John Shaft battles his own expectations as the missing persons case he thought was finished re-emerges with new life. Is it good?
Shaft: Imitation of Life #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)
After stepping back from his missing persons case, John Shaft is pulled back into the case in an unexpected way. Writer David Walker, artist Dietrich Smith, and colorist Alex Guimaraes all come together to provide a tense chapter in Shaft: Imitation of Life #3.
Walker continues to show a great handle on Shaft’s character and voice. When a vice officer named Gibbs meets Shaft and says, “Vic Anderozzi says you’re an okay guy,” Shaft quickly responds, “And you believed Anderozzi?” The dismissive way Shaft relates to everyone around him highlights his indifferent, bordering on misanthropic, attitude. The dialogue also makes a callback to the previous issue and highlights Shaft’s evolving stance on the gay community in a clever way.
This dimensional take on the characters doesn’t stop at the titular hero. Tito Salazar continues to take a proactive role within the story, revealing his own motivation and determination in helping Shaft resolve his missing persons case. Unfortunately though, Honee, an assistant on the film, doesn’t fare quite as well. The misogynistic way her boss presents her to Shaft reads true, but it would have been nice for her show a stronger agency (or at least reveal her own goals) during her time with Shaft.
Juxtaposed against the mystery is the subplot of the blaxploitation film that Shaft is serving as a consultant on. The premise makes for some nice meta-commentary, as Walker has Shaft taken aback by some of the more outlandish aspects of the film, and even has him smooth out some of the film’s dialogue. Where Shaft: Imitation of Life #3 comes to life is when these seemingly disparate plots come crashing together in startling fashion, and Walker is able to sell that collision thanks to the world building of the previous chapters.
Dietrich Smith’s artwork has been fantastic throughout the series, with his clean and visceral linework. His John Shaft is a powerful, but cool presence, and Smith doesn’t neglect giving Shaft a wardrobe that is both stylish and minimalist. There isn’t a lot of eccentricity to his design, yet he oozes cool with his turtleneck sweater and coat.
When the action heats up, Smith makes great use of perspective to make it pop off the page without veering into any exaggerated poses that would be over-the-top in a story such as this one. Every punch feels like it carries real impact.
The colors by Alex Guimaraes are utterly fantastic. Guimaraes uses lively colors that never feel dull. The issue takes place in a variety of low-light locales, from Shaft’s office, to the dark of a film stage, to a lustful night in Shaft’s apartment, and Guimaraes nails this variety. Each setting feels fleshed out, not just in terms of Smith’s detail, but in Guimaraes’ ability to give each location its own vibe in the colors used.
Is It Good?
Shaft: Imitation of Life #3 does a wonderful job building towards the series’ climax as David Walker brings several threads together. The artwork by Dietrich Smith and Alex Guimaraes is lusciously detailed and will keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page. Walker’s ability to bounce between humor and tension keeps the story engaging and ensures that readers will want to come back for the finale.
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