Saturday, January 21, 2012

Best Comics of 2011 No. 5: The Shade mini-series

James Robinson's work on Starman remains a benchmark not just in superhero stories, but in family and extended family narratives.
Is it any wonder, then, that I really like the new Shade mini-series?
The Shade is a 1960s Flash villain, re-imagined as a bit more of a moral cipher in the previous Starman series. In the revisioned narrative, Shade had befriended Oscar Wilde and had film director Tod Browning as a mystic nemesis. This is not the simple saw of villains being more interesting. It's more about the line between good and evil being blurred in one character, which makes for fascinating writing.
In this mini, the side focus is on Shade and his evolving relationship with Molly O'Dare, sister of and officer in the all-cop O'Dare clan, a relationship first suggested in Starman no. 41 (1998). An elaborate story involving Shade's continually cryptic past is the larger framework.
As is the case in much of Robinson's writing, the story offers new questions for every answer.

I was originally put off by the harshness of Cully Hamner's art on this book. I found Tony Harris' elegant, Deco-tinged interpretation of Opal City and its inhabitants a much better fit for Robinson's writing, but the work is growing on me.
I hope sales for this pick up. Robinson has indicated on twitter that the series might not be completed if the floppies don't sell well enough, which I would regard as a real loss. Much of Robinson's superhero work has been strong (though I didn't much care for The Golden Age), and as eager as I am for his upcoming Earth 2 series from DC, this is just as important.
Next: No. 4: a nice Springfield mish-mosh.

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