Retro Reviews: DC Comics’ The Shadow Vol. 2 By Helfer, Sienkiewicz & Baker

The Shadow Vol. 2 #1-19; Annual #1-2 (August 1987 – January 1989)

Written by Andrew Helfer

Pencils by Bill Sienkiewicz (#1-6), Marshall Rogers (#7), Kyle Baker (#8-19; Annual #2), Joe Orlando (Annual #1)

Inks by Bill Sienkiewicz (#1-6), Kyle Baker (#7-19; Annual #2), Alfredo Alcala (Annual #1)

Coloured by Richmond Lewis (#1-6), Tom Ziuko (#7-19; Annual #2), Joe Orlando (Annual #1)

Spoilers (from twenty-seven to twenty-nine years ago)

I’ve never cared one bit about the pulp characters like The Shadow or Doc Savage, but after Bill Sienkiewicz left Marvel for DC to draw this series in the late 80s, I’ve always been curious about it, despite it never looking terribly interesting to me.  I recently came across the nineteen-issue run, and the two annuals, in a single run for $20, and figured it was time to find out if it was any good.

This series follows up on a mini-series by Howard Chaykin, wherein he revived and revitalized the character, bringing him into the 1980s, and setting up this series.  The first issue of this book has a recap of that series, and it almost immediately lost me as it’s pretty confusing.  From what I got, The Shadow impersonated the original Lamont Cranston, stealing his wealth and social access to fund and support his war on crime.  In Chaykin’s book, the original Cranston had been living under the name Mayrock, rebuilt his fortune, and had been mucking around with clones of himself.  The Shadow came out of retirement, looking like he hadn’t aged, and brought his two adult sons with him, reactivating his old network or assistants (who all call him Master).  The Shadow ended up in a fight with Mayrock’s clone, who fell off a roof after being riddled with bullets.  At least, that’s what I gathered happened – there’s some more stuff there too, but this was all that seems relevant after reading the first two issues of the series.

Let’s take a look at who was in this series:

Villains

  • Holy Radiance Mission (#2-6)
  • The Light (#3-6)
  • Benedict Stark (#3-5)
  • Shiwan Khan (#3-5, 15-17, 19)
  • Larry Gross/The Prong Guy (#8-13)
  • The Finns (#8-13)
  • Dr. Edvard Flax (#10-13)
  • Leland Kemper (#10-13)
  • Desmond Sklar (#10-13)
  • Marvin Maple (#10-13)
  • Mustafa Al Salehi (terrorist/mercenary; #11-13)
  • High-Rise Killers (#14)
  • The Arbitrator (#15-17, 19)
  • Two X Two L/Hogan (#15-18)
  • CQ/Odessa (#15, 17)

Guest Stars

  • Ronald Reagan (US President; #7)
  • The Avenger (#17-18)

Supporting Characters

  • Twitch/Twitchkowitz/The Inoculator (; #1-2, 4-7, 9-18; Annual #2)
  • Burbank (#1-2, 9, 11, 14; Annual #2)
  • Lorelei (operator/phone sex operator; in an iron lung; #1-4, 7, 11-12, 14; Annual #2)
  • Davida Buchbinder/Mystery Gourmet (food critic; #1-2, 5, 11)
  • Joe Cardona (NYPD Inspector; former Shadow ally; #1-6, 8-9, 12-14, 16, 18)
  • Max Purvison (assistant to Cardona; #1-6, 9, 12-14, 16, 18)
  • Harry Vincent (aged assistant; #1-3, 6, 8-11, 13-15; Annual #2)
  • Margo (retired assistant; #1-3, 6-11, 13-15; Annual #2)
  • Elton Butterfield (#1-2, 6-18; Annual #2)
  • DeWitt Perez (Shadow’s agent; #1, 3-12, 14-18; Annual #2)
  • Mavis Lockhart (Shadow’s main coordinator; #1-6, 8-18; Annual #2)
  • Nurse Gwendolyn (ex-wrestler and nurse; #1-2, 4-6, 10-11, 14-15, 18)
  • Hsu-Tei (Shadow’s son; #1-4, 6-19)
  • Ching Yao Chang (Shadow’s son; #1-4, 6-19)
  • Roy Tam (Shadow’s doctor; #2-3, 6, 11, 14, 17-18; Annual #2)
  • Rutledge Mann (Shadow’s banker; #2, 14)
  • Albert Renn (scientist; #3-6, 11, 14)
  • Leonard Gogrin (hacker; #4-6, 9-12)
  • Jedidiah Filch (televangelist; #4-6)
  • The Shadownet (group of hackers; #4-6)
  • Jimmy Bob (televangelist; #5-6)
  • Percy Jennifer (Rastafarian cab driver; #6, 11-14, 18)
  • Richard Magnet (PI; former FBI; #7-14, 16-18)
  • Rupert Tome (journalist; #8-14, 18; Annual #2)
  • Hieronymous Bach (lawyer; #9-10)
  • Rudra  (woman in Shambala; #19; Annual #2)

Let’s take a look at what happened in these books, with some commentary as we go:

