Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

What Lurks in the Hearts of Men

Posted by Don MacPherson on October 2nd, 2016

The Twilight Zone: The Shadow Vol. 1 trade paperback
Writer: David Avallone
Artist: Dave Acosta
Colors: Omi Remalante
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Francesco Francavilla
Editor: Joseph Rybandt
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $15.99 US

Nostalgia for 1960s and ’70s TV shows has been a mainstay of Dynamite Entertainment’s publishing strategy in recent years, and while I don’t doubt there’s an audience for it (as Dynamite’s adherence to the approach would suggest), it’s not really something that interests me. That being said, the unusual pairing of The Twilight Zone and the Shadow struck me as inventive and potentially intriguing. Ultimately, the schtick is used to force the title anti-hero into introspection, and it’s an effective plot device, even though the results are a little clich├ęd. They’re still diverting and entertaining, though, and capably executed. The script hits the right beats (though with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer), and the art conveys the concepts — from the mundane to the surreal — clearly. Though not mind-blowing (as the title might suggest), The Twilight Zone: The Shadow represents competent comics storytelling.

A firefight with American Nazis prompts Margo Lane to criticize the Shadow for his callous attitude toward the potential for civilian casualties during his many crusades against the forces of evil. It would seem that universe itself agrees with her, the Shadow finds himself propelled through other realities following the explosion of an experimental gas bomb. The Shadow finds himself inhabiting the bodies of other men in the “real world” who have connections to the fictitious incarnation of the vigilante. Puzzled by the notion he’s nothing more than a construct of popular culture, the mind of the Shadow struggles to find meaning in his journey, to determine if it’s really happening, if the Shadow is a fiction or if he’s going mad.

Dave Acosta’s style comes off as a fairly standard super-hero genre approach to storytelling. He boasts a somewhat realistic approach and has a solid eye for anatomy, and given the “real-world” twists in the plot in this collected edition, it suits the subject matter. Mind you, when it comes to the more unconventional and weird moments (such as menacing mindscape typewriter trap), he seems out of his element. Omi Remelante’s colors are appropriately dark and eerie in tone. Acosta does a good job of conveying the baby-faced look of the young would-be Nazi who plays such a pivotal role at the end of the book as well.

I was pleased to see fan-favorite artist Francesco Francavilla provides not only the cover for this book, but the covers for the four-issue series it collects (they’re used as chapter breaks in this trade paperback). His is a style that would be perfect for the Shadow, or so I think. He doesn’t seem to use the same typically dark and eerie approach with these cover illustrations. His work reminded me more of Mike (Silver Surfer, Madman) Allred’s style; what we get here are crisper, stiffer images that lack the noir movie-poster qualities of so many of Francavilla’s other striking covers.

I suspect I would’ve found this story more engrossing had I been better versed on the history of the Shadow – his origins in fiction, the radio days, his backstory, the identities of his allies and enemies. As I read the book, I stopped to do a couple of quick Google searches to see if the “real-world” elements were on the nose, and it never seemed as though they were. Even so, there’s definitely some history at play here.

Avallone’s script telegraphs the entire point of the story from the beginning in far too heavy-handed a manner. Margo’s insistence that the Shadow needs to reconnect with his humanity spells out the entire point of his metaphysical journey. That being said, the moral of the story is handled fairly well. I would have liked to see the writer lay the groundwork for the eventual conversation with the teenage Nazi sympathizer. I also can’t help but wonder if the Shadow’s lecture wasn’t meant as a commentary on the atmosphere of xenophobia and bigotry that’s been such a “yuge” part of the U.S. election this year. 6/10

Note: This collected edition is slated for release Oct. 18.

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