Muddled plots, unattractive illustrations, and uninteresting characters made this a difficult graphic novel to like. The Shadow features in only one story and the rest of the book is about pulp D-characters Black Sparrow and The Fury. Neither of whom is very compelling and a lackluster storyline meant to titillate but was oddly disaffecting did not do them any favors. The whole volume feels very confused – modern elements mixed with 1940s noir, characters drawn in modern clothing moving through midcentury set pieces, goatees and spandex, modern dialogue, in what is supposed to be a period piece. It just never achieved cohesion and the people responsible for this title really need to look up the definition of noir (I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean ‘overly talkative half naked chicks’, as with this book).
In the forward, we are told that this is meant to be a very noir piece. Femme fatales and strong female characters. But if you draw characters in a ‘Nightwing’ like mask or Catwoman spandex suit, it’s going to jolt one right out of the period. Add in scenes of Black Sparrow in a very modern string bikini underwear and bra with full boots on (note to men: women don’t take off all their clothes and then put their boots back on) and I get the idea that perhaps this is meant for prepubescent 13 year old boys. By the time another female character is brought in wearing full bondage gear including ball gag, and yeah, obviously someone isn’t look for either authenticity in era or credibility. Just to make sure, though, add in the bad guy with the goatee (very common in the 1940s, right??) and you get the idea.
The drawings were strangely unattractive. Margo suffered especially – in several scenes her face looked like it was melting. But the other characters also had odd distortions in shape or face that was really offputting after awhile. It was as if there was no quality control on this title and the editor was on a permanent vacation. Even more annoying, it felt like there was more dialogue than illustrations; 90% of which unnecessary. A good illustrator conveys in images, not words.
For me, the last straw was how the Shadow was portrayed. The writer broke every rule about the character and turned him into a lame caricature. He was one of the best of the era and this book spends more time with Lamont Cranston than The Shadow – a cardinal sin for a Shadow story. It took all the mystery and mystique right out of the character.
This felt very much like something a young kid would do – create a story without regard to characters or plot, just as long as there can be lots of half naked girlies in there. Then throw in the Shadow to get people’s attention.
Very disappointing and one of my least liked graphic novel titles this year. If I’d wanted to see girls in undergarments or bondage, I’d go grab some Grimm Fairy Tales titles by Raven Gregory. I think my 10 year old cousin has some hidden under his bed from mommie.
Reviewed from an ARC.