Monday, 26 December 2011

The Shade

Many years ago 1997 to be precise, a friend of mine who ran a small comic shop (sadly no longer running) advised me to buy a mini series called The Shade. I had never read anything about The Shade but as the artwork on issue 1 was by Gene Ha, and my friend had also advised me to read Sandman and Hellblazer both brilliant books I decided to give it a go. The mini was a an origin of sorts that explained who The Shade was and how he got his powers it was also the start of my love for this underused character (in my opinion)
After reading the mini I sort out and bought as many books that had an appearance of the Shade in them, over the years his appearances have been more or less cameos, although he was given a prominent role in James Robinson’s Star Man a writer who superbly captures the essence of the Shade.
So you can imagine my delight when I heard that a James Robinson would be writing a 12 issue story of the Shade that would tie-in to the new 52.

Below is a quick break down of the first two issues of this so far wonderful series, well that's my opinion but then if I didn’t have opinions I wouldn’t have a blog.

#1: We first meet the Shade as he has tea with his old friend Mikaal who was Starman on Robinson’s JLA team, Shade tells Mikaal that he is not at his best as it is October and October is the month of his creation.

He always tends to feel sluggish and melancholy in this month, he doesn't eat well either is another tidbit he let out.

The action moves to and we meet private detective William Von Hammer as he escapes from a group of contract killers from Belgium of all places known as Les Diaboliques, calling it an escape is possibly the wrong word as he quickly dispatches them before they can full fill their contract. as the last assassin dies Von Hammers says ''I have to warn The Shade''.

Shade is later seen in bed with girlfriend Hope O'Dare and his mood hasn’t altered; adding Hope ties in nicely to the Shades Blackest Night one-shot story where we see first see him in a relationship with Hope. It is also in that story line that he declares his love for her, which doesn’t always end well in comics but I hopefully all will go well as I like Hope as a character and she fits well into the Shades world.

After leaving Hope as she goes to work Shade takes a walk in Opal City's park where Deathstroke appears from the shadows and its not a social call, after the usual pleasantries ‘it’s not personal’ and all that we see the Shade a little worse for wear at the end of the issue. The term he is in bits would perfectly describe his encounter with Deathstroke, and it’s hard to see where the issue can go from here. I even began to think that the story would move on to adventures of Shades past, as I could not see how he could have survived Deathstrokes attack.
I need not have worried as all is revealed in issue 2, and we see the extent of the Shades powers clever writer that Mr. Robinson
#2: With Deathstroke gone from the scene we see that the Shade standing total unharmed (why did I worry so) and the Shade we saw cut to pieces was in fact a facsimile who is made up of shadow. The Shade had sensed Deathstroke before he made himself known, and rather than go head to head with him, which he later points out he could have easily done so if he wanted too. However, he felt it better to have Deathstroke let who ever hired him think he was dead, that way he can find out who wants him dead and why without a contract still been on him.

As Shade prepares to leave Opel City to find out who wants him dead, he says his good buys to Hope who nervously says that she loves him. I found her nervousness strange as she had already told him she loved him in the Blackest Night story, but as this is a new universe I don’t know how much is still in cannon, so it may well be the first time she has said it.

Meanwhile Von Hammer is once again battling and dispatching a hit man french this time, it also during the self commentary as he battles the hit man we get to know a little more about Mr Hammer.
Where would we be without self commentary in comic books I ask myself, and I sometimes think life would be so much easier if we had self commentary in our daily life. However, I also think our daily life’s would be far more exciting if they were accompanied by a music score like the movies, but so far I have found no one who agrees with me so I may have to admit to been a little odd, but in a good way I hope.

Back to the Shade I think, while putting his world in order Shade meets up with Jake Bennetti to ask him to watch over Opel City and to keep an eye on Hope to ensure her safety while he is away. Its during this meeting he is given the warning from Von Hammer, and the name Caldecotts which may help him find out who wants him dead.
Meanwhile Von Hammer is facing off against Bete-Noir and his hench men, Noir is a shadow assassin and he seems to have the better of Von Hammer. Unfortunately for Noir the Shade appears in the nick of time to put him in his place, while Von Hammer takes care of Noir’s hench men.
After the battle both Shade and Von Hammer move to a safer place to talk via Shades ability to move in shadows,Von Hammer explains to Shade that he was hired by Caldecott Industries to find a sample of Shades blood. Unfortunately some else within the Caldecott organisation, has put out a contract on both himself and Shade. Shade then tells Von Hammer he is hiring him to work to find out who is trying to kill them both, and tells Von Hammer to go to England to confront the Caldecott’s while he heads off to Australia.
The issue ends with a full page spread of a lizard like creature in Australia waiting the appearance of Shade. 

Writer James Robinson has a fantastic understanding of what makes the Shade tick, and how he interacts with the world and just as importantly how the world interacts with him. I was a big fan of Robinson’s resent JLA book, and was very disappointed when it was cancelled to make way for the new DCU. This book has gone a long way to addressing that disappointment, but it is not only Robinson’s writing that is the shining light in this book.

