Shade #9

This comic was made by James Robinson, Frazier Irving, and a group of others. It was published by DC Comics last month, in 2012. Wikipedia notes that the Shade was created be E.E. Hibbard but in this incarnation– as a kind of self-involved dandy and occasional anti-hero, he is mostly the creation of James Robinson and Tony Harris, from their Starman series.

This new Shade book is kind of a mixed bag: it does interesting work populating the DCNu internationally with a host of heroes and villains, but weighing against that is the sense that no one will ever use these characters again, and that they seem to, at the very least, strain against the constraints established elsewhere, that superheroes have only been around for five years. The stories have been okay, if a little light, a caprice. A lot of the success of the stories has depended, at least to me, on which of the rotating artists draws the arc. This issue, which features Frazier Irving, is particularly good.

Take a look at this panel, where Shade uses his shadow powers, which I guess act as a kind of ectoplasm that allows him to reach and shake up the bad guys:

I think what I like best about this image is the way it is off-balance but also grounded…. It’s tricky, and you can see both from the position in the frame of the characters and the Doric columns in the background that our camera is tilted here. But this disorientation is something we can process because all the weight of the panel leans toward the lower right, which is where our eyes naturally go when we are reading: it gives the panel a bottom, and we can build up from there.

Here’s another panel that does almost the same thing, though less strikingly:

Here. we see, more or less, the same angle of tilt, and again, the mass of Shade’s shadow draws our eye, this time to the center of the page. But really, our eye moves from top left to bottom right: Shade’s dialogue, the threat Shade poses, and then the threatened and his response.

That’s most of what I have to say, except that I’m really impressed by Irving’s work here, which seems improved even from his other memorable work on books like Klarion, the Witch Boy. His panels are dynamic and interesting to look at, but still read clearly. We sense the vertigo characters migt feel, but never feel off-balance ourselves.

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