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The Shade



#1, April 1997
A Family Affair: 1838

Writer: James Robinson
Artist and Colorist: Gene Ha
Letters: Chris Eliopolous
Editor: Chuck Kim

We start this look back into Times Past on the day after The Shade got his powers. He is found, confused and lost, by a gentleman named Piers Ludlow who offers to provide him with refuge at his home. Shade sleeps for three days and is introduced to Ludlow’s family in his very fine garden. Shade is introduced first to his Piers’ wife, Daphne, then to his children Sinclair (eldest son), Timothy, Blanche and his two youngest, Emma and Rupert. The Ludlow’s agree to allow Shade to live with them until he regains his memory. Oddly, they do not allow him to leave the house, even for a short walk.

Some nights later, the family, minus Sinclair and the two youngest go on a carriage ride. En route, Peris reveals that he learned who Shade was and that they are going to his house. The house they arrive at is a very fine mansion, but the sight of it does nothing to stir Shade’s memory. Nor does entering the house, which is very empty, help his memory. After wandering the unlocked house for sometime, they find a knife wielding and blood covered Sinclair standing over the body of a dead man. It is quickly revealed , because Ludlow feels it only fair Shade know, that Ludlow makes his fortune by entering into business ventures with men with no heirs and then killing them, so that he can take complete control over the business. His plan this time is to kill Shade and frame him for the murder. Shade runs and hides from the Ludlows, his shadow powers activating in reflex as he is discovered. He kills all of them, even Blanche who begs for her life and promises to be a slave to him. The Shade, in the first signs of amorality taking hold of him, walks off coldly.

The next day, he is walking the streets when he runs into a man who recognizes him. The man is named Charles Dickens and he says that Shade saved his life on “…a terrible night. The night of Culp and Death…” Dickens also comments that he barely recognized Shade in the clothes he got from the Ludlows, noting that he usually favors “clothing of a far darker shade”. The issue ends with a quick interlude where we see Emma and Rupert Ludlow make an oath on the grave of their parents to see that they and all their ancestors will someday kill “the man in black”.

#2, May 1997
Rupert and Mauguerite: 1865 & 1931

Writer: James Robinson
Pencils: J.H. Williams
Inks: Mick Gray
Colors: Pat Garrahy
Letters: Chris Eliopolous
Editor: Chuck Kim

This chapter broadly covers some skirmishes (some more thoroughly than others) that Shade had with various members of the Ludlow family over time. The first he recounts was in 1893, when he and Marcus Ludlow were partners in an adventure to find a lost kingdom in India. The two braved many dangers together, with Marcus turning on Shade and trying to kill him as they found the city. Shade chides himself for getting ahead of himself and notes that the first time he confronted a Ludlow after Piers was in 1865.

It was in 1865 that he and a friend were shot several times by Rupert Ludlow. Believing Shade to be bleeding to death, Rupert gloats and tells Shade of the oath that he and his sister made. He the describes how for the last few years his sister has focused upon having children, so that their family line would be assured of continuing on if Rupert failed in his business. His business was to learn all he could of the Shade and to try and kill him. Shade kills Rupert, using his “blood” which is not blood but actually a liquid shadow that he can use as a weapon. It was at this time that Shade found he could heal any wounds by commanding the shadow blood to enter his body. Four years later, in 1869, he would fight Emma’s oldest son in the sewers of Paris.

Shade then remembers how he save the life of Brian Savage once, before they were friends. He did not do it for the sake of Opal City, however. He did it for the much less pure reason of Savage owing him money after a poker game. Savage returned the favor sometime later by killing Benjamin Ludlow; Rupert’s second oldest son and a master of dark magics he hoped might counter Shade’s powers. Shade spent the years from 1895 to 1923 fighting a Ludlow every few years. He was nearly tried for treason during WWI, when he killed a Ludlow in self-defense; one who was a general in the British army while Shade was acting as special agent for Canada. In 1919 he killed an entire wing of the family at once. In 1923, he unknowingly befriended a Sanderson Ludlow while on a cruise. At the end, Sanderson was unable to reconcile his family’s oath with his friendship and committed suicide.

Shade’s final story is of Marguerite Croft, whom he fell in love with in Paris in 1931. The two became lovers; true lovers, it turned out. Marguerite said she did love Shade, but unlike Sanderson Ludlow (her cousin) she knew what she had to do. So she laced his food with poison and revealed herself to him. Shade begs her to reconsider and to end the feud between her family and him. She says she is torn but that she has to side with her family. Shade then tells her that he cannot be poisoned and the eventually the poison will be purged from his body. He asks her for a promise that she will not try to kill him again once he is well. She refuses, and after saying that he truly does love her, he kills her.

#3, June 1997
The Spider: 1951

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bret Blevins
Colors: Pat Garrahy
Letters: Chris Eliopolous
Editor: Chuck Kim

Shade starts this chapter by talking about how he came to become a “super-villain” and how he fought the first Flash five times in Keystone City. Flash forward (no pun intended) to 1950 when The Flash announces his retirement, so that he may devote himself to his wife full time. The same news report notes that The Spider, a bow-wielding hero who was a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory and operated out of St. Louis, was relocating to Keystone. He proves himself to the city in a battle against The Thinker and gains the endorsement of The Flash. This endorsement causes Shade to consider testing himself against this new hero.

