The 1980s ushered in a wave of darker, more mature, and more complex comics that, for better or worse, put different spins on many established heroes. One of the more surprising storylines of this period was a miniseries that actually focused on a pulp character - Howard Chaykin's THE SHADOW: BLOOD AND JUDGMENT, originally published by DC Comics in 1986. Considering the qualities Chaykin's work is known for today, he was born to tell this story. In 4 issues, the Shadow was pulled from the darkened alleyways of the 1930s to the mirrored towers of the modern world, and a 19-issue series followed. There have been numerous attempts to bring pulp characters into the modern world of comics, most of which are ill-conceived and disastrous. Some may place BLOOD AND JUDGMENT in that group, but I feel that it actually makes sense and fits the character perfectly.
Chaykin's Shadow is an uzi-toting angel of death who returns after a thirty year absence due to his former agents, in their old age, being targeted by an assassin. The Shadow, not looking a day older than when he disappeared in the early '50s, is accompanied by agents both new and old in solving the mystery behind the murders. Along the way, we learn more of his mysterious origin and the reason for his absence.
It could be said that The Shadow didn't need a "grim-n-gritty" reboot, as the character had been filling criminals full of lead from his earliest days, but Chaykin took things a step further. What makes his take on the character so fascinating is that The Shadow is depicted as a smug and unapologetic product of his time. In fact, his inherent dark nature is brought to the fore in this story and is even questioned by those assisting him in his mission. True to form, Chaykin fills the story with violence, sex, and of course, a healthy dose of misogyny. The character is cast in a negative light, and I feel that it suits him; however, from what I'd understood, the purists, as well as Conde Nast, Ltd., were quite upset. Because of that, I'd figured that this story would never see print again, but thank goodness Dynamite Entertainment has proven me wrong. Despite the fact that this reprint is on slick paper, as well as the lettering fading in some panels, it's nice to have this work back in print. Here's hoping we'll see Dynamite reprint more Shadow material from DC, as well as from other publishers.