The artwork by Cully Hammer is simply stunning, and with Jill Thompson doing art for a one off story set in the 1900’s at issue 8 this book can only get better. The covers by Tony Harris are also top class and worth the cost of the book alone, there I go with my opinion again. I have a couple of Tony's signed Shade / Starman prints on my wall that I bought from a resent comic con, I will be looking to see if any of these covers are available at the next con Tony attends.

As I said earlier I am a fan of this character so I would have bought this book no matter what, but it has totally surpassed all my expectations and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone.

Just one final thing on the off chance that any one from Dc is reading this, when this story is over can we have the Shade on Justice League Dark.
I think he would fit in perfectly on that book, but that’s just my opinion.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

News & Film Trailers

A 6 minute prologue for the Dark Knight Rises has been released, it shows Bane and his men taking down CIA operatives by trashing their plane in Midair: Click the link below.
Batman Prologue

The new trailer for the Dark Knight Rises has been released where we get a better look at both Catwoman & Bane, this one has me chomping at the bit, click the link below to see the trailer.
Batman Dark Knight Rises

 The trailer for the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy has also been released, The Hobbit is due for release 14/12/2012, only just under a year to go click on the link to see the trailer.
The Hobbit

If any film sequel made you ask why then its this one Ghost Rider 2,but to be fair it does look good again click on the link to see the trailer Ghost Rider

Men in Black 3 is due for release on the 25/5/2012, I'm a big fan of the films so this ones on my must see list.  Click the link to wet your appetites.
Men in Black 3

The website for The Amazing Spider-Man launched mid December I have put a link to the site, there is all the usual stuff on there I recommend you take a look.
The Amazing Spider-Man

Marvel have announced that their first big event in 2012 will be Avengers Vs X-Men it will start with an issue 0 in March then become a biweekly maxi series starting in April.

The story will revolve around Hope Summers, who may become the next host of the Phoenix Force. After the death and destruction by Jean Grey when she was Dark Phoenix, the X-Men begin to train the youngster in order to keep her safe and under control.  However, as protectors of the Earth  The Avengers want to take Hope into protective custody until they can “decide what to do” with the girl something the X-Men will not allow.
Now I have to admit I'm a bit of a lapsed X-Men reader slowly catching up in trade paperbacks, but this story certainly has me interested.

Over in the New 52 DC Universe the dates for trade releases has been announced, but if you are waiting for any particular book sit back down they are not out until May 2012 some as late as September.
The full list and dates are on the fantasic website.

Still with DC Jim Lee brings one of DC's the greatest villains to the pages of Justice League #4.
Darkseid was originally conceived and designed by the great Jack Kirby, and hats off to Jim Lee as his redesigned Darkseid has the Kirby look.
Justice League #4 arrived in stores on December 21.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Batman Beyond #8 The Story of Inque

After my resent submergence into the new 52 comics, I decided to read some none 52 books from my waiting stack. What I came across was a gem of an issue in Batman Beyond #8, this is a self contained issue focusing on the origin of Inque.

As with most of the characters in the Batman Beyond comic Inque was introduced during the original animated series run, from what I remember we were given very little of her back story. This issue fills in these gaps and paints Inque as a sympathetic character, and a victim of circumstances that were out of her control.

The issue starts off with a battle between Inque, GPD (Gotham Police Department) and Batman, as she attempts to steal a trigger system for an unknown device. During the battle Inque uses all her skills; including controlling one of the police men from the inside to make her getaway (alcohol controls me the same way on week-ends) It is after these opening scenes are over that we start to see the back story of what led Inque to the life she now has, and why she is so motivated and single minded to complete the jobs she takes on.
We see a young ink (name unknown) as a refugee in a war torn country, both her parents are killed in the early part of the story leaving her alone and vulnerable.
Trying to escape to a better world she falls into the hands of a gang of sex traders and finds herself been shipped over to Gotham in a cargo consignment. On arrival in Gotham she manages to escape but finds herself pregnant and alone in a strange land, desperate for money she enlists in a drug trial which unfortunately for her is not as above board as she thinks it is. This drug trial is what gives her the abilities that make her Inque, after the birth of her daughter we see Inque living in a charity ward as she struggles to feed herself and her daughter. As the effects of the experiments kick in and believing she is dieing Inque leaves her daughter on the steps of a church, and it is a testament to the writing and artwork that these scenes do make you feel for her. Realising that she was not dieing and in fact mutating Inque learns to control her new abilities, and realises that she now has a way of giving her daughter the life she had always wanted too, although it would be from afar.
Over the years Inque closely follows her daughter’s life from before making herself know to her when she hits her teenage years (a teenage girls years are never good in any circumstances), it’s not a meeting that goes well and again you have to feel for her as her daughters rejection hits her hard.

We also learn that Inque is dying due to her own unique genetic abilities, and has taken on the job of stealing the trigger device to gain a temporary cure for her illness.
The closing panel’s shows the other reason Inque was desperate to get herself cured, a ending I will not spoil for anyone on this blog.

The writer is Adam  Beechen who pens a brilliant story that gives depth to someone who was for me a very one dimensional character, pencils by Chris Batista, Inker Rich Perrotta and Colourist David Baron who's colours fit the story completely. 
The whole book has a different look from the cartoon style the book usually has.
I was delighted to read that a new Batman Beyond title is starting in 2012, this issue has me excited for the start of that book.