The Shadow 1941: Hitler’s Astrologer – A Marvel Graphic Novel

By Denny O’Neil, Michael W. Kaluta & Russ Heath (Marvel)
ISBN: 0-87135-341-5

A year after Howard Chaykin and DC catapulted The Shadow into the grim’n’grungy contemporary arena (see Blood and Judgment, ISBN: 978-0-93028-916-4) the dream-team that had first returned him to comic-book prominence reunited for this larger-than-life grand romp, ably abetted by the inking skills of master artist Russ Heath.

Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta had produced a stand-out series of adventures in the early 1970s (collected as The Private Files of the Shadow ISBN: 0-930289-37-7), set in the spy and gangster-ridden ‘thirties, and in many ways this complex yarn is a final chapter in that astounding graphic procession.

On Easter Sunday 1941 a beautiful woman is pursued through the teeming crowds of Times Square theatre-goers by sinister thugs until rescued in the nick of time by agents of The Shadow. She is Gretchen Baur, sent to America by Josef Goebbels himself to gather astrological data for the Reich’s Ministry of Propaganda, and the confused young thing cannot understand why agents of her own government have tried to abduct her.

The Shadow reveals that she is an unwitting pawn in a deadly battle for supremacy within the Nazi Party that revolves around her father, Der Führer’s personal astrologer…

And thus begins a tense and intricate mystery conspiracy thriller that ranges from the bloody streets of New York through the killer skies to the very steps of Hitler’s palace in Berlin as a desperate plan to subvert the course of the war comes up hard against a twisted, thwarted love and a decades-long hunt for vengeance.

Positively Wagnerian in style, this action-packed drama exudes period charm and nobody has ever realised The Shadow and his cohorts as well as Kaluta, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sub-par colouring from the usually sound Mark Chiarello, Nick Jainschigg and John Wellington. Perhaps a slight case of too many cooks…?

Once again I’m not holding my breath for a definitive, corrected new edition but if anything ever needed to be gathered into an “Absolute Edition” it’s the disparate adventures of man in the black slouch hat with the girasol ring…
© 1988 The Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.