Above, Not Beyond: The Shade (Collected Edition) (PopMatters Exclusive)
Artist Cully Hamner's visualization of the Shade's life as a retired gentleman in the opening panel of the very first issue of The Shade is the perfect note to begin the traumatic psychic journey that lies ahead for the lead character…
It's a quiet tea between friends. The Shade, the erstwhile Richard Swift, and erstwhile Starman Mikaal Thomas take the October air on the Shade's upper-floor balcony. Below them, the Shade's garden spreads out, behind them the city towers, threatening to swallow the idyll of gentlemanly sedateness. The measured repose, as well the physical balcony, put the Shade above his past, but the towering spires of Opal City certainly seems to suggest the lurking doubt that he may not yet be beyond the consequences of his earlier deeds.
The 12 issues of The Shade chronicle perhaps the last arc of the Shade's character evolution that began in late 1993. The quintessentially English immortal, and erstwhile DC villain finds himself on the trail of a mysterious conspiracy that seem to know more about his former mortal life in Victorian London than anyone rightly should.
Past crimes and past indiscretions are certainly at the heart of what is perhaps the most worthwhile character-driven comicbook in decades. What writer James Robinson achieves is a deep and oftentimes painful vivisection of the dark and heady work Richard Swift undertook after he had his powers gifted to him. The Shade didn't just appear when his powers first manifested, was a core point writer James Robinson made during our recent interview, he was crafted from a number of increasingly darker decisions made Swift over a period of time. And the consequences of those decisions have now begun to take their toll.
But in a secret gentlemanly repose of my own, I will enjoy one thing about this new collected edition--the pure joy of reading the entire story from beginning to end in one sitting.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of the Shade.