-enters society, he crosses paths with an old acquaintance, socialite Margo Lane. Margo is also the moll of crime boss Guiseppe Massaretti who ( unbeknownst to everyone around him ) is under the mental control of the White Tiger. The Tiger wants Massaretti to consolidate his power in the criminal underworld in order to pervert this power base to suit his own agenda. It’s only a matter of time before circumstances set these characters on a collision course.
First off, I love the artwork by Wilfredo Torres. This book is a nice balance of elements, inks, and color. The writing by Matt Wagner is well paced, but overall it is too early to get a sense of the story and how it is shaping up. However, it’s off to a strong start. The Shadow is one of those characters that I had written off when I was younger ( where my most of my attention focused more on the John Byrne run of Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight, and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn ). As I get older, I appreciate the older characters ( the Shadow as well as the Spirit ) a lot more. I’m sure this book will only add to that appreciation.
THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE #1 (OF 8)
Rating: Teen +
Covers: Matt Wagner, Alex Ross, Chris Samnee, Howard Chaykin
Writer: Matt Wagner
Art: Wilfredo Torres
Genre: Super-Hero, Adventure
Publication Date: Feb 2013
Format: Comic Book
Page Count: 32 pages
UPC: 725130202192 01011