Thursday, May 31, 2012


"I liked Battleship enough to recommend it for those inclined to be forgiving of simple emotional roller-coaster-ride type of sci-fi action films."

Science Fiction, Action and Adventure

Starring - Taylor Kitsch/Lieutenant Alex Hopper, Alexander Skarsgård/Commander Stone Hopper, Rihanna/Petty Officer Cora 'Weps' Raikes, Brooklyn Decker/Samantha Shane, Tadanobu Asano/Captain Yugi Nagata, Hamish Linklater/Cal Zapata, Liam Neeson/Admiral Shane, Peter MacNicol/Secretary of Defense, John Tui/Chief Petty Officer Walter 'The Beast' Lynch, Jesse Plemons/Boatswain Mate Seaman Jimmy 'Ordy' Ord and Gregory D. Gadson/Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales

Director - Peter Berg

Writer(s) - Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber

Rated PG-13 - intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language

2 hr., 11 min.

I’ll admit this right up front: I had no intention of seeing Battleship at the theater. I had the same impression about this film that many others had. Based on the trailer, this film looked like a Transformers-clone and – although I am a fan of the Transformers trilogy as the ultimate guilty pleasure – I wasn’t interested in a copy-cat film this soon after Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). Well, timing is everything as they say and two things came about that allowed me the pleasure (sic) of seeing Battleship: I was on vacation and I had nothing to do on Tuesday on which day all films are $5 at my local theater. Was Battleship worth even $5 dollars? Yes, but I don’t think I would have missed out on anything seeing it at home; especially since there were only five people in the theater with The Bride and I to witness the Battleships kicking alien ass! Whoops! I didn’t mean to spoil the ending!

Seven years earlier, NASA has transmitted a super-amplified signal to a distant “goldilocks” planet in hopes of finding intelligent life outside our solar system. Jump to 2012 and they get their answer… in the form of five enormous spaceships; four of which land in the waters near the Hawaiian Islands, with the fifth having hit a satellite, which causes it to crash in a populated center or Hong Kong.

Shortly before this occurs, we are introduced to two brothers. One is Commander Stone Hopper, the Commanding Officer of the USS Sampson, who is the older brother of Alex, who is currently unemployed and living on his brother’s sofa. While celebrating Alex’s birthday at a local bar, Alex gets into trouble stealing a chicken burrito for a beautiful woman at the bar; who it turns out is the daughter of the United States Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Shane. Somehow, this convinces Stone to force Alex to enlist in the Navy. In very little time, Alex has risen through the ranks and become a lieutenant and the Tactical Action Officer aboard the destroyer USS John Paul Jones.

There is a large international fleet on tactical maneuvers off the coast of Hawaii, when the previously mentioned spaceships crash into the waters only hundreds of yards away from a group of Navy vessels. Lieutenant Alex and a small crew take a dingy to investigate a floating section of the alien wreckage. The alien spaceships become alert and prepare to fire weapons on the surrounding ships and suddenly all hell breaks loose. The aliens create an enormous force shield around their spaceships and now only the ships within the shield are able to fight the alien spaceships. Of course, among these vessels are Alex’s ship and his bother Stone’s ship – both destroyer class vessels. Through an amazing series of dramatic maneuvering and classic cinematic coincidences, Alex destroys the alien ships and the communication satellite dishes that the aliens were attempting to use to summon their larger space fleet.

If all this sounds really dumb to you, you’d be correct! Oddly, it doesn’t matter one whit while watching Battleship because the enormous energy and sheer enthusiasm of the film’s cast and creators beat you into submission until you find yourself loving every minute of the action almost despite yourself!

As with all the alien invasion films that have been released in the past few years, Battleship offers no explanation as to why the aliens suddenly start blowing up the surrounding ships. The reason we assume that they came to Earth at all was because we beamed them a message into space at their planet and they arrived in answer to that message. Unfortunately, we’re never told what the message was that was beamed to their planet; but is it too much to assume that it was a peaceful message? So why all the hostility? Well, they do land right smack dab in the middle of several Navel battleship fleets during a war exercise. I guess with all those big guns pointed at them, the aliens didn’t take that as a precursor to friendly conversation.

