DC Comics; $1.50

The first chapter of a four-issue mini-series from writer-artist Howard Chaykin took on three seemingly impossible tasks and made them look easy. While it took until the last page of this issue to show it, it brought The Shadow from the 1930s to the then-present (1986) and did so convincingly. It set the stage for an origin tale that combined many of the disparate story elements – many of them conflicting – that had been sown over the years and pulled them into one story. And it made a whole new generation of fans aware of just how cool The Shadow could be.

Coming off his initial run on his creator-owned American Flagg! at First Comics, Chaykin wasn’t a slave to The Shadow material that came before, but neither did he just dismiss it. Blending the multiple back stories into one origin couldn’t have been easy, but he sure made it look that way.

The hook for the series is that someone unknown is rapidly killing off The Shadow’s forces from back in the day. They’re in varying degrees of health, but they’re all senior citizens and not a threat to anyone. Making it more of a mystery, The Shadow himself hadn’t been seen since 1949.

The building suspense and final reveal of this first issue guaranteed that readers would be back for the rest of the mini-series, and it still stands up today. When you read it, you’ll want to track down the other four issues as well.

Collected by DC in trade paperback form in 1987 as The Shadow: Blood and Judgment, it was later reissued by Dynamite Entertainment when they had the license for the character. It also spawned a follow-on monthly series from DC.

– J.C. Vaughn