In preparing for dealing with this new opponent (a step Shade makes ever since having been sent to another dimension after a fight in 1863), Shade journeys to St. Louis and tries to find out as much as possible about the Spider from the Underworld there. He meets with a retired super-villain called “The Surpriser”, who could fire different rays from each of his fingers. Shade finds that the man now has hooks for hands and that it was The Spider who was responsible for the rather extreme punishment. The Surpriser says he knows all too well and tells Shade. Shade decides to approach Jay Garrick as a friend, tell him what he found out and ask him to come out of retirement to deal with The Spider. He changes his mind after he sees Jay and his wife, the love they have that he feels he will never have again and decides to handle the situation himself, knowing no friend could ever ask Jay to leave the life he has now for any reason.

Shade confronts The Spider and reveals what he learned: that The Spider was really a criminal who used his heroism as a cover while he removed his competition. The Spider admits the truth of this and tells Shade that there was one thing he didn’t find out; that was that he was a Ludlow and his coming to Keystone was to destroy him. The Spider then knocks Shade out and places his body in front of a lit fireplace.

When Shade recovers, The Spider tells him that he is keeping him alive as part of his plan. He realized that The Shade’s exploits as a villain were just a game to him and that since Garrick was never killed, he wouldn’t be either. At their encounters, Spider had hired henchmen collect some of Shade’s shadow residue and freeze it. He then explains that he found out Garrick’s identity from the man himself, who thought his successor should know. Spider then reveals his plan; Rather than kill him, he is going to frame Shade for the murder of Jay Garrick and his wife and expose Jay’s secret identity as the Flash. An aide of his will commit the murders and the leave the frozen residue on their bodies. With a popular superhero like The Flash dead, every hero in America will soon be hunting Shade down.

Spider says he wasn’t sure he could kill Shade, so he decided to destroy his life instead. He continues to gloat, thinking he is safe since Shade is so close to the light of a fire. But Shade points out that the fire would do nothing to him unless he were surrounded by it… where the light would be all around him and leave him without a shadow to manipulate. As is, there are still shadows for him to manipulate. He kills the Spider with a shadow-formed archer and hurries to save Jay and his wife. He stops the aide and gives Jay the address of the Spider’s hideout where he assures him the evidence of the Spider’s villainy will be found. The Shade departs, asking not to be identified (reputation as a villain and all that). It is later said on the news that it was Dr. Midnite who uncovered the assassination plot. The next day, Shade and Jay talk and leave the conversation if not friends, that at least friendly.

#4, July 1997
Craig: 1997

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Michael Zulli
Colors: Pat Garrahy
Letters: Chris Eliopolous
Editor: Chuck Kim

The final chapter ends with Shade receiving a letter (delivered in a roundabout way from Jay Garrick to Ted Knight to Jack Knight to him) from a woman named Blair Ludlow. She says that her husband and his brother are the last of the family left. She says her husband Craig is usually wise and gentle, but that he is growing closer and closer to taking up the family’s feud again thanks to the darker influence of his brother, Gary. She begs Shade to come and try to reason with Craig before he is killed.

Shade journeys to their town (ironically also named Ludlow) and pays a visit to Gary first. Drunk and angry, he tries to kill Shade and is in turn slain for his efforts. He then goes to speak to Blair Ludlow at her house (which is , in another bit of irony, at 24 Shady Lane). She says she called him for the sake of her son who she wants to see raised free of the hatred of her husband’s family. Shade tells her of how he has already killed Gary and how he will do the same to Craig if he is attacked. He then goes out to the field to talk to Craig.

The two begin talking, with Shade saying that he does not attack unless provoked and that Craig does not want to become a murderer if he can at all avoid it. He says that he killed Gary, so now Craig has a real reason to try and kill him if he wishes to. Craig confesses he never liked his brother much and all he really wants is to be wife and son. He says he’s worried about his wife really loving him, since she was engaged to a lawyer who died in an accident. Shade assures Craig that Blair does love him and that she was begging for his life before he came out to talk to him.

Craig then tells Shade about how he wants to be a writer. He describes the story he is working on; the story of a farmer who finds a child’s body out in his field and how he tries to investigate the murders, but the town elders try to stop him because they want the murder covered up. Shade then tells Craig a story about Brian Savage. Savage managed to uncover the truth that the Dead Turk for whom Turk County is named for was innocent of the crime for which he was hung. The people of an entire town (the town of Woebegone, ironic in a story about people who can not let go of “woe”) nearly killed him for that, since the city took a great deal of pride in being the place where the infamous deed occurred. He offers to send Craig a copy of his notes about the story… assuming they don’t kill each other. Shade then says that he confirmed that Craig and his son are the last of the Ludlow’s and that he will kill his son if Craig decides to continue the grudge.

Craig considers it for a moment, his fear for his son spurring him to action. But Shade’s words about how he envies Craig for having love, children and a peaceful life; all things he wants and can never have and the thought of his wife’s mushroom soup make Craig decide to end the feud. The story ends with Shade returning to Opal and hoping that the legacy of hatred really will end here while noting that it is a very beautiful evening.

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