All joking aside, the battle sequences are quite exciting and because the aliens use a projectile like weapon, the battleships actually have a fighting chance. Not much of one, as the alien munitions appear to be almost infinite, but at least they have a fighting chance. One funny and odd thing about the alien projectiles – which fire whole at the ships, embed themselves into the hulls of the ships and then explode in synchronized succession – they look a lot like the pegs that were used in the original MB Battleship game to mark hits and misses. I can only assume this was intentional; but I’m a little surprised I didn’t hear any snickers in the (admittedly small) crowd in the theater.

Battleship did not do well at the box office in this country. It only pulled in around $25 million dollars in its first weekend in the United States. With a reported $209 million dollar budget, Taylor Kitsch is already becoming known as a blockbuster killer. Between the disappointing John Carter and now Battleship, they say he can’t act and isn’t a strong enough actor to carry a major motion picture. I disagree with this assessment. Taylor is fine as a male lead. In Battleship, they went right for the James T. Kirk type if hero; the selfish bad-boy, who straitens out and learns leadership and teamwork in the military. They overdid the bad-boy stuff early in the movie; almost to the point of making him completely unlikeable. But his character does win you over eventually. Liam Neeson was obviously used to sell the film in commercials and have a “name” on the billboards, as he is sadly underutilized in the film. He has only a handful of scenes and he comes off as a one-note character as a result. The rest of the cast are good enough so that you root for them to victory, but none of them really stand out either.

The special effects are excellent to good. I liked the design of the ships and in particular the smaller ships. The large rolling tank-like spheres were cool and the destruction they unleashed was quite impressive. The alien’s attack was very defense oriented, as they only went on the offensive when attacked. I assume because there were only four spaceships, they felt they were outnumbered and had to wait until they could get their message into space for alien reinforcements.

I liked Battleship enough to recommend it for those inclined to be forgiving of simple emotional roller-coaster-ride type of sci-fi action films. If you want deeper, headier science fiction, look elsewhere. If you want lots of alien gun fights and explosions, with a feel-good ending straight out of the first Star Wars movie, than by all means watch Battleship!

TECHNICAL: Acting – 8 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 10

VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 8 Involvement – 9


Tuesday, May 29, 2012


“MIB 3 has everything that you could want from this series:  Ray gun fights, spaceship battles, sci-fi gadgets, cool aliens and most importantly lots of laugh-out-loud jokes!”

Science Fiction, Comedy and Action

Starring - Will Smith/Agent J, Tommy Lee Jones/Agent K, Josh Brolin/Young Agent K, Jemaine Clement/Boris The Animal, Emma Thompson/Agent O, Michael Stuhlbarg/Griffin, Mike Colter/Colonel, Nicole Scherzinger/Boris' Girlfriend, Michael Chernus/Jeffrey Price and Alice Eve/Young Agent O

Director - Barry Sonnenfeld

Writer - Etan Cohen (uncredited) David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio

Rated PG-13 - sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content
1 hr., 43 min.

It has been ten long years since Men in Black 2, but I for one think it was worth the wait. Director Barry Sonnenfeld has only directed one other feature film since MIB 2 – 2006’s RV – so it was nice to see him return to the cinema with his most successful film franchise. Rumors were that Will Smith was not interested in returning to the role of Agent J and that was why there was such a long wait between MIBs 2 and 3. However, it was more likely that getting both Smith and Jones schedules to match was a more likely cause, as they had publicly admitted to want to return to MIB in 2008. The script, which was originally written by Etan Cohen in 2009, went through several rewrites, right up to the time and through shooting MIB 3, which began in November of 2010. The idea of the time travel storyline was credited to Will Smith by Sonnenfeld, who says Smith came up with the idea during the shooting of MIB2. Whoever came up with the idea, it was a good one as it allowed Tommy Lee Jones’ character’s background to be fleshed out more.

