This issue features superheroes, supervillains, gods, monsters and a gentleman thief in conversation with an Irish Gypsy. And if the latter were all this chapter of Shade’s world tour contained it would still be one of the best reads of the week. For Shade is one of comics’ unique characters, a man whose silver tongue is as impressive as his supernatural powers. And here he’s talking to Silverfin, a Traveller whose argot is as rare in a superhero universe as Shade’s eloquence. It all makes for a most refreshing read.
That Shade and Silverfin – Finbar to his mates – are terrorising a fat devil called the Scarlet Terror as they chat just makes things even better. We don’t learn the nature of the mission they’re on, but it seems Finbar will be closing the matter with his bag of tricks.
Shade has other fish to fry – Lord Dudley Caldecott, his descendant, who’s mixed up in some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo. Confronting him in the bowels of Bloomsbury, the man formerly known as Dickie Swift is in for a surprise …
Writer James Robinson’s 12-issue mini-series just gets better, though I have to declare a bias; I’m English and it’s a joy to see the UK treated as something other than a museum piece (ironically, in a comic featuring just such things). The Shade has come home and while things have changed, people are essentially the same – disappointing. Well, his people at least – Dudley is a thoroughly nasty piece of work, willing to sacrifice others in an arcane ritual while talking banal business with a power broker pal. Shade doesn’t look kindly on such behaviour, despite his involvement in a murder just hours previously – apparently the last of several, for ‘a greater good’. I wonder if Dudley would try to excuse his own crimes in similar manner? Good on Robinson for reminding us that despite his many acts of goodness, the Shade is still black of heart at times.
The most distasteful part of Dudley’s dastardly doings is his taking off his underpants, alongside creepy-looking mate Miles. Whatever would One Million Morons say? The scene is beautifully illustrated, though, by Frazer Irving, along with the rest of the issue. As another Brit, Irving captures the atmosphere of London with ease, while his sherbet colours bestow a Wonderland quality. The occasional run of ‘realistic’ hues only makes the moments of horror and fantasy seem all the more weird.
While there are several attention-grabbing scenes, one of the finest sequences is subtlety itself, as Shade pursues Dudley through London, using his teleportation to pop up everywhere.
Tony Harris turns in another cover to treasure – it’s just a shame the title blurb doesn’t work with it.
With three issues to go, Robinson continues to introduce new threads, but I’m confident he’ll tie everything up in a neat bow. Like Irving, he’s a craftsman and a stylist, and I’ll be sorry to see Shade disappear into the ether when things wrap up.