02 January 2014

Review: The Shade by James Robinson

Comic trade paperback, n.pag.
Published 2013 (contents: 2011-12)
Acquired October 2013
Read December 2013
The Shade

Writer: James Robinson
Artists: Cully Hamner, Javier Pulido, Frazer Irving, Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone, Jill Thompson, Gene Ha
Colorists: Dave McCaig, Hilary Sycamore, Frazer Irving, Dave Stewart, Trish Mulvihill, Art Lyon
Letterer: Todd Klein

After ten years away, James Robinson returns to Opal City and his greatest "creation"-- now clearly(?) set within the confines of the "New 52." Mikaal Thomas is Starman (again), and the series references the events of Cry for Justice but studiously avoids doing anything to indicate that superpowered beings existed in America prior to Superman. But it doesn't say they didn't, either, so you can interpret this story as taking place in the New 52 or the old continuity just fine. Now there's a masterclass. Anyway, speaking of Cry for Justice, I think it's awesome how all the cover blurbs basically boil down to "Maybe James Robinson still is a good writer."

Anyway, this is indeed pretty good. I think the post-reform Shade loses some of his spark, but Robinson otherwise delivers with a globe-trotting adventure, and that's what's cool here: we get to see Australia, Spain, and London, among other places, and I especially liked Robinson's invented superheroes of Spain, as well as the way this story draws into a perfect conclusion. The bits of backstory Robinson sprinkles in also work very well, as did his "Times Past" back in the Starman days.

The biggest kudos must go to Robinson's artistic collaborators. Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson, and Gene Ha each do a single issue, and each is great, of course, but Cully Hamner, Javier Pulido, and Frazer Irving each tackle a third of the main story, each taking a distinctive slice. Pulido takes the three issues in Spain, and his art is the definite highlight of the book, with thin lines, wonderful character design, and some cool layouts. Frazer Irving's use of lighting and color in the final part is perfect for a story so much about darkness and light, too. I wasn't familiar with the work of these three before, but I hope to see more in the future.

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