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THE NEW 52 and Counting, Week 7:
The Shade #1

Now that the furor has died down and people aren't walking into comics shops looking for one of those #1s they've heard so much about, DC offers the one I was waiting for. On Free Comic Book Day this year I discovered that James Robinson was writing a new Shade series, and that was enough.

It could fit in with the new status quo, but The Shade owes his allegiance to nothing other than his own continuity, spun out of Robinson's truly great Starman series. Actually, that does pose problems if you need to tie it in to the New DC Universe, because sitting on a balcony sipping tea with the Shade is Mikaal Tomas, the blue Starman whose best friend is Congorilla and specifically references his time in the Justice League.

Not that that will get in the way of enjoying the story, nor should it, because this is a book about The Shade, after all. Sometimes a villain – always portrayed that way on the Justice League animated series – now reluctantly a hero, the immortal master of darkness is bored.

Not boring, mind you, as Robinson easily gives The Shade dialogue that crackles with wit even as you can feel his ennui. In the words of his love, Hope O'Dare, he needs an adventure to bring him back to himself.

Back to where this fits, because Robinson may secretly be enjoying driving continuity hounds crazy. The adventure does indeed begin with a guest star definitely outfitted in his spankin' new Jim Lee redesign. Thankfully, The Shade remains a classic.

On the podcast this week, Ric Bretschneider told me this book was "squee-worthy," a characterization I rolled my eyes at until I realized the squeeing I heard in my office was coming from me as I finished this book, with Cully Hammer's art popping and reminding me of why I loved Starman so much.

Why is this so strong? Perhaps because though The Shade had existed for decades before Robinson took ownership, it really is Robinson who made him a stand-out character. Writing the Shade has to be somewhat personal, a character who so far has not resonated when any other scribe has him.

Though there are some exceptions in the company-wide relaunch, most of the books have felt rote: decent enough concepts by hired creators doing average work. But The Shade has passion behind it, as well as an idiosyncratic voice. Though it's part of a corporate machine, it feels personal, even when the machine intrudes.

Derek McCaw

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