I'll start by saying I know next to nothing about The Shade. I know he's an erudite magic-wielding darkforce manipulator of some sort with a generally mischievous outlook and a criminal past, but I know nothing of the events of his history. So in James Robinson's The Shade #1, it's refreshing to see that even his closest friends don't know his history, either.
In stark contrast to all the 'look how cool, different and edgy we are' hubbub of the New 52 in general, it's absolutely refreshing to open with one Richard Swift and his blue-skinned friend Mikaal just chilling out and having tea in Opal City while waxing melancholic about life in general and their places in it. It seems Mikaal is the new Starman, while Swift, aka The Shade, is struggling to remain upbeat with his artfully British wit while idling with nothing to do but his girlfriend, the free-spirited policewoman Hope O'Dare, who shoves him off his mopey duff and tells him to go find adventure. He's immortal, after all, and he requires his amusements. But while running into Deathstroke may seem an interesting diversion at first, it quickly becomes something very much un-fun for The Shade and ends with a very bloody surprise.
Meanwhile, German detective William Von Hammer is running around in a suit blowing away a team of Belgian assassins known as Les Diaboliques and being a complete badass. And he seems to know our Shade. Is he a descendant of Hans Von Hammer, the German fighter pilot hero known as Enemy Ace, much like Joseph Rock of Men of War is the grandson of Sgt. Frank Rock? Who knows, but I sure do love seeing international representation in the metahuman community. Belgian killers, the Kingdom, the Great Ten – we always need more of this kind of thing in comics.
Robinson's story is compelling so far, giving us charming, intriguing characters and having fun with the form by having Von Hammer's narration actually seem as though he's addressing people in the middle of his firefight and having to take pauses to shoot people. Artist Cully Hamner also plays about by laying the opening conversation with The Shade and Mikaal out over the build-up to Von Hammer's gun-fest in he background. Slade vs. Shade is cool, if a little silly in its skullduggerous conceit on Deathstroke's behalf, but overall it's just a completely unexpected turn of events that most definitely has me interested in the second chapter of this 12-issue series.
Everybody in this issue is simply likeable, which is more than I can say for Justice League.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 8.8/10