Comic Book Review: SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART ONE: BEFORE AND AFTER (2016)

SHAFT: IMITATION OF LIFE – PART ONE: BEFORE AND AFTER (10 February 2016, Dynamite Entertainment, 32 pp)
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Dietrich Smith
Coloured by Alex Guimares
Cover by Matthew Clark
Cover Colours by Vinicius Andrade

Blurb: After a high profile case that put him in the headlines, private detective John Shaft is looking for something low profile and easy that will keep him out of the spotlight and out of danger. Shaft takes a missing person case that proves to be more difficult than he initially thought. At the same time, he is hired to be a consultant on a low budget film that may or may not be based on his life, and proves to be as dangerous as any job he’s ever had. But when there’s danger all about, John Shaft is the cat that won’t cop out – even if it means squaring off against sadistic gangsters that want him dead.

David Walker returns to Shaft for a second comic book series. This one will run to four issues (compared to the six for 2014/15’s Shaft: A Complicated Man).

Walker’s second story takes place some two months after the events of Ernest Tidyman’s novel Shaft. His use of first person narration allows the reader into Shaft’s mind as he explains the events in his life that created the violent monster that lies within him over a reprise of the rescue of Beatrice Persons (daughter of Harlem crime lord Knocks Persons) from the Mafia in Tidyman’s original novel. The voice Walker gives Shaft remains true to the character we read and learn about in Tidyman’s books, but where Tidyman would merely reference these events Walker chooses to explore their effect on Shaft’s psyche, thereby adding significant depth to his character.

Walker has a strong understanding of the John Shaft of the books and for fans there are some nice nods to that series here. But the main set-up for this story is Shaft being hired to find an up-state couple’s young gay son – Mike Prosser, who has come to New York in search of adventure. Walker does not shy away from Shaft’s homophobic attitude (very clear in Tidyman’s novels), but cleverly uses it as a way to get Shaft to look inwardly at his personal motivations and prejudices. His only lead is another young gay man, Tito Salazar, who Shaft rescues from a beating by a group of bigots outside the famous Stonewall Inn.
The artwork here is by Dietrich Smith (taking over from Bilquis Evely). Smith’s style is less precise than Evely’s but he creates a great feel for the period and the streets of New York and Alex Guimares’ colouring is much more bold. In the first series Walker and Evely were keen to capture Shaft as Tidyman had described him (notably without the moustache that became synonymous with the character from Richard Roundtree’s portrayal on the big screen). Here, Walker and Smith wisely transition him to Roundtree’s familiar image and Smith does a great job in capturing Shaft’s iconic look.

This is an intriguing read and It will be interesting to see where Walker takes his story over the next three issues. Based on this first issue Shaft: Imitation of Life promises to repeat the success of Walker’s exceptional first series.

Preview of artwork for Shaft: Imitation of Life #1

Comic Book Resources have put up an exclusive preview of 5 pages of artwork from the upcoming Shaft: Imitation of Life written by David F Walker. The artwork, by Dietrich Smith, seems to depict the conclusion from Ernest Tidyman’s novel Shaft, where Shaft rescues Beatrice Persons from her Mafia kidnappers. The first issue of this second series is due out from Dynamite Entertainment on 3 February.

Graphic Novel Review – SHAFT: A COMPLICATED MAN (2015)

SHAFT: A COMPLICATED MAN (28 October 2015, Dynamite Entertainment, 176pp) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover by Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz
Collection Design by Geoff Harkins

BlurbWho’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine with all the chicks? Shaft! (You’re damn right!) Created by author Ernest Tidyman and made famous in a series of novels and films, iconic hero Shaft makes his graphic novel debut in an all-new adventure. He’s gone toe-to-toe with organized crime bosses, stood up to the cops, squared off against kidnappers, and foiled assassination attempts. But who was John Shaft before he became the hardboiled investigator with a reputation as big as New York City itself? Recently arriving home from his tour of duty in Vietnam, his first case – tracking down a missing person for his girlfriend – quickly turns into a matter of life and death, making him a target of gangsters and the police!

