It took me several pages to figure out what’s different about Shadow No. 7: First-person narration.
Nothing kills mystery like first-person narration.
Shadow 7 starts out with the Shadow temporarily losing his poorly defined powers, and failing to stop a mugging.
He travels to the Mysterious Orient, where he confronts the man who killed his old masters. And, as he puts it, it “bites me in the ass.”
The story continues into Shadow No. 8, where he follows gets into some random adventures in prewar Europe. He’s possibly looking for the killers of a pair of scientists, but the Shadow himself doesn’t even know. As he says, “I have little idea what I expect to find. I’m simply following a trail of bread crumbs fate has tossed haphazardly over its shoulder.”
As part of his new status as an “agent of fate,” he’s collecting clues left by fate, like some kind of two-gun Sam Beckett.
I know how I feel about it. It’s so wrong, I can’t even tell you.
I can see and appreciate what writer Victor Gischler is attempting to do: He’s trying to turn the Shadow into a character, with hopes, fears, an origin and motivation. As he says at the end of No. 7, “There can be no Shadow without a man to cast it.”
I realize I’m violating the laws of fiction, Stan Lee, Scriptwriting 101 and all that Save the Cat jazz, but the Shadow is not a character. He’s a mysterious avenger of crime, who operates under his own motives, whose methods are obscure, and whose origins are known only to him. He can suffer setbacks, or make mistakes, but he never fails. He’s the Master. He is the grim avenger Bruce Wayne pretends to be. He knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
The Shadow is so not a character, that his original pulp writer, Walter Gibson would typically include a “proxy hero” so the audience would have someone to relate to while the Shadow was being mysterious. In Gerard Jones’ excellent Shadow Strikes series from the 1990s,the focus was typically on the supporting cast and the Depression-era milieu in which the Shadow operated. He’s just not a character.
(OK, the Shadow was a little bit a character in the radio series and the Alec Baldwin movie. But not much, and he never had a first-person narration. Nothing kills mystery like first-person narration.)
I’m not trying to say that Shadow 7-8 are bad comics. From a straight quality standpoint, they’re pretty good. If they starred Batman or the Green Hornet, I’d be a fan.
But to me, there is no man. There’s just the Shadow.