  • The series opens in an Atlantic City hospital, where one of the Shadow’s agents, Twitch, injects an injured biker in the emergency room with something that makes him freak out.  Gwendolyn, the duty nurse, an ex-wrestler, tries to subdue the man, allowing Twitch into the dispensary to steal some drugs.  As he’s leaving, he sees his Master, The Shadow in his civilian guise, stumble into emergency in very rough shape.  Twitch rushes out to call other agents while Gwen slips in blood.  Lorelei is another agent, who is in an iron lung and working a phone sex line operated by a pair of monkeys.  Burbank shows up to visit and receives the call from Twitch.  A woman known as the Mystery Gourmet is being interviewed on a TV show when she hears about Lamont Cranston being injured and rushes off.  On a New York rooftop, some cops, including Inspector Joe Cardona and his assistant Max look at a body that’s been crucified and had its eyelids sliced off.  This is the third recent murder like this.  The cops hear about Cranston, and Cardona reacts strongly, having been friends with Cranston’s father, while Max, an agent of the Shadow, tries to sneak off.  At a restaurant, two more agents, Margo and Harry, fight about how Harry only talks about the Master, when a call comes telling them he’s been hurt.  A different group of agents, including DeWitt and Elton, prepare an operation against some guy in a sportscar travelling with an entourage.  They block a tunnel, and the Shadow shoots at the guards and kills the bad guys.  When Elton calls in to report, he learns that everyone believes that the Master is injured.  The Shadow has a flying car, by the way.  He addresses his gathered agents, explaining that the man in the hospital is the clone of Preston Mayrock, who was the original Lamont Cranston before The Shadow stole that identity.  It’s confusing.  Twitch is given a task, and is surprised to learn that Nurse Gwendolyn is being fired for the earlier events in the emergency room.  He’s watching over the Mayrock/Cranston clone when Cardona arrives to move him.  He’s bundled into an ambulance being driven by the Shadow’s two sons (who are as yet unnamed and Asian).  They load the man onto a medical helicopter to move him to New York, but Max stops Cardona from getting on the chopper.  It turns out that The Shadow and two of his agents are onboard.  The Shadow tries to use his telepathic abilities on the clone, but he wakes up, and in the struggle, shoots up the copter and knocks himself and the Shadow out the door.
  • As the two men fall, the Shadow is able to grab the flying car, but Mayrock bites him and gets dropped from a high height right in front of Cardona and Max.  The Shadow assumes he is dead, and has Mavis fly off.  Cardona realizes that the guy is still alive and they get an ambulance to take him.  The thing is, this ambulance is being driven by the Shadow’s sons.  Our hero calls in and speaks to Cardona, using his mind powers over the car phone to cloud his thoughts.  The agents drop off Cardona and Max, and drive off with Mayrock.  We hear the Shadow and Mavis talk for a bit, and see a man with a camera chased by guys in white suits, who knock him out and take him into a construction site belonging to Holy Radiance Mission, Inc.  Twitch goes to the hospital and talks to Gwen, who is being fired.  He offers her a job, and together they knock out the two cops guarding the two Shadow agents who were in the crashed helicopter.  Another agent (Mavis, perhaps?) does some computer work, looking for Tam Roy Tam, a doctor who used to work with the Shadow.  Harry (who is Mavis’s father) and Margo see on TV that Cardona is hunting for the Shadow’s associates, just as police bust down their door.  Tam Roy Tam is also caught by the police.  The Shadow goes to see Rutledge Mann, his financial guy, and the cops show up there too.  Cardona questions Mann, and the Shadow appears to him (having used his mind powers to stay hidden) and convinces him, using his powers, to leave.  Cardona decides to check in on the crucified body from the issue before, and at the station runs into tons of drugged out teenagers and twenty-somethings dressed as the Shadow.  The real Shadow shows up in the morgue, makes a big mess, and then tells Cardona that Cranston is safe, and that he should stop hunting for the Shadow.  He escapes by just walking into the crowd of people who look like him (it’s a fashion trend thing, apparently).  Later, Cardona talks to Cranston, who he believes to be the son of his friend, at their private club, and Cranston explains the whole Mayrock situation, and claims that the Shadow saved him and fixed him.  Meanwhile, we see that the Shadow’s sons have worked with Tam’s son to put the Mayrock clone in cryogenic storage.
  • Someone in the Nissetco building uses a device that affects three New Yorkers listening to headphones, and they go nuts.  One beats up an old woman while two others commit suicide by jumping in front of the same moving truck.  In the Nissetco building, someone makes reference to the genius of Albert.  At the same time, in New Jersey, two shadowy people, one of whom we learn later is Albert, load explosives onto a crop duster.  Harry and Margo are out in the Bowery, back when it was pretty unsafe, and go to a converted church where the Shadow’s sons are about to perform as part of a band called Jayne Mansfield’s Head.  On the subway, some guys try to harass a woman.  The Shadow appears and kills most of them.  In the Shadow’s offices, Mavis talks to Dr. Tam, and we learn that there was a massacre at the health spa he runs in San Francisco.  He assumed that he was the target, but after the Shadow arrives, they figure that since all of the victims worked for the same company, Nissetco, it had more to do with that.  The Shadow wants an update on the crucifixion murders (another has happened, involving a journalist), and they call on DeWitt Perez to investigate.  He’s at a soup kitchen picking up a free meal, and ends up at a meeting of the Holy Radiance Mission.  A bunch of guys in white suits are preached to, and then they head out with DeWitt following.  In Jersey, Albert uses some kind of mind control to make a pilot agree to fly his explosive-filled plane.  The Shadow’s sons play their music, which Margo doesn’t like.  They agree to leave, and are passed by the Holy Radiance people.  DeWitt shows up, assuming Harry and Margo are on assignment like him.  The HR folk are doused in gasoline.  They enter the concert hall/former church, form a circle, and light themselves on fire, trapping most of the audience.  The Shadow appears and starts killing them, rescuing his sons.  The next morning, we see that the man with Albert is a weird bluish misshapen person.  Their plane takes off and they watch it fly away.  Cardona and Max investigate the burned-down church, and see the crop duster fly low over them, and right into the Nissetco building, exploding.  Somewhere else, the head of Nissetco is prepared to make a broadcast, which he continues to do when he learns of the attack.  DeWitt watches the broadcast on a small portable TV, and the Shadow is surprised to learn that the man speaking is Shiwan Khan, his “deadliest foe”.
