Mar 22 2015
Shaft is taking a while.
It’s the fourth issue, which makes me want to start expecting the plot to escalate into high gear, but it maintains a general simmer. Shaft finds himself further embroiled in the muck and mire that led to Arletha’s death, which is bringing me to the notion that an effective alternate title for the story arc might be: “Shaft: Sitting In Cars With Assholes.”
The devil’s in the details, though, bringing us elements such as as the first panel’s Apollo Theater marquee, which definitively places the story during a week in May of 1968. This is three years before the release of Melvin Van Peebles’ first Shaft film, which may be a key marker of time for the character himself (the film’s story indeed takes place in 1971). These are the kind of ingredients that accompany a patient writer who carefully approaches a work to which he is an honored inheritor, which David Walker most certainly is.
I maintain that the art continues to be a unique draw: Bilquis Everly and Daniela Miwa conjure moodily lit scenes which are typically cool and subtle, though never missing a facial wrinkle and nary a pinstripe out of place on a suit. The men are big and broad-shouldered, they walk proud and hit each other hard, and Shaft only smiles in his distracted memories.
In Issue #4 Walker hits some important noir notes: the encounter with an important man of leisure who is no doubt central to the mystery, the fight with the wrong guy, and even a little simple detective work to find the woman of the hour. If the story doesn’t seem to have a full measure of wind in its sails, maybe it’s because the layers unravel slowly and the plot points are drawn out, only punctuated by long stretches of the character’s narrative. My focus may have lazily drifted away from it during this issue, and I’m not a particularly big fan of the anecdotal Wizard of Oz references there, which seem to present themselves apropos of nothing.
Still, this continues to feel like a true labor of love, and a genuine treat for those of us who thought that we’d never get any more stories for this character. I urge any and all to continue to purchase it and support its generous talent.