In Review: The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #2

A "Must Read" for fans of action, adventure, and heartbreak. It doesn't get better than this.

The cover: This month’s installment in this saga has three different covers for you to track down…if you have no fear in finding them! The Regular cover is a change in positions from artist Matt Wagner and colorist Brennan Wagner. A large vertical panel dominates three-quarters of the cover with the title character behind bars, angrily holding the rails which imprison him, his eyes radiating from beyond his pen. Below him is Margo Lane, dressed in a familiar trench coat and hat, firing a pistol at an unseen foe off panel to the left. She’s colored in a faded, burnt rose; perhaps foreshadowing the event that inspired the title of this series? Winding down on the right is a string of Chinese firecrackers with the title of this book in the center. This is another outstanding cover that I would welcome as a tee shirt, poster, or print. There’s also a “B&W” Variant that features the exact image as the Regular cover, minus Brennan’s contributions. It looks fantastic, but I’m more fond of this piece with the colorist’s work showing. The final cover is a “Virgin Art” cover that’s the same as the Regular cover, but without any text. If you’re a fan of this artistic team, you’ll want this cover. Overall grades: Regular A+, “B&W” Variant A, and “Virgin Art” Variant A+

The story: Even if a reader missed picking up the first issue, writer Matt Wagner has the reader instantly immersed in the story by having the villains of the previous issue gloating over the Shadow who’s behind bars; using a kidnapped heiress as bait, four minions of the Red Empress have captured the hero. Caged, the Shadow still retains his abilities and with a gaze convinces one of the thugs to believe he’s escaped his confinement, causing the man to go into a panic. A slap from his superior with a “Idiot! Don’t look into his eyes,” and the man regains his mind. After this show of discipline, the leader shows the hero his fate: to die in an explosion caused by a drum of TNT. Meanwhile, outside the building, loyal Margo Lane frets that her lover may be in danger. Driver Shrevie tries to calm her, “C’mon now, Miss Lane…You know the boos. He’s who the bad guys are scare of…not the other way around!” Their conversation is interrupted when a pair of men attempt to hire the cabdriver, but their motivation is not for commerce. What follows is an incredibly fast paced action sequence on two fronts: with the Shadow trying to essentially escape a time bomb, while Margo has to make do on her own. The means by which the thugs activate the explosives is fantastic, a perfect device of the time period. Naturally the Shadow escapes (That’s not a spoiler!) and how he does so is equally outstanding. The parallel of the characters on Pages 11 and 12 is great, with the final panel on 15 exceptional–I love that the character is shown in his alternate persona, as that is his more human side; yet he resumes his iconic persona on the next page, showing him to have pushed his emotions aside. I expected the Shadow to go to the location on 18, but I didn’t expect to see what he sees. As if this issue wasn’t enough of a gut punch, the final page is the ultimate heart breaker. The lines on that page are amazing. You’re killing me, Mr. Wagner! Overall grade: A+

The art: Matt Wagner is also the artist of this issue and he continues to make this book look incredible. The opening page is a splash from the Shadow’s point of view, with him holding the bars of his cell looking upon the four men who have caged him. Wagner gives all four of the villains distinct personalities with his illustrations, with the leader looking smartly dressed yet smarmy by his features, the number two man is dead in his eyes while he points his pistol at the hero, and in the background are the pair of gigantic thugs, partially in the shadows, insinuating that their strength is as great as the title character’s. The second page begins with a panel looking down into the room, to show the reader what the Shadow has to work with to escape his confinement. The third page shows the Shadow’s power over minds exceptionally. Margo goes into action on Page 8 and it was great to see this character do something that she normally doesn’t do. The large panel on 11 is outstanding, giving the reader exactly what he or she needs to see in a Shadow comic book. Another panel that a reader would want to see starts 13, with the hero in a classical pose of peril. The double-paged splash of 14 and 15 is deservedly a double-paged splash, as this an important–if not the most important–moment in this series. There are three small panels inserted into the larger image, and the final one is the most dramatic of the issue. I love that this was done with this character in one persona, and, with the turn of the page, a different persona takes over: this is an awesome visual bit of character building for the reader to witness. The location the Shadow goes to on 18 is illustrated wonderfully and the reaction from the character in the final panel is what anyone’s reaction would be. The close up at the bottom of 19 contains no text but communicates absolute pain, with the first panel atop 20 being shocking. The final page of this issue is also a full paged splash, and it is beautiful and tremendously sad, which is the perfect way to wind things up. Wagner is a drawing god. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Amplifying the visuals are the perfect colors from Brennan Wagner. The first page has the Red Empress’s name in red, being an instant area of focus to the reader. Red is used often to direct the reader to a specific element in the art or to pack an emotional punch, such as in the dramatic first panel on Page 3. When the Shadow is shown at the bottom of 6 his skin is as white as death, which suits his brand of justice flawlessly. The greens that are used on 7 are practically blasphemous on the page, which matches their deadly use. Gunshots receive a faded orange tint, differentiating them from the reds that the Shadow wears. The word yelled on 15 gets a red outline, making the exclamation seem all the more passionate. The lack of colors that begin on 18 make the setting seem more ghastly and allow the use of some colors, such as red, to really pop on the page. Wagner makes the outstanding art on this book exceptional. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, the Red Empress’s name, Margo’s book entries, a sound, and yells are created by A Larger World Studios. I really like the font given for Margo’s book, which sets it apart considerably from all the other text. The gunshots and fireworks in this book look as though Wagner did them himself, though the sound on 7 looks as though ALWS did that one. The yells are dramatic heartbreaks, and the tease for next issue is wonderfully glitzy. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A “Must Read” for fans of action, adventure, and heartbreak. It doesn’t get better than this. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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