MIB 3 begins by showing the interstellar criminal Boris the Animal escaping from a prison on the Moon. After crashing his spaceship in New York City, Boris attacks K in a Chinese restaurant telling him, “You’re already dead… you just don’t know it yet”, before disappearing in an explosion. The next morning, Agent J calls K, but doesn’t get an answer, so he goes to K’s apartment and finds a young family living there. J returns to MIB headquarters, asking K’s whereabouts, but no one knows who K is, with the exception of new Chief Agent O, who informs J that K died in 1969.

Earth is suddenly attacked by hundreds of Boglodite spaceships. Agent J asks Chief Agent O why they haven’t activated the ArcNet shield and Agent O realizes that Boris must have traveled back to 1969 to kill Agent K and keep him from activating the shield, which would allow his fellow Bogoidites free reign over the Earth. Agent J finds the son of Obadiah Price – the creator of a time-travel device – and forces him to give him his sole remaining device, so that K can return to the day before Boris killed K in 1969.

J tries to avoid K in the past, but of course the younger Agent K arrests J during a car chase while in pursuit of younger Boris. J tells K the truth and K calmly tells J that he will help him to capture Boris and save the Earth’s future invasion by the Bogoidites.

Men in Black 3 succeeds because it develops both the complex plot and the deep relationship between J and K. The time travel story isn’t just window dressing to show J’s comical reaction to the late 1960’s cultural growing pains (which it dose), but to also tell the story of how Agent K became the sullen introverted person in the future. I really liked the way the story blended both these elements, without ever bogging down the pacing of the action or resorting to maudlin melodrama.

Much of the success of MIB can be attributed to Will Smith’s ability to slip back and forth effortlessly between comedy and drama. His scenes with both Tommy Lee Jones’ present K and Josh Brolin’s past K are both funny and touching. Little character touches like the country song that K is listening to in his car is the same in both the present and the past help to create a connection to the two actors that resonates with both characters. Enough can’t be said about Joss Brolin’s performance as the younger K. He doesn’t do just an imitation of Jones’ K, but actually seems to become the character. This makes the time that is spent in 1969 just as enjoyable as the time spent in the film’s present. While Emma Thompson’s Agent O isn’t given much to actually do in MIB 3, her character is very important to the story, so I was impressed by what Emma Thompson did with her character. I really enjoyed a new character that was introduced in MIB 3: the mysterious alien Griffen, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Griffen is an Arcadian who possesses ability to see all possible futures and it is not as useful an ability as it might seem, as he has a tendency not to see the real timeline until the last possible second.

MIB 3 is filled with all the usual alien high-tech gizmos as in the past two films, but my favorites are the uni-motor bikes that K and J drive in 1969. Rick Baker contributed over 100 alien makeup effects for MIB 3 and every one of them is amazing! There is so much to look at in this film that it is easy to become distracted from the story itself.

Speaking of the story, one noticeable lack of a story element in this MIB film was a love interest for Will Smith’s J. I honestly didn’t even notice this missing element until the film was over, because the story was so focused on the relationship between J and K. There is a minor love element to MIB 3, but I won’t spoil it here; but it is a nice one.

MIB 3 has everything that you could want from this series:  Ray gun fights, spaceship battles, sci-fi gadgets, cool aliens and most importantly lots of laugh-out-loud jokes! This is not only the third film in the MIB series; it may the best one as well.

TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 9 Cinematography – 9 Script – 9 Special Effects – 10

VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 9


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Falling Skies, the science fiction alien invasion drama on TNT, will be returning for a second season of ten more episodes, starting on June 17, 2012 at 9:00 PM.
I had some reservations about this show in the early episodes of season one, but as the show progressed, I grew to enjoy it more and more. While I still find the main character Tom Mason to be a trifle dull, he is at least likable and somewhat relatable. I understood his obsession with recovering his son Ben, but I was glad when that storyline was resolved half-way through season one. Mason even demonstrated overt affection towards Anne Glass in the final episode of season one, which was a classic case of better-late-than-never. I really like Pope, the classic anti-hero of the show, and I was happy when he gradually integrating himself into The Second by making himself useful as more than just a good cook. The cliffhanger ending where Mason was taken away willingly by the aliens was a bit of a drag – especially knowing I was going to have to wait almost a year before seeing if he would survive the encounter – but the suspense was somewhat mitigated by the fact that he is the lead of the program.
Here is a three-and-a-half minute preview of the first episode of the second season of Falling Skies, which features a fast-paced battle between members of The Second and the alien Skitters and the alien robot Mechs! Enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012


