Return with us to the dark and wondrous streets of yesteryear, the time is 1929 and the place is Dark Manhattan…the sun has just slipped out of view and the velvet drapes of night have been drawn closed. There is a slight mist emanating from the manhole covers, the eclectic sounds of brass horns and the revelry of the cabarets fill the air. It’s the age of Jazz and the zoot suit. Herbert Hoover wins the White House in a landslide…and the Great Depression is looming on the horizon. Lurking out there is the element of crime and its minions. Evil is omnipresent in the big city but like day and night there is also good …and that good takes its form as a lone avenging shadow.
Ravenhammer Comics brings us the 2nd issue to featuring the Black Pulp hero. The creative team from the first issue, which I reviewed HERE, are all returned. Brian Williams is writing, with Rodolfo Buscaglia drawing the interior art, and Christian Colbert drawing the cover. This issue features two separate short stories. The first is a 10-page story called “GISELLE”, where the Harlem Shadow goes out to a seedy nightclub to confront a man named Willie Bourbon who is married to a woman named Giselle whom he beats and abuses. Harlem Shadow proceeds to give Willie (who is said to be working for “the Bossman”, the crime lord mentioned in the first issue) a savage beating of his own, to let him know how it feels, and warn him to never hurt Giselle again.
We learn a few things about Harlem Shadow in this story. It starts with him in his apartment, getting ready to go out, but we still don’t know his name, or see him without his mask. It doesn’t say how long after his debut this story takes place, but he’s already inspiring noticeable fear among the populace of Harlem, as he walks the street. When he’s in the club, he thinks about his “secret training in the East”, which has given him heightened senses, and he’s able to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand, without even looking, but he makes it clear that he never kills.
The second story in the book is called “THE MIDNIGHT SUN”, it’s 9 pages long, and is more of a direct sequel to issue #1. It starts with the reporter Nigel Shaw late at night in his office in the newspaper he works at, thinking about his meeting with The Harlem Shadow. Nigel’s editor, an older man named Walt Rhodes, comes in and Nigel tells him the story. The two men discuss the implications of The Harlem Shadow being the first Black “superhero” and what this will mean for Black people in general, and America as a whole. The story is all-dialog, no action, but it retains your interest in being rather metafictional. The conversation the men have about how superheroes used to just be “a White (people) thing”, and how it’s about time there is finally a Black superhero, which Walt says he’s been waiting his whole life to see, mirrors the real life situation of mainstream comics and their lack of diversity. We also get some panels showing the other characters who exist in this particular comic-book universe. There’s White heroes like White Knight, Smoking Gun, and The Magician, and the various villains who plague Harlem, including Bossman, Maggot Brain, and Sweet Tooth. These brief glimpses and descriptions all whet my appetite for more stories. The story ends with Harlem Shadow surprising Nigel and Walt, and all of them vowing to work again.
Great book, even better than the first. FIVE STARS. I hope to see more, soon. And I’m looking forward to the animated series!