Lamont Cranston aka The Shadow has taken some time off to rest and rejuvenate in “the East” before returning to New York to continue his fight against evil in The Shadow Now. Showing some forethought, The Shadow made sure his worst enemy, Shiwan Kahn, was behind bars and established a network of operatives to care for the city in his absence.
The Shadow Now proves a good entry point into the mythos for people who, like me, have never followed the prior adventures of the vigilante. David Liss provides enough information to keep things clear, and a clear story that stands on its own. Despite his plans, The Shadow soon finds himself stripped of his organization, without most of his money, and facing a ruthless foe. His only trustworthy ally is Margo Forsythe, the granddaughter of his first love, Margo Lane. While not a particularly deep tale, it is an exciting pulp fiction story with brisk pacing and of excitement and challenge for the hero and his new, less-than-ideal, recruits.
Speaking of recruits: Mavis Lockheart, the middle-aged, efficient manager of the organization in his office deserves special mention, even if she is only present at the beginning.
The Shadow himself proves to be more vigilante than hero. While he takes care not to kill innocent bystanders, he has no qualms about killing those he deems evil, nor about setting them against each other. The people he faces are also ruthless, so there is plenty of casual violence, including one gang leader instructing his followers to find some women and rape them to death. By the end, there has been quite a bloodbath, and there have been threats of further harm, though the art avoids showing much of the actual gore.
There are a couple of minor complaints: One could wish that Liss had chosen to pair The Shadow up with anyone but the granddaughter of his first girlfriend, especially since they have the same name. It makes the women seem oddly interchangeable, like spare parts rather than people. That said, Margo Forsythe proves to be a determined, capable woman, and at least so far, neither she nor Lamont are showing any signs of trying to duplicate the prior relationship.
Heroes also have a fondness for keeping familiar villains on hand, and sure enough, The Shadow’s nemesis proves to be more than a mild irritant, so The Shadow is entering the new age with an old villain in tow. Shiwan Kahn does bring his granddaughter into things, but sadly, after a short promising spell, she never grows past the irritating teenager stage, failing to provide a new villain for a new era.
Colton Worley’s painterly art is delightfully atmospheric. He has taken the time to provide portraits rather than types for most of the characters. Body types and facial features vary, and everyone looks like someone you might pass on the street. I admit to being particularly pleased that Cranston, rather than being a tough, square-jawed type is actually rather slight, with a sharp, foxy face and a large noes. Unfortunately, the portraiture breaks down somewhat with the Vietnamese villains: Mr. Leung still has the recognizable “villain” mustache and facial type.
The Shadow Now serves as a solid way to introduce The Shadow to readers and putting him in the position to fight future enemies without an overwhelming advantage.
The Shadow Now is available December 17 from Dynamite Entertainment.