When it comes to The Shadow, Matt Wagner’s mini-series Grendel vs. The Shadow sets a high bar for others to reach for. Is Howard Chaykin’s The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #5 able to get to Wagner’s level? Is it good?
The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #5 (Dynamite Entertainment)
The short answer: No. The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #5 is not anywhere close to Wagner’s Grendel vs The Shadow. The premise of this fifth installment has put Lamont and Margo on the heels of radicalized Americans and Soviets working towards mutually assured nuclear destruction. Something that should happen to this book.
The first page is a complete turn-off. Chaykin’s artwork has a Russian couple looking like Frankenstein monsters with stitches all over their faces. The couple is also extremely disproportionate with Major General Sergei Pudovkin having stunted arms and elongated legs and his partner, Lena Swarkowski, looking like Michael Jackson; it is actually difficult to tell whether it is a woman or a man.
After you get past the pretty doughy characters with stitches on their faces, Chaykin begins to tell four different stories. The book jumps around from Pudovkin to Cranston to Margo Lane to Dixie Teagarden, which makes it difficult to follow what is happening. On top of the multiple stories, Chaykin overlaps two of the stories – one where The Shadow and Margo Lane are discussing certain options and another where Teagarden is talking with a Russian cabbie. Chaykin uses inset panels of both Cranston and Teagarden and jumps back and forth between them, but what really makes it more confusing is his use of dialogue from The Shadow and Teagarden on the same page having it appear they are talking to each other when the two are nowhere near each other at all!
The bad doesn’t stop with the art and panel placement. Letterer Ken Bruzenak and Chaykin’s choice of lettering to depict when the characters are speaking in Russian makes the book a headache to read and has the reader constantly squinting and attempting to figure out what exactly the characters are saying to each other rather than being able to enjoy the story!
Speaking of the story, Chaykin fails at this as well. The villain does not feel at all villainous or even able to match wits with The Shadow or Margo Lane. The idea of blowing up the world to build anew just does not seem plausible especially when the people who are going to blow it up are most likely going to be dead. Chaykin’s writing style is also problematic. He merges dialogue with narration and it falls flat. On the first page he describes Pudovkin as falling “under the sway of western decadence” only to follow it up with dialogue stating, “We’ll just have to find something particularly special … and especially decadent.” Got it, Pudovkin likes fancy stuff. Unfortunately, The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #5 is anything but fancy.
Is It Good?
No. This book is subpar from the story to the artwork to the writing and lettering. It is just plain bad.