Pulp Corner: The Shadow Vol. 1 – The Fire Of Creation
I am truly fascinated by the original pulp vigilante The Shadow for my money he was the best of those creations from that era. He’s left quite a legacy in his wake with legions of imitators. I was excited when Dynamite picked up the license for the character (amongst many, many other old school pulp characters) and began a new series with him back in 2012. I picked up the trade for Vol. 1 The Fire of Creation as soon as it was released without reading the 6 collected issues prior. The author of course was Garth Ennis whom I didn’t particularly have great success with his Fury miniseries but I was willing to give this a shot.
I must say that I had a sinking feeling almost right off the bat. In the opening few pages The Shadow lays waste to a horde of Chinese dockworkers with kill shots right through their heads via his dual 45’s. This lets you know that this is darker and more violent version of the character. In fact it’s more a mash up of many different variations of The Shadow throughout history. Not only can he cloud men’s minds like the pulp novels but he can control their soul (and by extension body?) to perform small tasks as well as glimpsing into their fates. Yea, it’s weird.
Set during WWII it’s a story of political intrigue starting in NYC and making its way to Japanese occupied China. The Shadow’s alter ego Lamont Cranston is tapped by the U.S. Military Intelligence to obtain a radioactive element that can be used to create powerful weapons. The only problem is they have to stay ahead of both the German and Japanese armies. It’s a good globetrotting adventure yarn better suited for someone like Indiana Jones rather than The Shadow.
The Shadow we see intervening throughout the story is not the mastermind detective from the old pulp that mysteriously appears only to dispense justice. Here is more a blend of the radio dramas as well as the 1994 Alec Baldwin movie, more powerful and all knowing. That’s part of the reason why this story didn’t resonate with me as much as I thought it would. The pulps have most of his henchman do the legwork allowing The Shadow to emerge in key moments. Making it seem like he can in fact be all knowing. This just shows him as Lamont Cranston having that ability. Which also brings me to my next point, there’s too much Lamont. Here Lamont is a straight up asshole where there is really no dividing line between him and The Shadow other than the outfit. We spend 90% of the book with him and he’s just unlikeable not to mention largely misogynistic towards his lover Margo Lane. It’s almost like he’s using mental powers to keep her with him against his will. The whole thing just feels a little off.
Aaron Campbell’s art is right at home in this adventure setting. His style has a sketchy not quite finished vibe and a muted color palette that helps things from getting too bright in the world of The Shadow. Truly the best part of this volume is the covers by Alex Ross as well as Francesco Francavilla variant covers. They are a work of beauty.
When I finished reading it, I didn’t hate it. I was more conflicted than anything. It was ok for what it was, but it certainly wasn’t “my” vision of The Shadow. A good fun story though and had it been any other character, even a brand new one I think I would have enjoyed it more. Garth Ennis, you’ve yet to win me over sir.
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