I haven’t done this in a while so forgive me if I’m rusty. This week I picked up the second issue of the comic book adaptation of Ernest Tidyman’s no-nonsense black detective Shaft after reading one of the most solid first issues I’ve ever read. So between the pursuits of my own creative interests I decided to take some time out to write this review, which should tell you something.
The story starts with young John Shaft, having barely escaped Harlem with his life, applying for a job at the National Security and Investigations in which he was responsible for catching shoplifters. After a particularly easy bust he ends up on a date with Ms. Arletha Havens — don’t worry she’s not a shoplifter. What begins is a bit of whirlwind romance that ends with two men breaking into Arletha’s apartment while John is there looking for her friend. After a quick tussle and deliberation, John is forced to accompany one of the men while the other holds Arletha at gunpoint. This leads Shaft to a trip uptown to the last place he ever wanted to see again and directly into death’s maw — actually it’s a Mexican standoff, in which he is the only survivor. Upon getting back to Arletha’s house he learns that the game their assailants were playing at is bigger than he and Arletha thought.
After a strong first issue Shaft follows up with a heavy right cross of a second. Attempting to get his life back in order after his ordeal in Harlem, trouble seems to follow John wherever he rests his head. Writer David F. Walker pulls no punches in this issue and continues to deliver a hard-hitting detective story that serves as a far departure from the way people now view the John Shaft character — mainly as a relic of an era of black film that now seems satirical.
This story is not only engaging but extremely well-told and I wouldn’t be surprised if Walker was soon getting calls from Marvel and DC to write for the characters of color they’re going to be pushing soon (namely Cyborg and Black Panther).
Bilquis Evely does a great job handling pencils and inks, giving the characters depth of character and expression that fits the tone, while Daniela Miwa does a great job of creating a look that is undoubtedly classic with the colors.
Now I want to talk about the cover by Sanford Greene,which would be cover C for those of you who are checking. This is is very powerful statement to make in a comic during the current racial and political climate. The image is of Shaft putting his hands up and saying “Don’t shoot.” harkening to the gun violence perpetrated on black males by police across the country. Whoever suggested this cover has guts and earns my respect, I’d also like to shout out whoever okayed it because I can only imagine what comic book fans think about social issues. If this is a view of what’s to come for this series then I’m buying the singles and the trade.