Masks collects the Dynamite comics series bringing together a ton of pulp heroes, including the Shadow, the Green Hornet, the Spider, Miss Fury, the BMasks collects the Dynamite comics series bringing together a ton of pulp heroes, including the Shadow, the Green Hornet, the Spider, Miss Fury, the Black Terror, and many others. The story, by Chris Roberson, gives us the state of New York under the grip of the fascist Justice Party. This is a corrupt political party, essentially run by gangsters, meting out terror and oppression under the name of the law. The notion that a state government could be so easily subverted, and the streets of New York start being patrolled by an army of masked, armored thugs feels very pulpy, in the spirit of the characters it teams up.
Unfortunately, the story ultimately feels so busy and crowded that nobody really gets much of a chance to do anything. The Shadow gets his best lines, with his “Why don’t you all quit screwing around,” attitude. Others, like Miss Fury and the Green Lama, end up making token appearances. We get the origins of the Black Bat and a new Zorro, but ultimately, their roles could have been played by anybody, and that makes the story feel kind of pointless.
For that matter, the revelation of the villain behind everything, and his motivation, seems very perfunctory and rushed. It’s a character we’re supposed to know, but we never see him out of the context of being a villain. He ascribes more complex motivations for his plan than we see on the surface, but it’s difficult to believe him when we only ever see him doing anything besides masterminding this fascist organization. Also, things get wrapped up so easily it’s hard to imagine how they got so bad in the first place.
Fortunately, it’s got great art by Alex Ross on the first chapter, and Dennis Calero through the rest of the book. While I hadn’t thought of Calero’s pen-and-ink work with its heavy use of shadow as particularly similar to Alex Ross’s painted pages, they share a lot in terms of layout and character acting. So the whole thing feels like a cohesive whole, despite what, on the surface, are two very similar styles.
As a huge fan of the Shadow, it’s hard for me to pass up any story featuring him. And this is a very pretty one, but also very slight....more
Writer Garth Ennis and artist Aaron Campbell bring the classic pulp character the Shadow to graphic life in the pages of this graphic novel, collectinWriter Garth Ennis and artist Aaron Campbell bring the classic pulp character the Shadow to graphic life in the pages of this graphic novel, collecting the first six issues of the monthly series from Dynamite Comics. In it, the Shadow and "friend and companion" Margo Lane accompany a US government intelligence trip to China to prevent Japan from obtaining a supply of a potentially devastating material. And, of course, violence ensues.
Over the decades since his creation, the Shadow has been presented in a number of different ways, depending on the time the stories are being created. While the early pulp stories featured a Shadow who was much more of a force of nature than an actual character--often not even given any dialogue through the entire story--Ennis gives us a slightly different take. It's still the same character, cutting a swath through villains and evil-doers without any doubt or hesitation, but we get some insight into the character as well. We see that he does have some insight into what he's doing, not just making completely random judgments. And we see that has a more distanced, big-picture view of the world than Margo or government agent Pat Finnegan.
In fact, despite the pulp adventure origins of the character, the Shadow is much more pragmatic than agent Finnegan, who expects their journey to be just the sort of pulp adventure that long-time fans of the character may also be hoping for. And while it certainly is a grand adventure, full of scope, foreign vistas, horrible villains, larger-than-life heroes, and a lot of bloodshed, it's also a story that doesn't shy away from the real world. The story doesn't whitewash the horrible things done by the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s, and both the villains and the Shadow do whatever is necessary and expedient to achieve their goals, whether it might be considered honorable or not.
The art, by Aaron Campbell, similarly captures that mix of realism and larger-than-life action. It's a gorgeous evocation of the period, but without glamorizing it. His Margo Lane is gorgeous, his male characters are all clear and distinct from one another, and he deserves bonus points for not drawing Shadow alter-ego Lamont Cranston with the traditional hawk-nose.
This collection also includes the script for the first issue, and all the various covers for the first six issues, by artists including Alex Ross, Howard Chaykin, John Cassiday, Jae Lee, and Francisco Francovillia. Overall, a highly-recommended story for longtime fans and readers new to the character alike....more
After 20 years, Doc Savage returns to the page in a new novel created by Will Murray, put together from fragments and stories written by Doc Savage crAfter 20 years, Doc Savage returns to the page in a new novel created by Will Murray, put together from fragments and stories written by Doc Savage creator Lester Dent. In the hardcover edition's afterward, Murray details how he took unused opening chapters from one story, and edited them together with another Lester Dent non-Doc story, to create a brand-new novel. And the editing is seamless. If not for that afterward, I would never have guessed that this book was cobbled together from such completely separate elements.