  • The Nissetco company launches a satellite from their Massachusetts offices, containing the neural control device, but they have an interface device which they attach to Shiwan Khan’s wrist.  He speaks to the press about the attack on his New York building, and heads there, which means that Stark and Albert can launch their plan.  The Shadow and Mavis figure out that Albert Renn was behind the murder of the Nissetco design team at Tam’s health spa, and also figure out that he has a friend sitting behind bars.  Some televangelist named Jedidiah Filch is upset that the Holy Radiance group is horning in on his booking of Madison Square Gardens.  Max is used to try to free Leonard Gogrin, Renn’s friend, but the Shadow’s sons are impetuous and the jailbreak goes badly.  Gwendolyn, on her first mission, secures Gogrin.  He’s taken to the Shadow’s base, and given a computer to use, which since he is a hacker, he quickly uses beyond the team’s ability to track.  The Shadow goes to speak to him, and he immediately gives up Renn’s plan to use a hacker group (called Shadownet after our hero) to take back the device he built for Nissetco.  DeWitt wanders downtown, and sees that there are more Holy Radiance guys than ever before.  He walks into the church, and sees The Light, the church’s leader, blackmail Filch.  Caught, DeWitt runs, but is caught and burnt.  In the Nissetco building (which still has a hole in it from the plane flying into it – before 9/11, I think people underestimated the damage that would cause to an office tower), Renn manages to separate Khan from his guards, and when Khan tries to buy off Renn, Benedict Stark gets involved.  I guess these are characters with some sort of history.  They start fighting, the Shadow shows up and starts shooting, and things get chaotic.  In the end, Stark has the Shadow on the ropes, just as an attack helicopter arrives outside the gaping hole in the building, and Khan orders it to open fire.
  • The helicopter shoots Stark (it looks like his head blows off), but Khan decides to spare the Shadow.  He leaves, still holding the briefcase that controls the mind control device.  The Shadownet hackers retreat to the Shadow’s old headquarters that they have taken over, and express their anger at Renn for having led them to believe that they were working on the Shadow’s side.  They expel him from the group.  The Shadow’s real associates try to figure out what’s going on, and Twitch is sent to look for Renn.  A group of evangelists meet to figure out what to do about the Light, and one expresses discontent, which Filch dutifully reports to the Light.  Renn, meanwhile, finds himself at the Holy Radiance Mission, and quickly converts.  We see that the Shadow’s people are trailing Khan around New York has he does public relations things like visiting a hospital.  We learn that he’s also about the address the UN.  In that address, he reveals his past as an attempted warlord, and then expresses his anger that the UN is about to allow China to regain control over Taiwan.  He uses his device to make the General Assembly go nuts and start fighting one another.  The Shadow arrives, but is unable to get to Khan, who is inside a bulletproof glass cage.  Cardona and Max are stuck in traffic on their way to the UN building.  Khan tries to leave the UN, and while the Shadow kills his guards, he is attacked by Renn, who chops off his arm to get the briefcase that is cuffed to it.  The crazed UN people come after the injured Khan, while Cardona and Max see Renn getting into a cab with a severed hand hanging from the briefcase.  They give pursuit.  Renn takes the case to the Light, who takes it and leaves him behind.  Cardona, locked outside the church, decides to fire tear gas into the building, which lights a huge fire just as the Shadows operatives arrive.  Twitch, who saw him arrive and who called in reinforcements, explains that Renn is probably dead.
  • The final chapter of Shadows & Light (which is also Sienkiewicz’s final issue, sadly), starts with a brief recap, focusing on the surprise of the cops as the church goes up in flames.  Renn makes it out, but his eyelids have been cut off by the Light’s people (revealing that they are behind the serial killings of this whole arc).  Twitch knocks out Cardona, so that the Shadow’s people are able to take off with Renn, and take him back to their headquarters.  Tam examines the guy, and the Shadow has him woken up so he can use his mind abilities on him, which allows us to finally understand what the control satellite does.  Jimmy Bob, the most recalcitrant of the televangelists shows up offering to help, as the Shadow sends some people to Boston to shut down the satellite, while he sends the others to find the Light.  Max helps Cardona, who has been suspended, to figure out that the Light is behind all the crucifixion killings.  The Light takes over the rackets of the other evangelists, and when he is interrupted by the Shadow’s sons, he is able to take over their minds.  Renn, Gogrin, Butterfield, and Perez head to Boston, where they infiltrate the Nissetco headquarters and try to figure out the satellite system.  The Shadow figures out that the Light will make his move at Madison Square Gardens, and Margo and Harry argue over Harry’s heading out on a mission dressed as the Shadow.  The Light uses the device in Madison Square Gardens, and turns all of his followers, there and watching at home, on the Shadow.  Renn’s group is able to disable the satellite, but it’s too late in that the command to kill the Shadow has gone out, and now they can’t countermand it.  The Shadow ditches his outfit (letting the crowd chase Harry, who is on roller skates) and confronts the Light.  Their fight is cerebral, until Twitch drugs the Light, knocking him out.  Harry stumbles upon the Shadownet in the old headquarters, while the Shadow stages a fight against the Light in Times Square, tossing his enemy to the crowd, dressed in his own outfit.  Thinking the Shadow dead, the crowd returns to normal.  Cardona acknowledges the help by the Shadow on TV, and that’s the arc, basically.
