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‘Shaman’ #1 is a unique blend of urban fantasy and superheroes

‘Shaman’ #1 is a unique blend of urban fantasy and superheroes


Shaman #1
Written by Ben Kahn
Art by Bruno Hidalgo
Colors by Javi Chaler
Self-Published (See KickStarter)

Do you like tracking down old issues of Hellblazer or reading recent horror comics like Wytches or Afterlife with Archie? Do you also like picking up old Justice League/Justice Society crossovers or basking in a retro-styled superhero comic, like James Robinson’s Golden Age (or most comics by him) or even something like the recent Rocketeer/Spirit crossover? Then, Shaman #1 is the comic for you. It is about a middle-aged magician Shaman, whose job is to basically resurrect old superheroes and people for various reasons. He is joined by his snarky teen daughter LL and the teleporting superhero Vanisher in this first issue where they fight Vanisher’s grandfather, the first Vanisher, who isn’t happy about being brought back.

Ben Kahn plots a tale full of snark and occult battles. He doesn’t spend much time on exposition and throws readers into this world full of magic and superheroes, which happens to be very much like the real world. Bruno Hidalgo’s angular art style is similar to Michael Avon Oeming’s work on Powers and other comics even if some of his backgrounds and figure works are unrefined. However, he makes up for this little discrepancy with an ability to build suspense with his trademark puffs of smoke and vivisecting the comics page during the climactic fight scene. Hidalgo uses cinematic techniques to tell the story using a kind of crane shot during an early car chase scene with the original Vanisher and Shaman as well as establishing shots of various Boston locations to give readers a chance to breathe before the next set piece.

Another draw of Shaman #1 is how relatable the characters are and how organically Kahn constructs them. Initially, Shaman may seem like a typical, quipping, chain-smoking magician a la John Constantine, but Kahn departs from this formula by giving him a father-like relationship with LL and slowly revealing the important, yet deadly role he plays in the world of Shaman. He even hilariously riffs on the smoking, which kind of becomes Hidalgo’s artistic signature in the series. Kahn also gives a similar dry sense of humor and cynical manner to LL showing how she takes cues from her father/mentor for better or worse. However, she has a much different power set from Shaman, which adds an air of mystery to her. Colorist Javi Chaler conveys this by giving her a shock of blue hair, which stands out form his usual grey or brown palette.

Ben Kahn and Bruno Hidalgo play with and subvert a lot of superhero and supernatural fiction tropes in Shaman #1. Kahn’s dry comic timing and action-driven plotting draws readers into the story while also starting to build a universe that combines (arguably) two of the coolest genres: superhero and urban fantasy. Even if the backgrounds occasionally lack perspective and characters randomly shift body shapes, Shaman #1 is a thrilling and clever story that functions as a done-in-one plot as well as creating the status quo for the miniseries going forward.