It is to Murray's credit that he manages to preserve so much of the voice of the original books, while creating a longer, more involved story. Except for the length, which is maybe twice as long as one of the original pulp magazine versions, this feels just like it could have been published in the mid to late 1930s, as part of the original series. It's a fast-paced adventure with exactly the same kind of weird, over-the-top action and colorful characterization that fans expect. It's also written in the same idiosyncratic voice of Lester Dent--which, to me, always resembles that of an enthusiastic kid telling an adventure story--which is so much part of the charm of the tales.
Unfortunately, Murray also chooses to preserve some of the less admirable elements from the original period writing. We understand that obvious negative racial and sexual stereotypes and views will be found in historical works, when publishers, writers, and the reading public were less sensitive to issues of diversity. That doesn't mean we condone them, and when publishing new works in that style, we shouldn't include them for the sake of verisimilitude.
If this book were just an archiving of Lester Dent's unpublished writing, it would be ok to publish them unedited. But since Murray is already editing Dent's text pretty drastically, bolting together unrelated stories and fragments to create a new whole, unintended by Dent, that archival motive doesn't apply. I'm not suggesting that a new Doc Savage novel created in this manner should include Doc talking on an iPhone or uncharacteristically talking about his feelings. But in the 21st century, it doesn't seem appropriate to read Native American characters described as "the Red Man," or Doc Savage knocking his young female cousin unconscious and locking her in essentially the trunk of a car because he thinks the mission is too dangerous for a woman.
To be fair, Doc's treatment of his cousin, Pat, is the same sort of sexist stuff that happens all the time in the books. It also continues to be weird to read about Doc's Crime College, where he brainwashes criminals, casually erasing their pasts and turning them into productive citizens, without feeling more than a little creeped out. And the fetishistic descriptions of Doc's perfect physique and habits (here, we learn that Doc often wears black silk swimming trunks instead of underwear, just in case he needs to suddenly go for an unexpected swim) are as everpresent here as in the original series.
Despite the quirks, and despite the anachronistic offensiveness, this is still a fun adventure novel, and a good revival of Doc Savage. I look forward to the next in the series....more
Veteran artist Mark Wheatley writes and draws an adventure of the classic pulp hero, the Spider, as he tries to stop the evil Cannibal Queen's plot toVeteran artist Mark Wheatley writes and draws an adventure of the classic pulp hero, the Spider, as he tries to stop the evil Cannibal Queen's plot to turn the city's elite into flesh-eating cannibals. Will he succeed? What do you think?
Wheatley's art is as fantastic as ever, and really captures the crazy air of weird menace that typified the old Spider adventures (Or so I assume, not having ever actually read any.) Unfortunately, while the writing may very well capture the same spirit, it doesn't make for that fascinating a story. I understand the desire for fans of the old pulps to pay homage to them, but if all we get is a story that's right out of the old pulps, what's the point? Why not just read one of the originals?
I love those old stories as much as the next person, and thrill to reprints of the old Doc Savage and Shadow books. But if someone were to write a new story about them today, I'd want it to feel more like a contemporary novel about those characters. Or create new characters that also pay homage to spirit of inventiveness that the best pulp writers displayed.
Sadly, this book gives us characters with thin-to-no motivation or background. Lots of crazy ideas and weird imagery, but not enough to hold it all together. It also doesn't really give us the background of the heroes at all, instead presuming knowledge of stories from 60 or 70 or more years ago. (Fortunately, since the story depends not at all on the characters having personalities, that doesn't really matter.)
Recommended for long-time fans of the character, I suppose, but for the rest of us, it's no more than a brief diversion....more
Ghosts of Manhattan was a lot of fun. Unlike a lot of pulp homages, Mann doesn't try to echo the clunky dialogue and purple prose of the originals. InGhosts of Manhattan was a lot of fun. Unlike a lot of pulp homages, Mann doesn't try to echo the clunky dialogue and purple prose of the originals. Instead, he makes his book feel the way we remember the pulps feeling, concentrating on reminding us of the best qualities (fast pacing, larger than life weird action) instead of the worst.
I did wonder if too much information was saved until the final chapters, but ultimately, I think he did just enough foreshadowing to set everything up. I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely read future adventures of the Ghost....more
Containing author Walter Gibson's two favorite Shadow novels, both of these stories represent something of a change of pace. Grove of Doom is almost aContaining author Walter Gibson's two favorite Shadow novels, both of these stories represent something of a change of pace. Grove of Doom is almost a tale of domestic murder and revenge, even though it has the trademark Shadow weirdness twisted all the way through. And The Masked Lady is similarly about family trying to take care of its own.
By eschewing the more common Shadow vs mobsters or a supervillain formula, Gibson proves once again why his Shadow novels have continued to be popular with pulp fans almost 70 years after their publication, while countless other pulp heroes have faded into obscurity. While fellow hero Doc Savage--written by Lester Dent--may have enjoyed greater popularity as paperback reprints, I think Gibson is a far superior writer. ...more