  • The first Annual, which came out during the Shadows & Light arc, serves as a prologue (set in the post-war 40s) to that story, in that it details the story of the Light’s birth and childhood.  His father was a Navy seaman who was caught in a nuclear blast, and his mother was a religious fanatic who fell prey to a man trying to start his own religion after his science fiction writing career fell apart.  The child was later manipulated by some Nazis as part of their plot to use subliminal messaging over the television to find themselves a massive following in America.  The Shadow wrecked this scheme (as well as an earlier Nazi plot to stop the Nuremberg Trial executions through kidnapping Joe Louis).  I didn’t really enjoy this issue; there was too much going on, and it worked under the assumption that the reader already knew the Shadow’s agents in this era.
  • Issue seven is a one-off story featuring art by Marshall Rogers that is so heavily inked by newcomer Kyle Baker that I would never have guessed that it was Rogers’s work.  In the opening, we meet a young psychotic kid named Harold who enjoys torturing animals.  We learn that his class at school has been selected to travel to Washington to meet the President.  Harold’s mother, who is overprotective and clueless in equal measures, declines to let him go because she worries about him (his father has died recently).  We learn that Elton Butterfield, one of the Shadow’s agents, is a teacher at Harold’s school.  He and Perez finish surveilling some drug dealers, and then Elton goes to teach, although his lesson is interrupted when the Shadow shoots the dealers outside the school.  A kid threatens to tell Elton that Harold has forged his mother’s signature on the permission slip, and later, when that kid is “playing Shadow”, he traps his cape in the window of a departing school bus, killing him.  We learn that Elton can’t get any parents to come on the trip, so he gets Lorelei to scrounge up some of the Shadow’s agents for the job.  We also learn that Harold is planning on using a pistol his father brought back from Germany after the War to kill the President, as he thinks that will spark a war that he can give him the chance to become a hero.  Margo, Twitch, and Perez join Elton on the trip, and when the Shadow discovers this, he is unhappy.  The FBI agent set to watch over the kids’ meeting with Reagan is somehow known to Twitch, although we don’t know how.  At the meeting, Harold takes a shot at Reagan but hits Elton, and then takes off into the guts of the Smithsonian.  As the FBI chases him, the Shadow arrives on the scene, and watches as Harold falls from a monorail and hangs off a model of the Washington Monument.  
  • Kyle Baker came on the book as penciller with issue eight, and I believe this might have been his first regular gig.  His stuff is less stylized and cartoonish than it is now, and looks very good.  The new arc, The Seven Deadly Finns, opens with Cardona giving a press conference about a very busy serial killer who has been called the Prong Guy, and has been stabbing criminals in the neck until they die.  We see the Prong Guy, who is a very average person, except he believes that he is being directed in his work by the devil, who he calls Red.  He shows up in the bar where Elton has started working after losing his teaching job, and stabs a guy named Errol Finn (yah, really).  DeWitt goes after him.  Magnet, the FBI agent from the last issue, has moved to New York and set up shop as a PI.  Rupert Tome, a budding journalist, comes to him for help in figuring out the Shadow.  The Shadow, meanwhile, chases a drug dealer to his source, a walled-off crack house, which he blows open with a rocket launcher.  We learn that the supplier is one of the Finns, who is, at the time, learning that his brother is in the hospital while stuffing a corpse into his other brother’s hot-dog making machinery.  Another of the Finns, the richest, also learns of his brother’s situation, and rushes off to a family meeting.  The Shadow meets with a small group of his agents.  Harry and Margo ask for permission to go on tour as magicians, but this is denied, and the Shadow is generally grumpy.  The Finns are meeting one floor below them, and deciding that they should try to find and kill the Shadow.  A group of Jamaican-sounding guys attack Harry’s van, presumably having something to do with a scene a couple of issues back where the Shadow’s people misuse a cab driven by a Jamaican guy.  The Prong Guy attacks and kills a man who was attacking a woman, and has a conversation with the Shadow, who allows him to be arrested after receiving the man’s list of victims.  He is puzzled that the man presumed him to be an agent of the devil.
  • The Prong Guy is interviewed in the hospital, and draws a picture of ‘Red’.  His new lawyer, Hieronymous Bach arrives and shows the picture to the media, claiming that it’s an image of The Shadow, causing Inspector Cardona to get angry.  The Shadow’s operatives set up a trap in Central Park which allows the Shadow to stop an arms shipment to the Finns.  One of the Finns, Artimus, is badly injured but left alive.  Later the Shadow meets with his operatives and shows them that the Finns have been meeting right beneath his offices.  He is angry that his people haven’t been able to figure this out on their own, and he sends Mavis to hire Magnet to locate the Finns’ new meeting place (they left after the Rastas attacked Harry’s van outside the building).  Harry and Margo argue some more, and are attacked by the Rastas inside their own home.  They manage to use Harry’s stage magic to frighten them away, and the Shadow, who observed the whole thing, decides to send the older couple to Atlantic City to perform at one of Cranston’s casinos.  The remaining Finns visit their brothers in the hospital, and argue some more.  As they leave, Bach arrives, and Artimus uses him to hire some more soldiers.  Mavis goes to Magnet’s offices and hires him.  The Shadow goes to the hospital to finish off Artimus, but because he’d just switched beds with his brother Errol, the Shadow ends up shooting the wrong Finn.
