SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
There are a lot of cool comic book blogs out there (see our sidebar for a list of a bunch of them), but I guess it is hard to pick which ones you think you’d like to read. So each week, I will feature a guest entry by a really cool comic blogger, and you all can then check out that comic blog after you see how cool they are from their guest bit. Today’s entry comes from Randy Lander, formerly of The Fourth Rail, who has just recently started up a NEW Comic Book Review blog with Dave Farabee, David Martindale and Nick Budd called Comic Pants.
Here’s a glimpse of what kind of reviews you can expect to see at Comic Pants, as Randy reviews Shadowpact #4 for us.
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Steve Scott & Wayne Faucher
Company: DC Comics
Though I’m an enormous fan of Bill Willingham’s Fables, I wasn’t quite sure he was the right guy for a superhero book, even one as offbeat and supernaturally based as Shadowpact. But that first three issue arc was pretty entertaining, and I like the idea of a team whose legacy is to champion lost causes, even if that seems to be the fate of all superteams in the Marvel and DC universes right now. It was issue #4 that really got my attention, though, as Willingham, along with guest artists Steve Scott and Wayne Faucher, offer up a “done in one” story focusing on Blue Devil that is funny, action-packed and features a clever take on the solo hero.
In many ways, Shadowpact #4 is the kind of superhero book I would have expected from Willingham. As with his previous work like Fables, Proposition Player or Coventry, this issue is a contrast between the world of the supernatural and the regular guy world the rest of us live in. I love the notion of Blue Devil, a.k.a. Daniel Cassidy, as a neighborhood hero, someone who chats with (and plays basketball with) the kids, flirts with the old ladies on the block and rescues cats out from under UPS trucks using his superstrength. The old neighborhood is a fading tradition, but they’re still out there, the neighborhoods where everybody knows each other and looks out for each other, and why wouldn’t one of them have a superhero in it?
Shadowpact #4 is a “day in the life” issue, a self-contained tale of the kind we don’t see very often anymore. But it used to be that this kind of thing was pretty common, and I miss these kinds of stories. The plot, featuring a hero who is supposed to be somewhere and faces any number of superhero obstacles preventing him from getting to them, is one that’s been used many times before, but it’s a good way to demonstrate a superhero’s commitment to doing the right thing in the face of minor difficulties and inconveniences, rather than the earth-shattering consequences that so often face them when they have to deal with their superhero responsibilities. It’s not a super ambitious story, and I could see where someone might find it predictable or even boring based on that familiarity of framework, but it’s a way to show off heroism while still being light and fun, and that kind of thing is in short supply these days.
Willingham does misstep slightly in offering up a pair of humorously well-spoken demons, Mr. Gray and Mr. Green, who are out to track down Cassidy and drag him back to hell. Not because their dialogue isn’t occasionally amusing, but because that ground has been pretty well trod with Frank Miller’s loquacious hitmen in Sin City. And while the general plot’s familiarity was something I found welcoming and enjoyable, the familiarity of the demon’s schtick I found a bit too reminiscent of those Sin City characters, in a gag that wasn’t all that fresh in the first place.
The art on this issue is by Steve Scott, an artist who I last remember seeing on the late ’90s revival of the New Warriors. Scott’s art is clear, kinetic when it needs to be and features the right background sense to imply the larger city that Blue Devil is based in as well as the neighborhood feel of where he lives. When it comes to the action, he thinks big, having Blue Devil knock a mugger off his feet with a punch or go flying over the entire city when the dragon bats him with his tail, and I like that sense of scale in superhero comics. His work isn’t as highly detailed as some folks might prefer, leaning more toward the cartoony work of a Ty Templeton or even the Willingham art from the first three issues, but I think that’s a good fit for this book, and certainly wouldn’t mind seeing more Scott fill-ins in the future.
I don’t know how representative this issue is of the Shadowpact series as a whole, but it is a good self-contained sampler for those who have been on the fence about the book. It’s a solid read, not a spectacular one, but it tickles the old school superhero part of my brain the same way the work of Dan Slott or even Kurt Busiek occasionally has. For my part, I’ll be hoping for more spotlight issues on the other characters, if they can be as fun as this one.
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