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.

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