In the sixth part of Zombzany Meets Doc Freak titled "Zap from the Dead", Zombzany is comatose and is laying prone on a makeshift lab table, covered by a sheet and holding his staff. Doc Freak is hovering over Zombzany, carefully attaching two electric cables to Zombzany’s Necromancer staff. Freak yells, “Hit the juice, Bill!” and Zombzany’s body is suddenly jolted by 1000’s of volts of electrical current. As soon as the powerful electrical energy subsides, Zombzany sits upright, looking puzzled at the jubilant Doc Freak. Freak tells Zombzany that he has awakened just in time to view the next feature fright flick, Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman, and Zombzany promptly passes out.

We come back from the film and Zombzany demands an explanation from Doc Freak as to why he has been unconscious for the past three films of the marathon. Doc Freak tries to make up a story on the fly, but Zombzany doesn’t fall for it and promptly knocks Freak to the ground with his damaged staff. Freak gets up, rubbing his sore head and begins complaining about the next Dracula film. Zombzany returns and whacks Freak once again for good measure.

Enjoy, Zombzany Meets Doc Freak - Part Six – Zap from the Dead

Sunday, May 6, 2012


“The Avengers is the first movie in a very long time that as soon as it ended, I wanted to immediately watch it again!”

Superhero, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Action

Staring - Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark & Iron Man, Chris Evans/Steve Rogers & Captain America, Mark Ruffalo/Bruce Banner & The Hulk, Chris Hemsworth/Thor, Scarlett Johansson/Natasha Romanoff & Black Widow, Jeremy Renner/Clint Barton & Hawkeye, Tom Hiddleston/Loki, Clark Gregg/Agent Phil Coulson, Cobie Smulders/Agent Maria Hill, Stellan Skarsgård/Professor Erik Selvig and Samuel L. Jackson/Nick Fury

Director/Writer – Joss Whedon

Rated PG-13 - intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and a mild drug reference.

2 hr., 21 min.

The Avengers is the culmination of four years of Marvel superhero movies! Iron Man arrived in May of 2008 and was immediately followed by The Incredible Hulk in June of 2008. Iron Man 2 soloed in May of 2010. Thor was released in May of 2011 as part of a Marvel double-header with Captain America: The First Avenger following in July of 2011. Each one of these films was tied into the Avengers movie with a very clever linking thread: a post-credits scene. Iron Man had Nick Fury attempting to recruit Tony Stark for the "Avenger Initiative.” The Incredible Hulk’s final scene shows Tony Stark walking into a bar to ask General Ross “What if I told you we’re putting a team together?” Iron Man 2’s post-credits scene shows S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson observing an impact crater in the New Mexico desert, with Thor’s hammer lying in the crater. Thor’s post-credit’s scene shows Nick Fury talking to Professor Erik Selvig and showing him the Tesseract cube and saying it is, “Unlimited power, Doctor. If we can figure out how to tap it, maybe unlimited power.” Finally, in the Captain America post-credit scene, we see Nick Fury telling Steve Rodgers after he asks if he’s trying to get him back in the world, Fury says, “We’re trying to save it.” This four year cross-film pollination has built up unprecedented anticipation for The Avengers movie and thankfully the film lives up to that extraordinary expectation!
The Avengers opens in a S.H.I.E.L.D. underground base, where they have hidden the Tesseract device to experiment on. The devise activates and Loki steps though a gate created by it and he immediately takes mental control of several agents, including Clint ‘Hawkeye” Barton and Professor Erik Selvig, who aid him in escaping the facility with the Tesseract device.

