Dynamite Entertainment has made themselves a nice little niche, taking characters from a wide range of media, many of whose histories predate comics, and getting top creators to work to recreate them in entertaining comics.

Enter The Shadow, a pulp hero from the 1930′s.

The story of The Shadow, the character created by Walter B. Gibson, first appeared on serialized radio adventures in 1930, before moving to print stories in 1931.  The Shadow is Lamont Cranston, a wealthy playboy with a mysterious past.  Having spent time in Asia in his youth, he learned  how to cloud the minds of others, allowing him to seem invisible or look like anyone else he wants them to see.   The character has been featured on radio (most famously played by Orson Welles in 1937), pulp novels, comics, comic strips, television, movie serials, and feature films, most recently in 1994′sThe Shadow, featuring Alec Baldwin in the title role.

It has been a bit since The Shadow has been seen in any medium. Enter Garth Ennis (The Punisher, Preacher) who’s black ops superpowered team comic, The Boys is currently published by Dynamite.  Ennis, known for his hard hitting, hard boiled stories is a natural to write this comic, and has created a story that has a pitch perfect take of the old pulp magazines, while maintaining a modern accessibility to the characters and story.

The Shadow is a crime fighter, but not one who is shy of using lethal force when needed.  He’s a product of his world, a world at war.  All of his enemies, foreign and domestic are subject to .45 caliber justice. He uses his guns and his abilities to create illusion to pull “the weed of crime” that “bears  bitter fruit.”  “Lamont Cranston may be just another illusion he projects to those around him, clouded their minds to amount of blood he has on his hands.  They say the Shadow knows the evil in men’s hearts, maybe he knows it too well.

The story’s action is front loaded, with so much bloodshed in the first few pages, it could be a bit off putting to those not familiar with Ennis’ work.   So much happens in the first act, it makes the second half of the book feel a little thin, but it is not off putting. The book’s supporting cast members don’t get introduced so much as brought into the story, there is little exposition explaining the relationships, but they can be well inferred by their interaction.

The art, by Arron Campbell, is good.  As a period book, they’ve recreated the world of 1938 New York, just coming out of the depression, but still seedy, and violent.  The opening pages flashing back to the brutal invasion of China by Japan showcases the atrocities of war without feeling out of place in a crime book.  More impressive to me is the coloring,  very reminiscent of Sandman Mystery Theatre, which was set in this same period of history.

The weed of crime bares bitter fruit, The Shadow Knows

Dynamite does a great job packaging their books, with some of the best cover artists, which may make the interior a little lackluster, wrapped by the work of Alex Ross, Howard Chaykin, Jae Lee and John Cassidey.  All of these covers look brilliant, and one is sure to catch the eye of any comic fan.

The Shadow is an important character in comics history, who would influence the likes of Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster,  Bill Finger, and Jack Kirby when they were creating so many of the comic characters we all know.

In all The Shadow is off to a great start, and if it continues to deliver on the promise of the character, and the creative team, this book may become huge, and you’ll wish you picked up #1 now.

My score ………………… 8.5 of 10.

The Shadow #1
Dynamite Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99
Rating: Teen +
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by Aaron Campbell
Cover Art by: Alex Ross (25%), Jae Lee (25%), John Cassaday (25%), Howard Chaykin (25%)
Page Count: 32 pages
On sale Wednesday 4/18.

The Shadow in The Poison Death (part 1) – Starring Orson Welles, first aired on radio on 1/30/38

The Shadow #1 Ross Cover