Review: The Shadow: Year One #1

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THE SHADOW is a character that has lasted through decades on the pages of pulp magazines, over the radio airwaves, thru the silver screen, and in the panels of comic books. Shrouded in mystery, his origins have been explored and hinted at over the years…but never fully revealed. Much is known of Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston’s years spent in the Orient and Central America-wherein he gains his powers and purpose…but not how he first developed his persona as the Master of Darkness. Eisner Award-winning author, Matt Wagner is joined by artist Wilfredo Torres in an exhilarating 8-issue limited series that will explore the dynamic events that first drew Cranston back to the States, how he first met his companion and lover, Margo Lane, how he began to assemble his vast network of agents and how he first adopted the famous black hat and cloak as his alter-ego’s disguise-all secrets that, up until now…only The Shadow knew!

Dynamite’s highly anticipated Shadow: Year One series kicks off this week giving us a look at the origin of Kent Allard/Lamont Crantson, better known as The Shadow. The eight issue series is written by Matt Wagner with art from Wilfredo Torres. Brennan Wagner handles colors with Simon Bowland tackling lettering. The Shadow has been around for a long time, so is revisiting his first year a good idea or is it another evil lurking in the heart of man?

shadow coverThe story opens in Cambodia in 1929. A village is on fire and being attacked. A younger boy relays the story of what’s happening to one of his elders. Ying Ko is approaching. He has already taken out the most fearsome warlord and he is coming for everyone else. Ying Ko, or the Shadow of Judgement, appears and deals with the gun toting youth. He questions the elder about one of the warlord’s guests, a man the villagers call the White Tiger. Ying Ko is hot on his trail and will chase him no matter where he goes. Where he goes is New York. City. Ying Ko, known here as Lamont Cranston returns home after an undisclosed number of years. Departing the ship, he passes a reporter looking for a story. What’s a better story than the prodigal’s son coming back home? While the reporter is trying to find out the details of Lamont’s return, we switch over to the story of Margo Lane. Margo is sleeping around with a big bad mobster. That’s a big enough problem, but Margo’s mouth gets her in even hotter water with Joe “Big Gun” Masaretti. Lamont, Margo, and our mobster cross paths at a club. Margo finds herself in trouble and in need of a hero. Who will rise to the occasion?

Wagner writes an interesting introduction story. We have Lamont serving largely as bookends to Margo’s story. He’s there in Cambodia and is sprinkled in after his return to New York, but he doesn’t really have a presence until the end. It’s an effective way to make a shadowy character even more shadowy, but hopefully we see more of Lamont/The Shadow in subsequent issues.  Margo can serve as a nice introduction device. Wagner does abuse ellipses and stuttering dialogue within an inch of its life though. Sometimes it’s put to good use, but seeing all the ellipses and “b-but I-I” dialogue starts to wear thin. Torres lays down some good art, it has a very pulp feel and is cartoony in places.

Bottom Line: The Shadow: Year One shows a lot of promise. Wagner starts to shed some light on The Shadow, and what we’ve seen so far is pretty good. Aside from the complaints with the dialogue, it’s a solid introduction story. The Shadow is behind the scenes in this issue mostly, but hopefully there’s a lot more to come 4/5

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