I remember buying “Starman” #0 right after “Zero Hour” hit DC Comics in the early ’90s. James Robinson and Tony Harris managed in just a few pages to grab my attention and hang onto it tightly throughout the following 80 issues. When the recent “Blackest Night” event resulted in the release of a “Starman” #81, it was a pleasant reminder of how good “Starman” was at its peak; now, with the start of a new “Shade” 12-issue limited-series, we’re getting that reminder for an entire year.
Robinson’s script is probably the best thing he’s written in comics in years; there’s something about his approach to “Starman” and now “Shade” that feels quite different from, say, his “Justice League of America” run. It’s stylish and follows its own particular rhythms, from the Shade’s jovial discussion with Starman over tea, to William von Hammer’s multiple-choice narration boxes. It’s a joy to read, no matter how up or downbeat the events may be.
Even the pacing of “Shade” #1 is wonderfully moving to the beat of its own drummer. We get scenes with the Shade having tea with Starman, or hanging out in bed with girlfriend Hope, ones that take up the majority of the book. That’s not to say that there isn’t any action — there are two scenes which bring just that — but instead of feeling like the center of the book, they come across more as a device to advance the book into additional scenes like those mentioned earlier. They’re a transition, not a centerpiece. At the same time, those action scenes aren’t throw-aways. Von Hammer’s fighting Les Diaboliques is thoroughly entertaining, for instance, and while the Shade’s own fight is a little startling and gruesome, it comes across so stylized that it’s hard to worry too much.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Cully Hamner is providing the art for the first three issues. Robinson and Hamner’s collaboration on “Firearm” back in the day was a blast, and it’s nice to see that they still work so well together. Hamner’s characters still have that crisp, sharp edge about them; they’ve got just the right curve and rounding to their faces, and the energy on the page is high. Von Hammer taking down a flying assassin on one page looks fantastic; we get the tracking of him across the sky in the first panel in such a way that you feel like you can see both of them moving, and then the sputtering, floundering drop to the ground over the three bottom panels, each panel existing not to shift you through space but rather through time, a split second between each panel border. New comics from Hamner are always a reason to celebrate, and this is no exception.
“Shade” #1 is a glorious return to form, topped with a beautiful painted cover from Tony Haris, and a welcome trip back to the “Starman” corner of the DC Universe. I’m sure many will be trying to figure out how this fits into the new DC Universe, but honestly, it’s so good that the response should be, “Who cares?” “Shade” #1 is fantastic, that’s all you need to know, and we’ve still got 11 more issues. Bring them on.