By Todd Allen
I’d been meaning to write something about the new Shade maxi-series, but James Robinson made this a higher priority when he tweeted
If sales don’t improve it may be cancelled before the 12 issues are done.
ICV2 estimated the sales for issue #1 at 30,648, which is above the initial orders for Vol. 2 of Batman: Odyssey and the second issues of OMAC, Static Shock, Blackhawks and Men of War. Normally, you’re thinking a 30K launch (probably really 33K-36K, adding a bump for UK orders) is decent for a DC launch. Maybe DC’s got ambitious standards after the New 52 or unrealistic expectations for non-52 launches? Maybe the advance orders on #3 and #4 aren’t great? All I can tell you for sure is that The Shade is a better book than most of the relaunched titles and it’s time for an intervention.
The problems with the sales on the book probably are due to the passage of time. It’s been 10 years since the comic that Shade spun out of (Starman) ended. It’s been nearly 10 years since the end of the last _recognizable_ Robinson-penned comics: Leave It To Chance and Hawkman. Robinson is best known to the current audience for a poorly received run on Justice League. I’m not here to defend any Justice League comics. I will say that Shade #1 is the first time I’ve recognized the James Robinson so many of us loved in the ’90s. Which is also the first time I’ve seen a Robinson book outside of extreme editorial mandates in 10 years or so. (We all know how jerked around Dwayne McDuffie was when he was writing Justice League.) Get the Justice League out of your head where Shade is concerned. Different book, different voice.
The second problem, and this is more for the people who’ve read Robinson’s Starman, is whether Jack Knight still exists in the DCU, given a certain Mr. DiDio’s loud assertions that Superman is the first superhero and the Justice Society didn’t precede him. On that count, I can’t give you an answer. Everything except Jack Knight appears in the new series. Even the Ludlows are name checked. The blue Starman is referred to as “reclaiming the mantle of Starman again. Opal. Opal’s hero.” I’d call that being coy and I’m hoping there really is going to be an Earth-2 to go along with that Justice Society announcement and Robinson isn’t ready to show his hand yet. But that might just be hope. Regardless, this is appropriately Starman-esque, should that be the particular fix you’re looking for.
What you have in Shade, is a book that is equal parts dark and whimsical. Starman is the book that popularized the generational take on superheroes (Infinity, Inc. started that viewpoint) and the most recent take on the Justice Society is the love child of Starman and Infinity, Inc. As such, The Shade is out investigating a hit ordered on him by someone from his dark and mysterious past who seems to have designs on The Shade’s powers. His possible sidekick is a German P.I named William Van Hammer. Naturally, one suspects this is the great grandson of Enemy Ace. The dialogue carries the book, but the story moves fast enough not to get bogged down and has ample action sequences juxtaposed with the talk.
I’m at a bit of a loss for what to compare it to with current comics. Unwritten with superheroes? Animal Man with less gore and more panache? What if John Constatine were erudite? (Doesn’t sound remotely like Justice League, does it?)
Please, give this book a chance. If your local shop isn’t stocking it, here’s the comiXology link (please note, Shade is _not_ on the New 52 page — the promotion, or lack thereof, is separate). The first issue is $1.99.
If you missed out on Starman, that’s a rare classic from the late 90s. That’s also at comiXology. Start with #0, conveniently priced at $0.99. I’d tell you to get the Omnibus editions, but Vol. 1 appears to be out of print. Better hope your local shop still has one.
Oh, and I guess I am going to be THAT GUY. Unless there’s significant re-order activity, if you’re a fan of OMAC, Static Shock, Blackhawks and Men of War — a comic above you on the charts is concerned about cancellation. That’s not a positive sign. You like those titles, you might want to start talking them up before they dip further.
In the meantime, there’s the question of whether sales on The Shade will sour DC on the previously announced, but not yet scheduled James Robinson/Nicola Scott Justice Society series.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.