  • A surprisingly large amount of stuff gets packed into every issue of this comic, even considering that each issue contains twenty-seven pages of story.  This issue opens in Atlantic City, where Harry and Margo are performing, and where a trio of thieves try to rob Lamont Cranston’s casino.  Cranston (aka The Shadow) himself is waiting for him.  He has one toss himself off a balcony, while he sends the other two to deliver a box of explosives that they think are chocolates to Artimus Finn personally.  Cranston then takes Harry and Margo with him to watch Nurse Gwen wrestle two women in a ring, before revealing himself to her and Twitch, and ordering them back to New York.  Magnet and his reporter buddy figure out the connection between the Finns and the hot dog company, and head out to look for leads.  The Finns attend Errol’s funeral, and while some of the brothers head off to see their mother, Artimus meets with Hieronymous Bach to arrange an attack on the Shadow.  Magnet and Tome watch some men dump a body into the hot dog vats, and then follow them to an armory.  The Shadow’s agents are bored, and when the Shadow arrives, he gives Twitch the job of researching drug processing plants in the city, and then he sends Mavis and Elton to follow the two thieves with the explosives, and to push the detonator once they’ve gone into a building for more than five minutes.  Bach takes Artimus to a psychiatric correctional facility, where his military retainers murder the guards and free a group of five inmates, including the Prong Guy.  Finn then kills Bach.  Two of the other Finns have gone to Lonnie Finn’s brothel, where the two thieves catch up to them.  As they present the box, Mavis detonates it, setting off a large explosion, just as her and Elton are surrounded by Rastafari cab drivers.  The Shadow arrives as the psychiatric facility and begins shooting Artimus’s men, but he and the inmates escape out the back.  Magnet, who has been following the soldiers, arrives at the same time, and decides to arrest the Shadow.
  • The Shadow ends up winging Magnet before revealing that he is his boss, and taking him to headquarters to get patched up.  As Mavis and Elton try to avoid the Rastas, they end up in the Finns’ blown-up brothel, and discover photo evidence that the Police Commissioner and other notables have been availing themselves of the services on offer.  Percy Jennifer, the leader of the Rastas, catches them and gives them a bill for $86.11, which the Shadow incurred back at the UN issues ago.  He finds the Commissioner’s coat and wears it out; Mavis is able to keep the Commissioner from arresting her, Elton, or Percy through blackmail, and he drives them off.  Dr. Tam sews up Magnet, while everyone continues to discuss the Shadow’s harsh leadership manner.  Everyone compares notes and the Shadow gives orders.  Twitch works his drug contacts to get into the Finn’s system, while Artimus Finn takes his crew of psychopaths to his military installation/TV station, and hands them off to a terrorist named Mustafa to train.  DeWitt investigates the hot dog factory, while Elton looks into the monkey feed he found in one of the dead Finn’s pockets.  Hot Dog Finn thinks that DeWitt is an FDA inspector, and he buys him off with diamond-filled weiners, although he is surprised when the real inspector shows up right afterwards.  We learn that the Finns are wholesaling their drugs out of a weird toystore, where they load them into particularly ugly stuffed animals that no one wants to buy.  Twitch gets a job in the drug lab.  Len and Alfred set up some TVs so that the rest of the Shadow’s agents can watch as he and his sons attack the Finns’ TV station, slaughtering all the soldiers there.  Artimus Finn is left angrier than ever.
  • A little later, Artimus and Mustafa take the psychopaths to Rockefeller Center, where Mustafa impersonates the Shadow, and sends the psychos to kill some cops and tourists, and to blow up the statue.  Artimus has doubts about Mustafa’s plans, and is beginning to question his motivations.  Twitch works with the fifth psycho at the drugs lab, and then they go to retrieve the virus he created for the government.  The Shadow spends some time brooding, and showing a bit of character for the first time, twelve issues into the run.  His sons joyride in the flying car in the subway tunnels, while we learn that DeWitt has sold his diamonds for money.  The Shadow gives out jobs again, and puts down Elton’s monkey lead, assigning Magnet and Gogrin to investigate.  Twitch helps the psychotic doctor steal the virus, and is then picked up by the rest of the crew, before being drugged and dumped off a bridge.  DeWitt wants out of the Shadow business, and decides to get himself arrested as a way of getting away from his boss.  He punches a cop.  Magnet learns that only three people have bought monkeys, and starts tracking down leads.  Cardona is also trying to figure out just what the Finns are up to.  The richest of the Finns decides it’s time to get out of his apartment and go hide out at his mother’s.  Mavis creates a distraction at the toy shop/drug front, allowing the Shadow to go in and kill the various workers.  The Finn that runs the place ends up inhaling a number of his own drugs.  In jail, DeWitt watches the hot dog Finn choke to death.  Magnet and Gogrin track the helper monkey angle to the Finn matriarch’s place, where an ape kills Gogrin and knocks out Magnet.  Mustafa and Artimus load up their psychos and head into the city.
  • The end of Seven Deadly Finns is a typically packed issue.  Magnet escapes from Ma Finn’s basement, where her pet gorilla has left him, while she yells at Patrick Finn for not being as good as son to her as Beppo, the gorilla.  The cops find Twitch’s body, and call in Max and Cardona.  Max recognizes him, and is pretty upset.  Mustafa and Artimus Finn take the psychos to the Empire State Building, where they plan to release Flax’s virus, and then blow the building up.  Clearly, Finn has lost control of his plan to stop the Shadow.  Finn tries unsuccessfully to tip off the guards, and Mustafa dumps him in an elevator shaft before blowing all other elevators and moving up into the building.  Max lets the others know that Twitch is dead, and while everyone argues over what to do next, Magnet turns up and tells them where the Finns are.  Twitch is about to be autopsied when he wakes up, and realizes that Flax gave him a pill that allowed his death to be faked.  Patrick Finn decides to abandon his mother, but when he goes to leave, the Shadow has turned up at the front door.  He fights Beppo and kills him, which causes Ma Finn to get out of bed (picture Bill Sienkiewicz’s Shadow King-possessed Karma), get shot, and crush Patrick who was hiding under her bed.  Cardona, Max, and Twitch arrive at the Empire State Building, and Twitch realizes that the Shadow is going to kill Flax, and decides he wants to save him.  The cops who try to enter the building get blown up, so Cardona calls in helicopters.  