I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book, being just another title in the review docket I assumed nobody else would have a driving interest to pick up. While a fine vintage character, The Shadow isn't one that seems to have any pressing relevancy to have new stories told about him. We've got plenty of shadowy vigilantes in comics, and period revivals usually do nothing to stand out. In this case however, this book surprised me, if by doing nothing more than telling a straightforward story well with some solid art attached. The Shadow involves himself in a magician guild war which has resulted in murder, waged over a mysterious trick formed in a collaboration between escape artist Harry Houdini and author H.P. Lovecraft. Intrigue ensues.
Now, H.P. Lovecraft's inclusion should raise some red flags, as his name and canon has been abused continuously for nearly a decade now, but fortunately we're spared Shadow vs. Cthulu for the time being. While putting him in the book feels largely unnecessary in the resulting story, it avoids shameless gimmickry and instead treats him as a cog in the overall mystery. Cullen Brand writes the book in a believably old-fashioned manner, with arch dialogue and a plot with thin detailing. Imagine taking the script to an old Shadow comic and taking what would have formerly been single panels on a page and stretching them out into splash pages to fit the modern expectation of comic storytelling. It may not dig deep or justify publishing new stories for this character without some revised take, but it reads comfortably and sometimes comics don't need to do more than that.
However, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it nearly as much had it had art of a lesser quality. Giovanni Timpano reminds me vaguely of John Cassaday's art, cinematic but with a clear artist’s hand that keeps it from getting lost in strict photorealism. Marco Lesko's colors compliment the lines specifically well, making good use of tones and light sources, especially during the Shadow's trip to the theater midway through the book. The art is where the book gets its texture in this case and did its job well, drawing me in to the action.
I might read the next issue, not out of curiosity with how the story ends, but just because the book was a satisfying simple read. For all the shit we give Dynamite on this site (much of it well deserved I might add), this issue was a nice exception to my usual expectations.
The Shadow Vol 2 #4 Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Giovanni Timpano Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/11/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital