Seriously, I grew up listening to the pulps. My hometown was located in the middle of nowhere, Illinois, and there happened to be a nearby local radioSeriously, I grew up listening to the pulps. My hometown was located in the middle of nowhere, Illinois, and there happened to be a nearby local radio station that late in the evenings actually broadcast to listeners some old time radio shows. Of all the ones I listened to, The Shadow was my favorite. Naturally, I was thrilled when I found that The Shadow was available (though hard to find in the era of the 1970’s) in paperback; but – lo and behold – there was this other character called The Spider! For whatever reason, my local library had some reprints of The Spider in its collection, so I grew familiar with him somewhat. While the Norvell Page works didn’t inspire me as much as Walter Gibson’s Shadow tales, I did find them an acceptable alternative.
When Dynamite Comics relaunched The Spider for a modern audience, I was there with the purchase of the first issue, and now I’m happy to give some thoughts to the entirety of David Liss’s first saga – “Terror Of The Zombie Queen” – having completed it a second time. (Occasionally, I’ll pass up on writing something the first time I read it knowing that I’ll likely revisit it at some later date. Call me ‘patient.’)
To my delight, author Liss appears to be ‘up to snuff’ on knowledge of The Spider and his various comrades and accomplices as the storyteller wastes no time introducing readers to our singular hero, his confidante Ram Singh, and more than a few nemesis who suspect the hero’s identity. Also, the artwork by Colton Worley makes all of these easy to follow as he’s clearly establishing visual identities that are distinct from the supporting characters. Several panels appear so lifelike as to make one suspect that some of the drawings might be artistic interpretations of pictures staged and taken by Worley himself, but I’ve not sufficient enough inclination to check into details that closely; rather I’m simply thrilled that an artist has taken the time to create a wonderful noir-inspired look to the people and places involved in The Spider’s relaunch.
As tended to happen in those days of old from radio, audiences were never taxed to think about any of the villains or their villainy all that hard; the more you did, the more likely you were to take away the magic and the mystery of a great audio adventure. Much is the same as this modern day Spider faces down an adversary – the lovely Egyptian Anput – who is given only what amounts to a cursory backstory. Thankfully, there are tie-ins to Richard Wentworth’s own world (he’s the real-world alter-ego to The Spider) which include his billionaire father – might he somehow be implicated in this whole affair to turn the citizens of New York into mindless zombies? – but Liss keeps the focus on action, never slowing down and allowing audiences to question why The Spider is off following the next clue to this mystery when there’s a stadium full of these new brain-impaired victims perhaps needing some attention? In fact, come the end of this five-part yarn (with an extra issue tacked on that reads like a stand-alone set-up for something bigger to come) readers might have a hard time remembering what all the fuss was all about; but rest assured – justice will be served in much the way The Spider would see it handled.
Even though the emphasis remains on action, I couldn’t help but occasionally see The Spider as depicted here as The Shadow’s lesser competition, maybe even a distant cousin. (In fact, the pulp was created to counter The Shadow’s popularity in the marketplace of the early 1930’s.) The stable of characters bear more than a passing similarity to those of The Shadow, and sadly Liss does little here to dispel the differences. That isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it does call into question why doing this retread in the first place if you’re not going to make it stand on its own two legs today? The Shadow has enjoyed a handful of comic book appearances, and Liss’s gifts might be put to better use crafting stories for Lamont Cranston, Margo Lane, and the others.
Still, I welcome any return to prominence for those great pulp adventures of yesteryear, so I’ll eventually pick up another volume for digestion as time and money permit. ...more
Despite being a pretty quick read, SMUGGLER’S RUN is actually very good, much of which is owed to the fact that (A) it stars Han Solo; (B) it guest stDespite being a pretty quick read, SMUGGLER’S RUN is actually very good, much of which is owed to the fact that (A) it stars Han Solo; (B) it guest stars the best (and biggest) co-pilot in the Outer Rim, namely Chewbacca; and (C) it’s a web spun by no less than Greg Rucka, a guy who’s probably forgotten more about quality entertainment than most people ever learn.
Basically, what you have with SMUGGLER’S RUN is a Solo-mission set not long after the events depicted in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, back in the time when Han was a bit more disillusioned (still) about the Rebellion than he was ever in favor of it (a problem I thought that plagued STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI, by don’t get me started on that!). Rucka’s Solo feels more like the smuggler from A NEW HOPE, a guy whose wisecracks were a bit more sparing then happened in the latter two films of the Original Trilogy. He was always ready with a blaster, this one was, and that lovable space pirate returns for much of this adventure, and it’s great to see the hotshot pilot back in top form.
If anything, I could quibble about how quickly this RUN ends. About the time it’s kicking into high gear, a reader quickly realizes there aren’t all that many pages left, and I definitely would’ve loved to have spent more time with Solo, Chewbacca, and Beck, the villainous Imperial officer who uses cybernetic enhancements to outmatch those she hunts.
And – would you expect otherwise? Any time Solo’s around, you know the bounty hunters can’t be that far off. In RUN, Rucka creates a squad that appears at times like it’s bound to take down the Falcon’s captain, and that’s only part of the magic smuggled into these pages.
Like the others YA releases that’ve hit the shelves in anticipation of THE FORCE AWAKENS, this one is bookended with an older lead character (Solo) spinning a yarn for anyone who’ll listen; and Rucka quite possibly makes the best use of that narrative device here, combining healthy parts and characters from both timeframes into the action. Still, I didn’t find it as exciting a space trip as Luke Skywalker’s THE WEAPON OF A JEDI, but it’s leaps and bounds better than Princess Leia’s MOVING TARGET, a slow-moving jaunt that offers little legitimate peril. ...more