Artimus Finn decides to climb out of the shaft.  Mustafa makes demands over the radio – calling for the Shadow – when the cops show up in their copters; one of the psychos blows one out of the sky.  The Shadow turns up, and he and Mustafa face off, until the Prong Guy realizes that the Shadow is the real ‘Red’ and attacks Mustafa, who kills him.  Things get a little crazy here, with the Shadow shooting the psychos, as Artimus continues his climb, and Twitch tries to get up to the chaos.  Cardona’s copter throws a rope ladder to Mustafa, thinking he’s the Shadow, and when they realize their mistake, they drop him right onto a radio antenna, killing him.  The Shadow wraps up the other psychos, but Twitch is able to get Flax out of there, running right into a number of cops.  The Shadow takes the elevator down, crushing Artimus Finn to death, and confronts Flax, grabbing him by the neck and ignoring Twitch’s pleas.  Flax bows a poisonous gas into the Shadow’s face, and the gang of agents and his sons arrive just in time to hear him say the name “Lenore” and die.
  • The Body & Soul arc begins with a news broadcast catching readers up on recent events.  Some of this broadcast is shown as background as a pair of burglars rob a sleeping man and then toss him off his balcony.  Rupert Tome leads the TV news crew to the Shadow’s base of operations in return for a job on the network.  The Shadow’s agents perform a funeral of sorts for him, and we see that everyone is pretty lost.  The Shadow’s sons make plans to return him to the mystical city Shambala, and we learn that DeWitt was let out of prison because his arresting officer was drunk.  Percy Jennifah alerts the agents that the news people are coming, and they all clear out.  Elton tries and fails to get his job as a teacher back.  Mavis returns to her job as a data analyst for the FBI.  DeWitt lives in a shack in a junkyard, but his home gets buried in toxic sludge.  Twitch feels intense guilt for his Master’s death.  Joe Cardona feels lost without the Shadow.  Harry decides to continue the Shadow’s mission when he hears that the Highrise killers have murdered an old friend of his.  Margo calls in the other agents to get them to stop Harry before he gets hurt.  Harry finds the Highrise Killers in the act, but they overpower him.  The others arrive, all dressed as the Shadow, and chase the Killers to the roof, where they shoot them and send them flying off the building.  Cardona sees one of them on the rooftop and believes that the Shadow is back.  In China, the Shadow’s sons, flying in their flying car, come close to a Chinese missile base, and are blown out of the sky.
  • We see that the Shadow’s sons survive the explosion, as does their father’s body, and they start trekking towards a very Old West-looking town called Malice.  In New York, Harry calls together some of the Shadow’s agents in their old subway base, and explains his plans to take over for their former Master, that is until his wife comes and drags him home.  Elton, Mavis, and DeWitt decide to continue with the work anyway, but wonder how they will find someone to lead them.  Twitch awakens to a new sense of purpose.  At the Reinhardt Institute, someone, who we know to be Shiwan Khan, is testing his new robotic arm, and requests that his healthy arm also be replaced.  Twitch steals a bunch of medical supplies from the Institute and renames himself the Inoculator.  In Malice, the Shadow’s sons witness the local Arbitrator execute a man, and then they rent a hotel room, where they leave their father’s body.  Their wallets have been stolen, so they have to find a way to get some money.  They are observed by someone identifying himself on a radio as Two X Two L (he is calling someone called CQ), who is commanded to retrieve the Shadow’s body.  The Chinese military search the wreckage of the flying car, and start tracking the brothers towards Malice.  In the town, the brothers build up a bar tab, as Two X Two L and some others sneak into their hotel room to take their father’s body and his ring.  The brothers lose badly at poker, and when they attempt to leave, the Arbitrator is called for.  This causes the brothers to flee, with half of Malice in pursuit.  They run to the hotel, to find their father’s body missing, and continue to flee, ending up falling through the roof of an arcade where they are surrounded by knife-wielding teenagers.  The Inoculator stops a kiddie porn ring, killing the two men running it.  The next day, DeWitt reads about it in the paper and thinks this could be his new leader.
  • A sniper starts picking people off at New York University, but Cardona refuses to send in the police, waiting instead for the Shadow to show up.  Instead, the Inoculator arrives and kills the shooter.  Mavis, DeWitt, and Elton hire PI Magnet to find the Inoculator, not knowing that he’s their friend Twitch.  In Malice, the Shadow’s sons are being held by the town’s kids.  They set up a deathtrap for them, but one of the brothers instead convinces them to a video game challenge.  While he plays, the other brother tells the kids stories of Shambala, making them all want to go there.  The mercenaries who took the Shadow’s body run into the Chinese soldiers following the brothers’ trail, and they get into a gunfight.  Two X Two L (we still don’t know his name) takes cover behind the Shadow’s body and is the only one not shot.  Helicopter gunships arrive (which the Chinese strangely identify as belonging to ‘rock and rollers’) and take away Two X Two L, who has the Shadow’s severed finger and ring with him.  The soldiers identify the body as belonging to the Shadow, and decide to follow the mercenaries’ trail to see where they came from.  Shiwan Khan, now with a second robotic arm, wants his legs replaced.  Magnet is in the same institute, tracking down the Inoculator.  Meanwhile, the Inoculator busts up a drug deal in a movie theatre, and when his quarry escapes, he suffers a few moments of doubt (especially when he remembers that he’s dyed his skin green).  He finds cops shaking down the guy he was chasing (crooked cops, of course) and takes out two of them, but is also shot in the process.  The Shadow’s sons lead the kids out of the arcade (where they are confined by the adults of Malice), and go to the hotel to try to figure out what happened to their father’s body.  The bellhop calls for the Arbitrator, and everyone flees the town, only to run into the Chinese soldiers at the town limits.  The police commissioner chews out Cardona, and then, when discovering that the Inoculator is cutting into his illegal side business, calls for a retired operative to take him out.
