Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Howard Chaykin?
Well, it’s his turn to figure it out, at least, in this miniseries from 1986 that was one of those Baxter paper “suggested for mature readers” books that was one sign of the huge tonal shift in DC throughout the latter part of the decade. No, the entire company didn’t go completely dark and gritty–that would happen in the 2000s–but a number of books started going in the direction of what would ultimately become Vertigo. DC also seemed to be giving work to a number of people who were known for independent comics more than any work for the big two, Chaykin being one of them because of his American Flagg! book at First Comics.
At this point, I’ve only read a couple of the books he’s written, mainly the sci-fi series Twilight; an issue of Cyberella that he wrote for DC’s short-lived Helix imprint in the 1990s; and the first story arc of American Century, which was a Vertigo series in the early 2000s. He’s also incredibly fun to talk to at a convention, although don’t bring your kids if you don’t want them to hear foul language (although he was very nice to myself and my son).
So as far as The Shadow goes, I’m only familiar with the character through the 1994 Alec Baldwin film, which I saw 25 years ago when it first came out on video. Otherwise, I’ve never read a novel or comic and never listened to an episode of the old radio show. I have heard very nice things about the Denny O’Neil series from the 1970s as well as the Andrew Helfer/Kyle Baker series that came out a couple of years after this one (more on that in a couple of days), and have also heard that this series is considered controversial.
I can see why. It’s a beautifully illustrated series–Chaykin is an incredibly talented artist and he plays with images and layouts in a way that sucks you in. The story on the other hand? Well, that was a little harder for me, although I think that’s because I own two out of four issues of the series, neither of which is #1. So I’m coming into this not knowing who any of the characters are as well as what’s been going on. All I know is that it’s a violent reinvention of a very old character, although I’m going to say that it’s legitimately edgy as opposed to someone attempting edgy, which is what we would get in the decade following.
The jury’s out on this one, as you can see by my noncommittal review here. Since there are only four issues in the series, I don’t see why I can’t track the other two down and then judge the entire thing as a complete work. So I am going to hold onto it for now and then revisit it once I get issues #1 and 3.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Keep. For now.