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Triple Shot: THE SHADOW: YEAR ONE #1, THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT #2 & BATWOMAN #17

This week’s Triple Shot loads you up with two pulp heroes, one old and one new, and the conclusion of the World’s Finest team up of Batwoman and Wonder Woman in issue Batwoman #17.

THE SHADOW YEAR ONE #1 (OF 8)
Writer: Matt Wagner
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Publication Date: February 20, 2013
Price: $3.99
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
UPC:  72513020219201011

The origin of The Shadow as told by Matt Wagner (Grendel, Batman) starts this week in an eight issue limited series from Dynamite Entertainment.

The book opens in Cambodia with The Shadow investigating the crimes of The White Tiger, and meting out justice on his own, all the while hiding behind a red scarf.  Months later, alter ego Lamont Cranston disembarks from a cruise ship with seven large valets in tow, piquing the interest of a Clark Kentlooking newspaper man. Close by, a newsie hawks of Black Tuesday and the market crash.

Seems like The Shadow returns to the States just in time to secure his assets and protect the night!

The action builds up quickly in New York City as gangster Guiseppe ‘Joe’ Massaretti is overwhelmed by a mysterious voice in his head commanding that he take advantage of the banks being in turmoil and to rein in the city’s rival gangs. This momentary hallucination weighs on his mind as his goons chauffeur him around town.

Guiseppe isn’t the only one wobbly by voices in his head! At a Prohibition Era homecoming party, Cranston unprovoked declares, “The weed of crime..takes root EVERYWHERE, I dare say.”

Easy, pal. Someone get him a bathtub Tom Collins!

Joe’s extravagant gal pal Margo Lane is also at the party to make the acquaintance of Lamont Cranston and to continue a quarrel she had earlier with the mobster. Conveniently, The Shadow knows when he sees trouble spark up and makes his presence known to the bad guys.

This is a really fun start to the origin of a character so important to comics and pop culture that I for one had no familiarity with, besides last December’s Masks title from Dynamite and also the 1994 Alec Baldwin feature film.

We’re cranking through episodes of Boardwalk Empire, and it’s great to catch some familiar references to the Volstead Act and to imagine The Shadow existing somehow in the same romantic fantasy timeline.

Wilfredo Torres’ art is clean and fits the era, fans of Chris Samnee’s work on Daredevil and Spider-Man will enjoy the artwork.

Overall a very fun pulp origin that I’d like to ‘know’, for fear of being asked at a convention if I’m familiar with Lamont Cranston/Kent Allard. With this series under my belt, I’ll at least be able to fake it!

THE BLACK BEETLE: NO WAY OUT #2 (OF 4)
Writer / Artist / Cover: Francesco Francavilla
Publication Date: February 20, 2013
Price: $3.99
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
UPC: 7 61568 22686 7 00211

The Black Beetle is the passion project of Eisner Award winning cover artist for 2012 Francesco Francavilla. The second part of the four part series continues to follow Colt City’s costumed detective.

I was lucky enough to find a hard copy this time, in hopes of having Francesco sign it one day, as issue #1 sold out quickly from the store. A second printing of Issue #1 is due soon, with an amazing new cover.

Dark Horse sandboxes their digital comics on digital.darkhorse.com and on an iOS app, which is not a bad thing and mostly a great business decision.

I did scratch my head prepping for this review, however because the comic is not where I had expected it to be, on Comixology with the rest of my collection.

Anyhoo. Back to another great story with killer action and noir detective work from FF. Obvious costume nods to Batman and original DC Blue Beetle set you up for what to expect here. Black Beetle as a character could fight alongside Pulp radio heroes The Shadow or The Spider in a book like Masks, but the best part is that this is a brand new book and concept birthed by a love of the genre.

All art credit and covers are by Francovilla, the exception being the lettering done by Nate Piekos of Blambot. We’re treated to layouts rivaling J.H. Williams III, double page spreads and a limited, sensible but not restrictive, color palette.

Black Beetle sports leather pouches and gloves, can patch himself up after a nasty fall, but not much is known of his alter ego. We have yet to see his face. We do, however get to see a beautiful steampunk helicopter jet-pack complete with air pressure valves on the chassis. Black Beetle’s car is that of an old ‘40s model, not dissimilar to Batman’s original Batmobile with cow-catcher replacing the front grill.

The nifty gadgets help Beetle escape from last issue’s cliffhanger of course as he travels to the depths of Colt City’s sewers chasing the mystery man dressed in a head to toe labyrinth costume.

The genre relies on cliffhangers, so we are left with our man collecting matchbook clues and fixing his cufflinks for a night on the town. We hope he finds what he’s looking for, but he may just find himself chatting up a dame with a victory roll.

Very highly recommended series to get in on the ground level with, and fans of the noir or serial drama will get an extra joy out of this book because of the creator’s heartfelt respect for the radio days.

BATWOMAN #17
Co-Writer / Artist / Cover: J.H. Williams III
Co-Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Todd Klein
Publication Date: February 20, 2013
Price: $2.99
Publisher: DC Comics
UPC: 76194126480601711

The red-haired Kate Kane concludes her adventure alongside the more powerful and honestly more interesting Wonder Woman in the latest issue of Batwoman.

While the rest of the Bat-Family is dealing with repercussions of the Death of the Family in last week’s Batman #17, Diana and Kate have had to face Medusa and solve the case of hundreds of missing Gotham children.

The issue introduces a new femme fatale, Hawkfire.

Hawkfire is the rejuvenated spirit of cousin Bette Kane, formerly under the mantle of Flamebird.

J.H. WIlliam’s Batwoman is a must buy book. Innovative page layouts and interesting relationships between all of the support cast make the book not only beautiful to look at but also engage the audience at a high intellectual level.

A monstrous threat, the Mother of all Monsters, looks to engulf Gotham in slime after being summoned by the ancient Medusa and the shamanistic Maro. Batwoman and Wonder Woman are assisted by Hawkfire to take out the major players. Hawkfire disarms Hook Man and sends his Scythe to the depths of the ocean. As a play on Wonder Woman’s original origin, Medusa is turned to stone to break and shattered by Batwoman’s fist.

Ceto, the Mother of all Monsters returns to a more recognizable form as Medusa’s spell is broken along with her body. Kate convinces Diana to end the cycle of ancient violence by not killing the human form of Ceto, but protecting her.

The chapter ends with Hawkfire, Batwoman and Wonder Woman saying goodbye before the Department of Extranormal Operations crashes the party and starts asking too many questions.

If that wasn’t enough story for you, there are five pages of reveals at the end with so many repercussions, relations, and resurrections that will blow your mind. Just when you thought this book was over you will be dying get at the next issue. This was the best ending for a single issue of a comic in a long time.

Fortunately for you, DC does release Batwoman in trade and if you want some of the best Bat-stories around, start at J.H. Williams III and Greg Rucka’s Elegy and get caught up from there, right into the New 52. The best part about the book is that it remains unchanged from the original DCU version, and all of her origin stays canon.

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