Nick Fury contacts Agent Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff and asks her to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner to help find the stolen Tesseract device. Meanwhile Agent Phil Coulson asks Tony Stark to review Selvig's research and to also help retrieve the device. Fury himself works with Steve “Captain America” Rodgers to help coordinate an attack on Loki once he is located. Unbeknownst to anyone, Loki has made a deal with an alien known only as the Other, to recruit an alien race called the Chitauri to help him subjugate Earth.

Banner traces the Tesseract device to Stuttgart, Germany, where Loki battles with Captain America and Iron Man and surrenders to S.H.I.E.L.D. Thor intercepts the plane transporting Loki and takes him away in an attempt to make his brother see reason. Iron Man and Thor fight over Loki, but Captain America intercedes and they agree to imprison Loki in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier.

The Helicarrier is attacked by Loki’s possessed agents and they eventually free him after a tremendous battle that results in Banner transforming into the Hulk. Eventually, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, the Black Widow and Hawkeye, fight Loki and his alien army in a tremendous battle in New York City, where Loki uses the Tesseract device to open a portal that unleashes the full might of the Chitauri military!

The Avengers is the first movie in a very long time that as soon as it ended, I wanted to immediately watch it again! Even films that I’ve truly loved in recent years haven’t motivated me with more than a knowledge that I would be buying it on blu-ray to watch it again. The pure adrenalin thrill that The Avengers produces is rare in films today; especially for someone like me who is old enough to have seen Star Wars in theaters in 1977 when it was the first and only Star Wars film.

What really makes The Avengers such an exhilarating and entertaining cinematic experience is the perfectly executed dynamics between all the characters; particularly the most powerful characters Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk. At a point in the film, each one of these characters has a physical confrontation with each other, that helps to establish not only a mutual respect for each other’s powers, but their powerful personalities as well. An example of this cagey dynamic is demonstrated in the fight between the Hulk and Thor. It is not fully resolved on a physical level, but later in the film when the two of them are standing side by side after having mutually defeated a common foe, the Hulk casually punches Thor in the arm which sends Thor flying off in the air several hundred feet!

I’ll admit up front that I am a Whedonite! I’ve followed Joss Whedon’s creations all the way from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Angel, to Firefly, to Dollhouse, to Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and liked or loved them all. His first feature film, 2005’s Serenity, which was based on his sci-fi western TV series Firefly, really demonstrated Joss ability to tell a complex story with multiple characters in a two-hour film format, so I was confident that he would also write a similarly intricate and vivid story for The Avengers as well. Joss Whedon’s fingerprints are all over this film, but they particularly stand out in the dialogue between the characters.  When Thor and Black Widow are discussing how to punish Loki Thor explains his reluctance with, “He's my brother.” To which Natasha responds, “He’s killed eighty people in two days!” Thor sheepishly replies, “He’s adopted.” One of the better physical gags is between Loki and the Hulk fighting and an astonished Loki shouts, “I am a God! I am not going to be bullied by a...” and before he can finish the Hulk grabs him by the legs and throws him around like a doll, then simply utters, “Puny God!” These are the types of small breaks in the action that really make The Avengers unique and a very Joss Whedonesque film.

The magnificent battle at the finally of the film in New York City is not only filled with the expected extravagant special effects, but there are quite a few good emotional payoffs as well. My favorite moment - this isn’t a spoiler, because they show it the trailer – is when Tony Stark is falling from the sky to his certain doom, it is the Hulk who catches him and slows his fall. This is significant because throughout the film, Tony Stark is the one person who believes that Bruce Banner will be able to assert his personality after he transforms into the Hulk and this scene is the exclamation point that proves him right. In a way, this scene also demonstrates the essence of The Avengers, which to me is about the sacrifice of self to the mutual benefit of the assembled whole. That is indeed what the saying “Avengers Assemble” is all about!

