Oh, The Shade. How much we cherish your presence.
Amidst the cacophony of the New 52 – with its gems scattered amongst the douchebaggery, the inimitable Fart of Darkness and the general sense of trying really hard to be cool – it's unbelievably refreshing to sit down with an issue of The Shade and enjoy a droll fellow with little to prove leisurely strolling the world and casually exploring his own past, much of which he scarcely seems to care about. It's such a complete change of pace from a lot of the dire tones and gritty edginess we get from most other titles that it's a breath of fresh air.
James Robinson's dapper Richard Swift drifts through his own immortality in search of stimulation, and while he has a recently-developed benevolent bent, he's hardly a moralist and barely what you might call a hero. His past has always been a mystery, as he generally doesn't care to remember how he became what he is now – a darkforce manipulator without even the blood of a human. In The Shade #5, we find out about that second stage of his transformation, and it manages to be edgy and gruesome without ever losing that tone that sets it apart from the pack.
It seems Mr. Swift has a daughter, after a fashion, who's also over a century old and who fights crime in Barcelona as La Sangre. Turns out she's also a sickly-blue-skinned vampire stuck in a 15-year-old body who prays nightly, feeds on jerks, collects celebrity blood and remains eternally chaste. Right off the bat, we've got an intriguing character, although it should be stressed that she's not technically the spawn of Shade. Instead, back in 1854, vampire pirates attacked a ship he was on and killed everybody, and he tried to save a newborn victim by performing the snake-venom treatment. Turns out it had a lasting effect on both of them. Even more intriguing.
Robinson's storytelling is just entertaining in a relaxed and easygoing way, and it's simply charming in its dialog and darkness, making it possible to cover a wide range of elements without sacrificing that charm. It's a book that makes me grin widely to myself and a book I'm geuninely happy to be reading. The art from Javier Pulido has a somewhat Darwyn Cooke-ish style to it, which is a great fit for such a throwback sort of character like the Shade.
The Shade is a delightful book, even when it deals with crimes of a hideous nature. It has a vocabulary and is not afraid to use it, and that's to be commended. And yet, it deflates itself whenever there's any inclination toward pretentiousness. It's just good reading.
CraveOnline Rating: 8.9/10