  • The Avenger, who has been out of the game for a while, returns to the office where he got his contracts.  He apparently has the ability to change his face at will, and impersonates his contact.  He is given the job of killing the Inoculator, and of making it a quiet and secretive kill.  The only lead he has to go on is that someone robbed the Reinhardt Institute of medical weapons, and that a PI was seen investigating that.  Twitch, still bleeding and running from the cops, looks for a hiding place in the subways, and is found by Dr. Tam, who was hanging out in the Shadow’s old base.  He doesn’t want Tam to tell the others about him.  In China, the Shadow’s sons and the children of Malice lie down between the townspeople and the Chinese soldiers, who proceed to shoot at each other (without ever hitting anyone).  The bellhop from the hotel (who is so little he can stand without being hit) offers to negotiate a deal, and using dynamite taken from one of the kids, collapses the mountain valley on the Arbitrator.  The Chinese soldiers then trade the Shadow’s body to the brothers for the bellhop, who they think is a robotic doll.  As the brothers and the Malice kids leave, the townspeople climb the rubble, and kill the Chinese soldiers.  Somewhere else, the guy who stole the Shadow’s finger, who we learn is named Hogan, arrives at the base of his boss, who is named Odessa.  She collects the taxidermied bodies of various celebrities, keeps an odd collection of wild animals, and herself uses medical devices to approach death.  She is happy to get the Shadow’s finger, but wants the rest of his body as well.  Shiwan Khan, who now has robotic legs, is not doing well, and the doctors at the Reinhardt Institute decide to use the skills of a mysterious Chinese doctor who has managed to keep a severed dog head alive.  The Avenger enters the Institute, disguised as Magnet, and manages to learn where the PI hangs his hat.  He goes to see the real Magnet, who is about to quit the Inoculator case for a lack of leads, just as the Shadow’s team arrives.  He does a poor job of impersonating the PI, but then they receive a call from Dr. Tam and leave.  The Avenger follows them, and when they all find Twitch, the Avenger reveals himself and his mission.
  • Rupert Tome frees the real Magnet, and together they go to the Shadow’s old hideout just in time to save their friends from being shot by the Avenger.  Dr. Tam remembers who he is, and they manage to convince him that they were the Shadow’s associates.  Twitch convinces him that the cops he killed as the Inoculator were dirty.  At the funeral for one of those cops, we learn that the Commissioner has been sleeping with his wife, and when she tries to shake him down for money, he commands his nephew, also a cop, to kill her and go make his regular pickup.  At the Reinhardt Institute, the unnamed doctor removes Khan’s head and hooks it up to a machine that will keep him alive.  In China, the Shadow’s sons continue their trek to Shambala, when they are attacked again by Odessa’s men, who come in helicopters.  The brothers take out one copter, but when it crashes, it manages to decapitate the Shadow’s body.  The brothers retrieve the head, but the men in the other copter get the body and fly off.  The brothers decide to continue to Shambala, not knowing they are still being followed by the townspeople of Malice.  The Shadow’s crew circle the city looking for dirty cops.  When they find some, collecting drug money and shooting the dealer because he is short some cash, the Avenger knocks out the Commissioner’s nephew and takes his place.  The cops return to the station and meet with the Commissioner, and once his criminal activities are confirmed, the Avenger shoots and kills him before running away.  The actual nephew wakes up in his underwear, and goes on a bit of a rampage, before being gunned down by Max.  The Shadow’s crew celebrates their success, but when Mavis asks the Avenger to take over as their new ‘master’, he ducks out on them.  The Shadow’s sons and the kids from Malice arrive at Shambala.
  • Issue nineteen concludes the Body and Soul arc, and is a strange issue for a number of reasons.  To begin with, we see nothing of the Shadow’s associates in New York, as the issue is almost entirely set in Shambala.  We see that Rutra, a woman of some importance in the city, I gather, or at least for the Shadow, has hooked the Shadow’s head up to a machine similar to the one that’s been used on Shiwan Khan, and has revived the Shadow.  He’s not happy about not having a body, and immediately know it’s his sons’ fault.  They, meanwhile, are feeling very guilty about having failed in their duty to their father.  They see that the kids they brought are mostly integrating into Shambala.  The surviving townspeople of Malice (apparently the Arbitrator didn’t die) decide to attack and take over Shambala.  The Shadow is offered a robot body while his new clone is grown (apparently the doctor that operated on Khan had recently fled the city, and left another robot body behind) but doesn’t want it.  We see the brothers take their father’s head to buy a new hat, and to watch as the elders of the town adopt out the children from Malice to local families, except for one rebellious teen, who catches the Shadow’s eye.  The people from Malice attack with guns and a tank, and start massacring the people of Shambala, including the paladins who guard the city.  The Shadow has his head attached to the robot body, which has a number of weapons, and saves the elders and then the city.  He decides to return to New York, to take the kid with him, and to leave his sons to train to become paladins.  In New York, Shiwan Khan is happy with his new robot body, although he’s not happy to hear that there is a copy of it in another city.  This issue ends stating that the next arc, “Nuts & Bolts” would begin in the next issue.  Which never happened.
  • The second Annual was released during the Body and Soul arc, fitting in right where the crew is out looking for Twitch and/or the Inoculator, not knowing they are the same person.  In the Annual, Rupert Tome tries to sell the secret of the Shadow’s last word, Lenore, to a television station, but first has to discover what it signifies.  He goes around talking to some of the Shadow’s agents – Harry, Margo, Dr. Tam, Burbank, Elton, and DeWitt, and along the way learns how all of them and Twitch were recruited to join his mission.  In the end, the fact that Lenore was the name of his plane from his days as a WWI pilot escapes everyone’s’ notice.