This trade paperback release of David F. Walker’s 6-part Shaft comic book is well presented. I have reviewed the comic book through each individual issue, so I will not repeat that here other than suffice to say this is a must for Shaft fans and comic book fans alike. Extras include Bilquis Evely’s Shaft profile designs; alternative covers as well as a potential cover drawn by Walker; script page extracts and accompanying final panel versions; and cover variant artwork for each of the original issues.

A second series of comic books, Shaft: Imitation of Life, has already been commissioned and Walker has his novel, Shaft’s Revenge, published in February next year.

Shaft: A Complicated Man – Trade paperback released today

The trade paperback version of David F Walker’s 6-part Shaft comic book series, with art by Bilquis Evely, was released today. Alongside the comic book there are an introduction by Shawn Taylor, character sketches, a look at the making of the series, a complete cover gallery featuring art by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Francesco Francavilla, Sanford Greene, and more.

Early reviews are also in…

“Overall this is an excellent contribution to Shaft’s legacy. More than just a tie-in to what’s already been established, it actually enhances the character by giving him a well-developed origin story. What might be the most surprising thing about A Complicated Man is how good it actually is.” – BigComicPage.com (read full review).

“This is a straight-forward R-rated type of drama with excellent artwork from Bilquis Evely, and a book very much deserving of attention. It’s realistic but still very artistic, with some great city scenery making for the perfect backdrop and really nice depictions of the various characters that inhabit it. There’s a depth to the illustrations that suit the dark ‘R-rated’ storytelling style Walker employs and the coloring from Daniela Miwa gives things the right sort of seventies flavor that a good Shaft story needs.” – Todd Jordan and Ian Jane, RockShockPop.com (read full review)

“Most Shaft stories have him already pretty well established, but I definitely thought this fit as a strong origin story for the character. You can tell David Walker has a lot of respect for the character, and a strong desire to make him into a complex, heroic figure. He managed to pull it off brilliantly.” – Mike Maillaro, CriticalBlast.com (read full review)

More Shaft on the way in 2016

A number of specialist comic book sites have reported on Dynamite’s announcement of a second comic book series of Shaft. David F. Walker will again be writing the series, titled Shaft: Imitation of Life with artwork passing from Bilquis Evely to Dietrich Smith. Smith’s character designs for Shaft are much closer in resemblance to Richard Roundtree.

Shaft designs by Dietrich Smith

Dynamite’s blurb for Shaft: Imitation of Life reads as follows: After a high-profile case puts him in the headlines, private detective John Shaft searches for something low-profile to keep him out of the spotlight and out of danger… and takes a missing person case that proves to be more difficult than he thought. At the same time, he is hired to be a consultant on a low budget film that may or may not be based on his life, and proves to be as dangerous as any job he’s ever had. But when there’s danger about, John Shaft won’t cop out – even if it means squaring off against sadistic gangsters that want him dead.

Quotes from Dynamites press release:

David F. Walker – “The idea for the new miniseries, Shaft: Imitation of Life, is one that’s been in my head for a long time, and is something that I’m really excited about. This has been a really fun story to develop.”

Dietrich Smith – “Of all the great action heroes I watched and imitated as a youngster, Shaft was at the top — a private eye with a chip on his shoulder, an attitude that dared anyone to try him. Having the opportunity to draw the smoothest man alive is something I’m very excited about.”

The new series is scheduled to begin in February 2016 to tie in with Black History Month and the release of Walker’s novel Shaft’s Revenge.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #6

SHAFT #6 (20 May 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Bill Sienkiewicz

Shaft #6David Walker’s excellent prequel to Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft comes to an action-packed conclusion as Shaft goes head to head with the killers of his girlfriend, Arletha. Walker has deftly managed the mixture of plot and character development as we see Shaft finally transform into the self-confident and angry man of Tidyman’s novels. He has managed his “origins” tale with skill and created a colourful cast of supporting characters. The artwork by Bilquis Evely has been exquisite and she has captured the spirit of late 1960s Manhattan. The series has been a triumph and a credit to Walker’s determination to re-introduce a beloved cultural icon to a modern audience.

