Some time ago, I came across Raven Hammer Comics in my search for indie black books. Created by writer Brian Williams, Raven Hammer published three original comics, and the most appealing of the trio was the Harlem Shadow. I bought the first issue to see if it was as cool on the inside as it was on outside, and when issue two came out I had no choice but to buy that too.
This issue features two short stories. The first sees our eponymous hero paying a visit to a local dive, where he has a fist to face or belt to ass conversation with Willie Bourbon. Willie is the abusive husband of Giselle, who happens to be a friend of the Harlem Shadow’s. He (Willie) is also an employee of ‘Bossman’ who seems to run most of Harlem’s criminal underworld, setting the stage for a larger story. The second tale goes inside reporter Nigel Shaw’s attempt to build the Shadow’s publicity, and sell his boss Walter Rhodes on the idea. They plan to use the Midnight Sun, the paper Rhodes owns, to target the various organized crime figures in Harlem. All the while letting the world know that black people now have a superhero of their own, to fight their battles, as the first knight in the kingdom of Harlem.
The inks and lines of Rodolfo Buscaglia perfectly encapsulate the noir cool of the book. From action scene to conversation, I feel like I am in 1920’s Harlem. His strong art style brings definition and not only captures the pulp genre but the renaissance itself. Usually I would prefer a book to be in color, however, anything but black and white would have compromised the feel of this work, so I’m glad Williams and Buscaglia went with it.