I delved into my favorite refuge this weekend. One of them, anyway.
That’s right, the comic book collection. In sifting through the basement library (where else would one keep comics?), I came across a two-issue story I had all but forgotten. After rereading it, I felt compelled to write a review here in this much hallowed end of the Internet.
I’m talking about The Shadow and Doc Savage from Dark Horse Comics, 1995. It’s the first time that either character appeared in Dark Horse Comics as DHC kicked off its line of pulp-based books. Yes, the two greatest pulp heroes meeting for the first time…and maybe the last. As if this mere pairing were not enough to merit the price of admission, the story also features Nazis, the Hindenburg disaster, ape men, and zombies from back before we were inundated by them.
In fact, the first issue opens with a splash panel of a damsel in distress being attacked by zombies, her clothing ripping to shreds in the process. Classic, gaudy pulp stuff. So this dame, this skirt, this Betty…er sorry. The lingo of that era must’ve rubbed off on me. The female protagonist escapes the fray and contacts Doc Savage and his crew. You see, the young lady’s father is a scientist who fled the Nazis when they forced him to perform experiments on humans. Now her father is missing and she fears he has met with ill forces.
As the men get on the case, they find that the trail leads to a warehouse…a warehouse of DEATH!!! Or sort of. They do encounter The Shadow…and it is not a friendly meeting. The hail of bullets sent their way by the mysterious vigilante is enough to convince them that it is The Shadow who is behind all of the nefarious doings. That is of course a complete misunderstanding and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that both heroes end up working together.
Much to like in this two-parter. First of all, the art. While I am an odd duck in that art is never the top selling point for me with a comic book, I must compliment the style in this one. Stan Manoukian has quite an eye for 1930s sensibility. Plus, it's nice to see the color here really make these pulp characters come alive. Secondly, there are little bits here and there that make the whole thing worthwhile. Fanboy factors such as both Doc and The Shadow having autogyros, historical chuckles such as the Hindenburg explosion really being caused ricochet bullets meant for The Shadow, and character nuances such as the look of utter shock on Doc's face as he watches The Shadow gun down thugs in near cold blood. And you can just imagine the diapason echoes of The Shadow's laughter.
If there is a downside here, it is that the story never quite seems to soar as high as it could. With a two issue story arc, that's tough to do. A longer run would have allowed for greater room to move and develop and especially for more interaction between Doc and The Shadow. As it stands, the story feels a bit rushed and skimped in certain places.
All in all, that's my biggest complaint. This is the only team-up of these characters that I know of. If another exists, please let me know because I'd love to read it. Until then, here's to hoping another comics writer will take up the charge.
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