In “The Shade” #10, Starman’s most elusive opponent continues to hold the spotlight comfortably, supported by tour-de-force visuals and the sheer force of his dry wit and acerbic personality.
Writer James Robinson’s plot for “The Shade” #10 is nothing special. Imprisoning gods is never storyline that ends well for the wardens. None of the bones of this story are new, but Robinson fleshes it out and makes it worthwhile and Frazer Irving continues to do a knockout job with the art.
Irving’s panel-to-panel transitions in “The Shade” #10 are unusually strong for painterly sequential art, and he also takes some interestingly successful risks with page and panel composition. Most of this issue is The Shade tied up in a chair and sassing his captors. This is a scenario ripe for visual boredom, but Irving makes all the scenes electric and beautiful.
He colors the entire issue in the flattering, complementary forest greens, amethyst pinks, sea blues and fiery orange-reds. This limited, uncluttered palette echoes the traditional colors of the Egyptian gods. Irving also bathes the entire issue in blazing sunlight hues. In many panels he pulls off some unusual silhouetting of figures through color and light instead of shadows. Intentional or not, it’s a nice reminder that The Shade is out of his element.
To support Robinson’s script, Irving also plays with color and proportion. When The Shade is untied from his chair, he ceases to be colored green, foreshadowing his eventual escape. When The Shade says one of his best lines, insulting Miles St. Aubrey, he looms large, looking down at his opponent. Their relative statures are not absolute but symbolic. It’s a clever visual representation of verbal domination and feels completely organic to the scene.
The Shade and his captors fence with words, and the resulting back-and-forth sparring reads like a well-written play set in a drawing room. Robinson has a gift for dialogue and character. One of the best aspects of Robinson’s prose is that he pays attention to the rhythms of speech. Words that characters emphasize are bolded and ellipses are used to convey pauses.
Well-equipped verbally, The Shade endears himself to readers and reveals his mind and character through his conversation instead of his actions. This is unusual in a superhero comic, but it makes a lot of psychological sense. The Shade’s powers afford him maximum defensive skills and little need for offensive action. In this issue, deprived of his powers, The Shade’s intelligence and wit shine. It is a pleasure to read and anticipate what dry remark he spits out while tied up. It is a further and even greater pleasure to watch him play his enemies. It’s like being at a dinner party in which the bored, brilliant host despises his guests, scattering scathing ripostes like party favors, except in this case the host is our anti-hero and the guests are his harried captors.
It’s a party that will leave the reader feeling satisfied, with a visually stunning finale. Reading “The Shade” #10 is a most refreshing and delightful time. It’s a shame that the series is coming to an end after two more issues, and our time with our urbane, world-weary host will soon be past.