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The Shadow #1: Indubitable

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Lamont Cranston does – and Garth Ennis is pretty well educated, too.

The Shadow #1

It's been a while since I've read anything from Garth Ennis, but I enjoyed Preacher, I enjoyed Hitman and I liked a lot of his Punisher stuff, so I felt fairly confident that I would like his work on The Shadow #1, as it promised to be the kind of series where he wouldn't go as crazy over-the-top like he does with things like Herogasm and the like.

Not knowing all that much about the history of The Shadow as a character beyond a few of his catchphrases and Alec Baldwin, Ennis pretty much had free reign to define the character in my eyes, and he's created a pretty compelling mystery about the man named Lamont Cranston. He knows everything, can see trace the paths of the future, he carries out his brand of justice with lethal force, he's casually flippant about denying emotional connections and has no compunction towards messing with the heads of colleagues and paramours who don't have his particular gifts of foreknowledge. He feels somewhat akin to The Shade in his less morally conscious dealings with people, but without the gadfly vagabond aimlessness. The Shadow is all business, and while he can spend off-hours dallying with women and subtly mocking the obtuse, he's supremely focused on his mission to punish the evil that lurks in the hearts of men.

We see The Shadow in action right away, hunting down vermin related to the Japanese atrocities in China long before and during World War II, sparing the only man smart enough not to take up arms against him and slaughtering everyone else who stands in defense of the scoundrels he's hunting. Then, in his civilian guise, he heads to the Algonquin Hotel and meets with his government liaisons – the elder of whom, Mr. Landers, seems to be quietly aware of his nocturnal proclivities, while the younger, Pat Finnegan is more bull-headed about wanting to know the details of what Cranston's deal is.

It sets up a nice little exchange:

Finnegan: I'm going to ask you straight out, Mr. Cranston, one simple question, because if there's one thing I like, it's knowing exactly where I stand.

Cranston: In which case the choice of a career in espionage may have been ill-advised…

He's droll, but in a weirdly callous way. On the way out, he forgives a child his youthful impertinence and asks his mother to do the same, then casually tells her the boy will die six years later in Germany. Later, he tells the woman he's sleeping with that he'll be The Shadow longer than she'll be Margo Lane, then laughs about it while she tries to press him on what the hell that means.

So Lamont Cranston is an amusing dick, while The Shadow is a ruthless killer of wicked men. It makes for an interesting character, and I'm curious to see how long Ennis can keep up this emotional detachment and still make us care about what happens to the man. The art from Aaron Campbell is pretty solid as well, nicely moody, with real people's faces, and The Shadow looks appropriately striking in action.

So Ennis and Campbell have hooked me for their first story arc, and in my experience with Ennis, that usually means he'll hook me for a few more.

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