TECHNICAL: Acting – 10 Directing – 10 Cinematography – 10 Script – 10 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 9 Intellectual – 9 Emotional – 10 Involvement – 10

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Thank you for voting in the - Which of these films do you plan on seeing in April of 2012 – poll! The results to this month’s poll were reflective of the less-than-stellar genre films being released. Of the six people who voted, there was no clear film that people were interested in seeing. Three of the four films each received two votes (33%). These were: Cabin in the Woods, Lockout and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. I am most interested in seeing Cabin in the Woods, but will certainly see Lockout when it is available on blu-ray for rent as well. I’m not a fan of Claymation, so I doubt I’ll even rent The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

Receiving the fewest votes was The Raven with one vote (16%) and not being a fan of Edgar Allan Poe I passed on this one at the theater as well. Still, I may check it out on Netflix streaming, as I liked the director James McTeigue’s previous films: V for Vendetta and Ninja Assassin.

Thank you all for voting on this month’s poll! There are now six of you who may consider yourselves Genre Guardian Generals! Anyone who has seen Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, The Raven or The Pirates! Band of Misfits at the theater, please leave a quick comment here and let me know what you thought of it.


Once again on the right column of this page, you will see at the top of the column the next poll that I’ve posted. This second poll includes the titles and release dates of all the major SF, Fantasy or Horror films that are being distributed to movie theaters in the month of May 2012. They are: The Avengers (May 4), Dark Shadows (May 11), Battleship (May 18) and Men in Black III (May 25). As always, I’d appreciate anyone who reads GUARDIANS OF THE GENRE! to place a vote for any of these films that you plan on seeing at the theater. The Avengers is a film I’ve been anticipating since Iron Man (2008), so I’ll be watching this film at the theater sometime this coming weekend! I am not a fan of either Dark Shadows or Tim Burton, so I’ll be passing on his weird reimaging of the old 1960’s daytime-TV drama. Battleship looks like a fantastic guilty-pleasure sci-fi action flick in the model of Transformers, but I’ll save my money and watch this one on blu-ray. I’m a fan of the two previous Men in Black films (yes, I even liked the much maligned MIB II), so it’s a no-brainer that I’ll be seeing Men in Black III on the big screen!

Let me know what you’ll be seeing on the big screen by participating in this month’s new poll!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


“I really liked this first issue of The Shadow and I only hope that both Ennis and Campbell remain on this book long enough to tell a nice long story arch. I recommend The Shadow to anyone with an interest in pulp characters or period set stories.”

I had every intention of writing a weekly Comic Book of the Week post, but several things got in the way. One is that even though I consistently read two or three comics every single week, I don’t always read a comic on certain weeks that I enjoy enough to inspire me to write an entire post on it. Also, it is a simple matter of time. Because I promised myself that this year I would write a post of every single genre film that I watch this year – good or bad – I have a limited amount of time to write non-movie review posts. Still, I have always used Guardians of the Genre to promote things of many different mediums that get me excited and I will – time permitting – write a periodic Comic Book of the Week post.

The Shadow has a long and complex history, as both a character and as a multimedia property.

The Shadow initially appeared on July 31, 1930, as an enigmatic narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. The Shadow became so popular with listeners, that circulation manager Henry William Ralston of Street & Smith commissioned Walter B. Gibson to write stories for The Shadow Magazine, which debuted on April 1, 1931. The Shadow Magazine was published until 1949, and Gibson wrote 282 out of 325 stories: a novel-length story twice a month (1st and 15th). The mysterious narrator briefly disappeared from the airwaves in 1935, but was replaced in 1937 in a new series written by Gibson and scriptwriter Edward Hale Bierstadt, starring as Lamont Cranston, a "wealthy young man about town." This program did not leave the air until December 26, 1954.

