Rating: 3.5/5 – Exploring Shaft’s Early Days, Can You Dig It?
by ComicSpectrum EiC Bob Bretall.
This is an all new tale of John Shaft, looking at the days before he was a ‘black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks’. We get a younger man, back from Vietnam and trying to make a name for himself in the boxing ring. As we might expect, things do not go exactly as planned. We need that conflict to make an interesting story and here it’s provided when Shaft runs afoul of the local Mob.
David Walker turns in a solid story, fleshing out the backstory of the character created by Ernest Tidyman and immortalized in seven Tidyman novels from 1970-75, three films starring Richard Roundtree from 1971-73, and a film remake in 2000 starring Samuel L. Jackson. I’m a big fan of the character and enjoyed the comic based on that alone. If you’ve never seen one of the films or read one of the books and are not familiar with the character prior to seeing this comic, I think what comes across here may seem somewhat less engaging. While I enjoyed the story as part of the Shaft mythos, standing by itself this issue was heavy on setup and the point of conflict with the local mob is one I’ve seen numerous times in fiction, so there didn’t appear to be any new ground broken in this issue. I give Walker credit for doing a good job on developing characters through dialogue, particularly mobster Junius Tate. The art by Bilquis Evely was good, but didn’t knock my socks off. The body language felt a little stiff. The backgrounds added a nice sense of place in several scenes, but were sparse or non-existent in others.
Shaft #1 delivers a solid story to existing Shaft fans, but may end up feeling like too much setup and too little payoff for people unfamiliar with the character. A nice bonus included in the print comic is a QR code that can be used to get the first eight chapters of Ernest Tidyman’s new Shaft prose novel Shaft’s Revenge (these 8 chapters are also included with the digital edition). Issue #2 will feature chapters nine through fifteen when it hits stores next month, and the full length novel is expected to be released next spring. Not a bad deal and it will give readers a comic to get a taste of the prose hero that spawned a movie franchise. I’m a fan, I enjoyed the issue and am looking forward to the action picking up as the series progresses.
Reviewed by: Bob Bretall
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