In Review: The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1

You know in your heart that you want to read this, and so does the Shadow.

The covers: Three different covers to seek, if your heart is strong enough. The A cover is by Matt Wagner and Brennan Wagner and it’s spectacular. A gigantic bust of the Shadow, his pistol brandished in his right hand, sits just below the title. Below him is Gloria Sullivan, a shipping heiress that’s been kidnapped, prompting his action on the final pages of this issue. Behind the hero and victim is a gorgeously detailed dragon on a screen. To the right third of the image the screen ends and a silhouette of the city is shown with a red sun shown just behind the end of the hero’s gun barrel. The Shadow looks sensational, the dragon awesome, and the woman in need of rescue excellent. The colors are also strong: with the protagonist’s dark garb being the perfect eye catcher against the gorgeous red dragon and the sepia of the heiress. This is poster, tee shirt, print worthy. The “B&W” Variant cover is the same image as the A cover, just without the contributions of Brennan Wagner. I am a huge fan of Matt Wagner and if you are as well, this is a cover you’re going to have to track down. Though I do admit to liking the colored version just a titch more. The final frontpiece to track down is the “Virgin Art” Variant cover which is the same as the A, though this one has no text on the cover. This is also an impressive cover. All three of these covers are winners. Overall grade: A A+, “B&W” Variant A, and “Virgin Art” Variant A+

The story: What an opening! The first three pages focus on Margo narrating her tale to the reader: her relationship to the Shadow and how his focus has fallen upon the “baffling case of the Red Empress,” who looks to be surging violence in Chinatown, left by the void created with the death of Shiwan Khan. Lamont Cranston and Margo enter a taxi driven by faithful Shrevy. They’re heading home, though they’ll soon be heading to the airport where the hero hopes to track this problem at its root — China. Matt Wagner spins a sensational story of his iconic avenger trying to locate the Red Empress, encountering an unexpected conflict on the voyage home. The dialogue at the top of Page 8 is terrific — I absolutely love what the first speaker says. Cranston’s response to what’s occurring is awesome. The frustration of the character in the final two panels is a great preview of trouble that’s soon to follow. It was neat to see the title character battle this pair without changing into his hat and cloak; instead using an item he always has on hand. The way one villain is taken out on 9 is perfection. How the final baddie is dealt with is equally outstanding. After this altercation, I thought there was no way to top this scene, but Wagner has Cranston do an action on 10 and 11 that was the cherry on top of this sequence. The abduction of a shipping heiress, Gloria Sullivan, spins the story in a new direction, which inevitably links up to the Red Empress. The Shadow goes looking for Sullivan by the story’s end, with Margo waiting outside, giving narration that adds to their relationship. It’s in complete opposition to what the hero is doing, but adds tremendously to the action. This is spectacular. Overall grade: A+

The art: Matt Wagner is a double threat: his art is as good as his writing. The opening splash instantly transports to the reader into the world of the Shadow. Margo sits at home, writing in a book her knowledge of the title character. Surrounding her are images that represent what the hero does: his ominous profile, a hand holding a wicked blade, a thug shooting a machine gun, money spilling about, cars racing, a noose, and a skull. Wow! She doesn’t look at all as if she should fit in with any of these elements, but she’s so chic her visage shows she could handle any of them. As if this wasn’t impressive enough, Pages 2 and 3 are a double-paged spread (though four panels inserted at the bottom) that’s a spectacular vision of the Shadow on the street, his guns blaring. There are also mobsters falling before a Lucky Strikes poster, a gorgeously detailed skull wearing an Asian headdress, Chinese lanterns, and the small panels which display the title character trying to open a safe, Chinese assassins bearing axes, the hero using his ring, and the hero running, his cape beautifully splaying behind him. At this point, I felt that the cover price had been met by Wagner for the visuals. The fourth page has a great panel that had me hearing the music of John Williams. 5 is a full paged splash showing Margo and Lamont meeting with a contact and it’s an image that one could easily get lost in. The transition at the top of 6 is cinematic. The tease of danger in the first panel on 7 is excellent and is reinforced in the fifth. The point of view on 8 foreshadows where some individuals will soon be headed. The bottom of 9 was just flat out cool. The city on 11 is spectacular, and I have to admit to having a strong liking for circular panels in books that feature extreme close ups of characters. The settings continually remind the reader of the time period and the architecture deserves a special long look at their fine details as one reads this book. The Shadow’s journey into the building is perfection. That can be said about all the visuals of this book: perfection. Overall grade: A+

The colors: There is a perfect line that Brennan Wagner walks while coloring this book. He uses dark colors to give a dated look to the events, but the injection of certain colors provide a huge punch to the visuals. The main color that does this is red and its many shades. Look at the sensational reds used on the opening page: Margo’s hair, lips, top, broach, and dress. The faded reds to create a covered window’s light on the wall is cool, but that yellow eye on the skull also catches attention. The reds are dominate on 2 and 3 with the Shadow’s clothes, light through windows, the lanterns, and the power of the hero’s ring. The faded tans and yellows at the bottom of 4 perfectly dress the image. The reds are again super on 5. The splash of reds in the final three panels on 9 really show the strength of the Shadow. Reds illuminate the introduction of the city and give it a sense of evil. The classic utterance of the Shadow appears in two different forms on 15 and are colored in glorious reds. Throughout this book, the colors dress the visuals flawlessly. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Margo’s narration, dialogue, text on an important document, a character’s unique speech, yells, a whisper, newspaper text, and the tease for next issue are crafted by A Larger World Studios. Listing off all the elements doesn’t really give enough credit to A Larger World for what they do on this book. Within the narration of the first page, the Shadow’s classic line is differentiated from her words, as is the name of the book’s mysterious antagonist. This continues on the next page when the hero’s name is first given. The same is done when the dead antagonist’s name is stated. The fonts used in these moments are beautiful, adding to each character’s importance and creating the time period for the reader. When the thugs attack Lamont and Margo, their speech is full of bold capital letters as they yell and scream. This is not a “one note” creation of dialogue; the letters are visual feast unto themselves. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: Captures the settings and the hero’s exploits sensationally. You know in your heart that you want to read this, and so does the Shadow. Recommended. Overall grade: A+

To order this issue or other books featuring the exploits of “He who knows what lurks in the hearts of men” go to http://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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