The Shadow has been seen in comics many times. His first appearance was in 1940 as a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip, written by Walter B. Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene, but only lasted two years. The first comic book featuring The Shadow was published by Street & Smith and ran for 101 issues, from March 194 to September 1949. Archie Comics published an eight-issue series, The Shadow from August 1964 to September 1965. Probably the best known comics adaptation of the character was published by DC Comics in the mid-1970s, by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Michael Kaluta in a 12-issue series. Artist and writer Howard Chaykin created a four issue mini-series for DC in 1986 that featured a modernized Shadow in New York. A similar take on The Shadow was continued the following year in 1987, as a monthly DC comics series by writer Andy Helfer and artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker. Marvel Comics published a beautiful graphic novel in 1988, reteaming O’Neil and Kaluta entitled: The Shadow 1941: Hitler's Astrologer. DC published a new Shadow series from 1989 to 1992 titled The Shadow Strikes. This series, which was set in the 1930s, was written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Eduardo Barreto and ran for 31 issues. During the early-to-mid-1990s, Dark Horse Comics published the Shadow 4-issue miniseries “In The Coils of Leviathan” and 3-issue miniseries Hell's Heat Wave. Both mini-series were written by Joel Goss and Michael Kaluta and drawn by Gary Gianni.

The Shadow has also appeared in films several times. The Shadow Strikes appeared in 1937 and a sequel, International Crime was released 1938 by Grand National Pictures. The Shadow was a 15-chapter serial produced by Columbia Studios and premiered in 1940. A trio of low-budget motion pictures produced by Monogram in 1946 were: The Shadow Returns, Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady. The Shadow didn’t return to the silver screen until 1994 in the form of the big budget The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston and Penelope Ann Miller as Margo Lane.

Dynamite Entertainment has licensed the Shadow from Conde Nast and debuted The Shadow #1 on April 19, 2012. Dynamite Entertainment describes The Shadow thus:

1938: The Shadow returns in a tale of blazing action and deadly intrigue, as a night of carnage on the New York waterfront plunges the mysterious vigilante into a conspiracy involving the fate of the world itself. As storm clouds gather across the globe, American Military Intelligence meets with a certain Lamont Cranston, determined to beat a host of spies and assassins to the greatest prize of all... but what that might be, only the Shadow know.

The Shadow is written by Garth Ennis. Ennis is a Northern Irish comics writer, best known for the Vertigo series Preacher with artist Steve Dillon and his successful nine-year run on Marvel Comics' Punisher franchise. My only experience is with his writing is the 60 issues of the Vertigo series Transmetropolitan, which chronicles the battles of Spider Jerusalem, a notorious renegade journalist in a dystopian future.

The Shadow is penciled and inked by artist Aaron Campbell. I have only seen Campbell’s art on the 5-issue mini-series The Trial of Sherlock Holmes - also published by Dynamite Entertainment. I thought it was competently illustrative, but a trifle un-dynamic. I could see how his style would lend itself to a period story and it did give me hope for The Shadow.

The first issue of The Shadow nicely establishes the setting in pre-world war two by juxtaposing the atrocities of the Japanese army with the criminals of New York City. Within a few pages, The Shadow brutally murders nearly a dozen armed criminals; yet lets one man he deems “a mere hireling” go free. The artwork tells most of this scene with minimal dialogue and The Shadow’s command voice is nicely rendered in black word-balloons with white lettering.

The story cuts to a scene of Lamont Cranston – The Shadow’s alter ego – at a posh hotel, meeting with a Mister Landers, an associate of his with Washington connections. Lamont warns Landers of the Japanese involvement with gun shipping in New York and the dialogue implies that Cranston/Shadow may be working for the U. S. government.

The final scene of this issue is a nice rooftop exchange between Margo Lane and Lamont. With dialog and clever body language in the artwork, Ennis and Campbell imply that not only are Lamont and Margo sleeping together, but their long-term relationship is in turmoil, due in no small part of Margo’s knowledge of Lamont being The Shadow. This revelation so early in the series demonstrates that these adventures of The Shadow take place well into his long career as a crime fighter.

I really liked this first issue of The Shadow and I only hope that both Ennis and Campbell remain on this book long enough to tell a nice long story arch. I recommend The Shadow to anyone with an interest in pulp characters or period set stories. Dynamite has a great series here and I might just try their next pulp-inspired series: The Spider by writer David Liss with art by Colton Worley!