Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Harlem Shadow # 2 Review Or A Hell up in Harlem


Some time ago, I came across Raven Hammer Comics in my search for indie black books. Created by writer Brian Williams, Raven Hammer published three original comics, and the most appealing of the trio was the Harlem Shadow. I bought the first issue to see if it was as cool on the inside as it was on outside, and when issue two came out I had no choice but to buy that too.



This issue features two short stories.  The first sees our eponymous hero paying a visit to a local dive, where he has a fist to face or belt to ass conversation with Willie Bourbon. Willie is the abusive husband of Giselle, who happens to be a friend of the Harlem Shadow’s. He (Willie) is also an employee of ‘Bossman’ who seems to run most of Harlem’s criminal underworld, setting the stage for a larger story. The second tale goes inside reporter Nigel Shaw’s attempt to build the Shadow’s publicity, and sell his boss Walter Rhodes on the idea. They plan to use the Midnight Sun, the paper Rhodes owns, to target the various organized crime figures in Harlem. All the while letting the world know that black people now have a superhero of their own, to fight their battles, as the first knight in the kingdom of Harlem. 


This issue shows that Williams has a command of both storytelling and mythos building. The story feels like a classic pulp novel but with modern-day comic book trappings, giving the sense that something big is building. The Harlem Shadow continues to epitomize the cool that was the Harlem Renaissance, dispensing justice with style and an unmistakably black flare. How he deals with Willie Bourbon is especially fun to watch considering the man's crimes. We're also introduced to villains like Sweet Tooth, a homicidal pimp, and Maggot Brain an undead gangster bring to mind the rouges gallery of another dark knight. If a hero is only as good as his villains, I've got a feeling that HS will be one bad ass mutha.




The inks and lines of Rodolfo Buscaglia perfectly encapsulate the noir cool of the book. From action scene to conversation, I feel like I am in 1920's Harlem. His strong art style brings definition and not only captures the pulp genre but the renaissance itself. Usually I would prefer a book to be in color, however, anything but black and white would have compromised the feel of this work, so I'm glad Williams and Buscaglia went with it.

The Real

The Harlem Shadow is one of the few black comics I've read that does African-American vigilante well. There isn't a hint of stereotype in this book, and while that could be due to the time period, I think it may also lie in Williams' ability to tell a story without cliché. Whatever the reason Raven Hammer is doing a great job of building a world, and with a cartoon for HS in the works I hope we'll be seeing more soon. You can buy the Harlem Shadow on: orRaven Hammer Comics
Rating 5/5

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