The rather abrupt ending to this series is, so far as I can find on the internet, the result of Condé Nast, the company that owns the Shadow license, really not liking the satirical direction that Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker were taking this book.  It’s a shame, because I felt like the title was really hitting its stride in terms of character development, and would have liked to have read at least one more arc.  I have no idea what the sales on this book were like at the time, but can see how a corporation that holds the license to a classic pulp character might be a little confused or upset to see that character decapitated and placed on a robot body after spending five issues as a corpse being dragged through the mountains.  Helfer and Baker moved pretty far away from the source material.

I think it’s worth noting though, when talking about this comic, that the checklist of other comics being published in the same month in the second issue advertised Watchmen #12, while the last issue advertised Sandman #1.  This was a very exciting era for DC Comics, and in that environment, the bizarre excesses and bold directions of this title make perfect sense.  This was a time when writers were reexamining what superheroes were all about, and I think it’s only right that the pulps were not spared that same wild creativity.

That said, these are really only good comics.  Helfer’s writing is very dense and involved, yet until the end, we know very little about these characters, most especially the Shadow.  The book is very plot-driven, but often that plot gets kind of labyrinthine.  Reading the book in daily doses as I did makes it work a lot better than as a monthly would have – I even found myself having to go back and looking at things from time to time to make sure I got it all straight, especially in the first arc.

The big draw of this title for me was the art.  Bill Sienkiewicz is great at the beginning, if a little constrained, while Kyle Baker, in his first big gig, is excellent.  You can see the later looseness of Baker’s art struggling to get free, but at the same time, the style he adopted here fits the story and the era very well.

Having finished with these, I feel no desire to check out any other takes on the character – not even Matt Wagner’s more recent work with him.  Nothing about this series made the Shadow compelling to me as a character, but I would love to see someone dig into a group of people like his agents again, because I was mostly interested in seeing what makes them tick.

A little after this title disappeared, Helfer and Baker released a two-part Justice Inc. series that focused on the Avenger.  That’s up next for this column.  

If you’d like to see the archives of all of my retro review columns, click here.

If you’d like to read these comics, they’ve been collected here:
Shadow Master Series Volume 1
Shadow Master Series Volume 2
Shadow Master Series Volume 3

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