Independently tucked off to the side, away from the hubbub and hullaboo of the DC Universe, James Robinson’s work on “The Shade” #6 can only be described as “world building,” just as it has been throughout this series.
Robinson, through his introduction of Opal City, Bobo Bennetti, the O’Dares or countless other creations that emerged during his work on “Starman,” has always found a way to bring new light to old corners of the DC Universe while making those corners his own. Robinson excels at taking a core concept from DC and populating a world around it as he did with the Knight family in “Starman,” Mon-El in “Superman” or the offbeat Justice League of America he helmed. In this issue, Robinson adds Montpellier, a lizard-based metahuman, who fights crime in Barcelona alongside the Shade’s vampire ally, La Sangre, to the garden of heroes, villains and concepts blooming around the Shade.
Robinson uses the globetrotting history of the Shade to drive the story and in doing so introduces countless concepts: La Sangre, Montpelier, the Inquisitor, vampire pirates and the legend of the Caldecott family. While the Shade comes close to being overshadowed in his own comic, Robinson is able to keep him involved via narrational blocks and finds a way to bring the story right back to the Shade by the end of the issue.
Javier Pulido and Hilary Sycamore impressively fuse together to give “The Shade” smooth art seemingly crafted to the paper it’s printed on rather than the end result of countless hours of collaborative work. Pulido’s characters are deceptively simple, not unlike those of Darwyn Cooke, and he frequently balances out with deceptively detailed backgrounds. Some of those backgrounds appear to be photo-traced and are a bit jarring when juxtaposed to the smooth, animated flow of Pulido’s figures. Pulido’s page layouts are eccentric and fun, taking the reader through a series of near-aerobic camera angles making for a fun reading experience.
“The Shade” is a wonderful escape from the grind of superheroes, crossovers and disappointing stories. James Robinson has had the good fortune to work with a nice variety of artists on this series (with more to come) and plays the longer story to the strengths of each of those artists. The end result is a sprawling story touching corners of the DC Universe you never knew you wanted to know more about. Through it all, Robinson builds worlds, adds depth to the Shade’s existence and consistently entertains in a manner that feels educational and fresh.