It remains to be seen what next for the character under Dynamite’s stewardship. There is still Walker’s novella, Shaft’s Revenge, serialised to readers of the comic-book via QR code to be released in paperback. There is also the promised re-print of all seven of Tidyman’s original Shaft novels. However, Walker has moved on to DC and a new comic book series featuring Cyborg and continues to pursue his many interests. Time will tell, but with interest in the franchise increasing through Dynamite’s and in particular Walker’s foresight and with John Shaft due to hit the big screen again in New Line’s planned re-launch, the future should be rosy.

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #5 (2015)

SHAFT #5 (15 April 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes

Shaft #5 CowanShaft has tracked down Marisol DuPree and gets enough information from her to trace the package Arletha has hidden away. He discovers the package is some photos of DuPree, who had fallen into prostitution, with various businessmen including an official from the Port Authority. Shaft realises he has been caught in the middle of a blackmail plot and politics around the finalised location of the World Trade Center, originally planned for Harlem. Shaft is now looking to play two factions off against each other as he seeks revenge for Arletha’s death.

The Shaft comic book series maintains its high standard with another great read with both the script and artwork in tune with the late 1960s period NYC setting. This edition sets things up nicely for the finale (Shaft #6 is due out imminently). Walker has brought the plot strands together nicely and the character of Shaft has been evolving to that we see in Ernest Tidyman’s original novel. This prequel has been a great ride and the pay-off promises to be a satisfying one.

Shaft #5 – Early Reviews

B7rzq1CCUAAX5rW (1)Here are some early reviews of the fifth instalment of David Walker and Bilquis Evely’s Shaft comic book series:

“David Walker’s script is a work of noirish literary excellence and the artwork from Bilquis Evely Daniela Miwa deftly manage the challenging but deeply engaging subject matter. This book is fantastic and this series is a treasure.” – ComicBookResources.com

“…at issue #5, Shaft is but one issue away from ending its extremely short run, and it’s nowhere near enough. As far as an origin story is concerned, Walker’s vivid telling goes above and beyond the call that’s normally expected from such tales. To mine a long-existing intellectual property that’s as instantly iconic as Shaft and yield such wonderfully rich results is a true rarity. Something this good only deserves the chance to continue.” – Jarrod Jones, DoomRocket.,com

“The fifth issue of the Dynamite series looks to set a lot of pieces in place. Not only do readers get a lot more information about some of the characters in the story, Walker spends time explaining about the real story behind all of this and it goes much further and much higher than anyone was thinking. Evely and Miwa continue to do fantastic work in setting a tone for each sequence and environment in excellent, yet subtle ways. No doubt, with the type of closing page that rounds out issue five of Shaft, readers are due for some real excitement next time.” – Dan Pennacchia, AllComic.com

Shaft #5 Preview

A preview of Shaft #5 is now available on Google Books. This is the penultimate issue of the comic book series written by David Walker and drawn by Bilquis Evely and is due out on 15 April 2015.

Below is the A cover designed by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes.

Shaft #5 Cowan

 

Comic Book Review – SHAFT #4 (2015)

SHAFT #4 (11 March 2015, Dynamite Entertainment) ∗∗∗∗∗
Shaft Created by Ernest Tidyman
Written and Lettered by David F. Walker
Illustrated by Bilquis Evely
Coloured by Daniela Miwa
Cover A by Denys Cowan, Bill Sienkiewicz and Ivan Nunes

Shaft04-Cov-A-Cowan-fbd54Shaft returns to Harlem in search of Marisol DuPree, who holds the key to the murder of his girlfriend Arletha Havens. He comes across Bumma Brooks who takes him to meet businessman Vernon Gates. Gates is looking to trace a package, which holds incriminating material and which Marisol obtained from the recently deceased Jimmy Style. Gates asks for Shaft’s help in finding the package. On leaving Gates’ office Shaft picks up a tail who Shaft overpowers and knocks unconscious. He learns his tail is a police officer. Later, returning the Arletha’s apartment, he manages to find a lead to Marisol’s whereabouts…

The story is working nicely toward the concluding two chapters with different factions hunting for Marisol and the package she is holding. Walker has paced this tale expertly and Evely’s art work remains consistently impressive. The suggested playlist includes the Bar-Kays excellent Son of Shaft and Ray Charles’ interpretation of Over the Rainbow. In fact The Wizard of Oz is used as a metaphorical reference throughout this issue.