Friday, November 29, 2013

The Shade TPB

See, now this feels like James Robinson wrote it. There is a certain, verbose, introspective nature to Robinson’s best work. A sort of smug tone that comes through, an unapologetic aloofness in both the character’s voice and in the plot itself. Robinson’s best work has this, found in Starman, The Golden Age, and even his Malibu series Firearm. It was totally missing from his average run on Justice League. This wildly variable level of quality is so vast that at my comic store, a group of readers have even voiced the belief that Robinson doesn’t write all the books that bear his name.

I’m not in any position to say that.

What I can say, is that this feels like Robinson again. There is no need to dwell on Justice League Cry for Justice when we’ve got good stuff right here. Picking up The Shade after all these years, Robinson picks right back up. The Shade almost inhabits a different world than the rest of the DCU, but in the age of the new 52, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, during the Shade’s expansive world tour and flashbacks, there are very few pre-existing DC characters. Vigilante looks just how we remember him; although I’m pretty sure he and some of the other heroes here don’t work with the new 52 timeline of active superheroes. While Deathstroke is wearing the wrong costume, he sounds just right.

The story involves Shade tracking down his descendants and either helping them out, or taking them out. The plot is largely secondary. This is a world tour of Robinson’s DCU, meeting superhero vampires and Outback/dreamtime demigods. I read it in a few nights, and even I lost track of the overarching plot a few times. This is a trade you read to meet some of Robinson’s new ideas rather than see the development of a superhero universe. And frankly, that’s exactly what I want. When you can’t stand the new 52, seeing it pretty much ignored is perfect.

Of course, Robinson’s case is strengthened by teaming him with tremendous artistic partners. The storytelling in this book is uniformly excellent, even with different artists taking the many chapters and characters. Cully Hamner, Javier Pulido, Frazer Irving, Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson, and Gene Ha is a pretty ridiculous set of collaborators.

A self-contained story with fantastic art. One that harkens back to “my DCU” more than the new 52. The energy analyzer says that makes for a pretty GOOD comic. 


Dan Reilly said...

I'm about halfway through this now, and I got the impression that it was pre-New 52. I'm doubt that Jack Knight ever existed in the new DC continuity. (Which is not working at all for this LOOOOONGtime reader.)

I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this...that gives me hope. I'm around the halfway point, and I'm underwhelmed so far. If this doesn't pick up for me, I think this will be the last shot that I give Robinson.

Timbotron said...

I actually think it got better as it went along. I enjoyed the good vampire and her detective/lizard man sidekick.

This was published in the New 52, and Deathstroke is wearing his bad new costume. But, I'm not going to complain that I get something that feels like the "real" DCU, you know?