One of my favorite movies is the original Shaft with Richard Roundtree. For it’s time it was revolutionary because the main character, an African American, was playing a dominant role normally played by white folks. What it showed most of all is that race should never enter into consideration for a role unless we’re talking about a biopic of a real life person. Everything else, cast the part with the best possible person available for the part.
Shaft to me is a no nonsense bad ass. He’s someone anybody, regardless of race, gender, or whatever labels people want to throw out there to separate us, could use as a role model because he doesn’t let anyone drag him down. He has a strong moral code in regards to what he feels is right and anyone who gets in his way will get stomped.
This issue is a bit of a prequel. Shaft before he was SHAFT if you will. It centers on his boxing career. It’s a simple story. He’s told to throw a fight. He doesn’t. The gangster who wants him killed sends his goon to do it. Turns out the goon has a history with Shaft and after a few punches and tells him to not show his face around town and that Shaft owes him. A nice little character piece for one and two, a nice way to plant a seed for a future issue.
The story itself was fine but felt small in scope. On top of that, prequels can be hit or miss, mostly miss, because any sort of tension you want to add in the story gets tossed out the window because we know what ultimately happens to the characters further down the road. When the gangster told his goon to take care of Shaft, you knew that wasn’t going to happen. The last pages ended up writing themselves which made reading those last few pages quite the chore. Any tension that was built up in the story was released as if in a pressure cooker. What I would have liked to have seen was some sort of wrap around story with present day Shaft, the Shaft we all know from the movies, relating the story to someone or to just the reader themselves but relating it to a current case he was on. That way there could still be tension but it could somehow relate to a main story that we are meant to focus on.
Prequels as a whole are a story method that needs to be laid to rest. When they’re done well, I’ll enjoy it. But too often you see stories like this that tells a story that ends up being irrelevant because any tension being told in the story is simply gone. When you know the fate of characters coming into a story, you can’t expect people to believe that anything bad is going to happen to them. If you’re going to have a prequel, you have to find a way to wrap it around a story set in the present as well simply to have the normal tension you retain in a story to still mean something.
The artwork was solid in this issue but pretty pedestrian. What I think they were shooting for was the look and feel of a movie from the 60’s or 70’s. While it was cleanly drawn, if felt small. The locations were not realistic in the sense that it felt like they were on a set. Sometimes art can be passionate and can bring little flairs to the story but that was missing in this comic. It wasn’t bad by any means, just ordinary. Something that felt paint by numbers.
While this is a bit of a rocky start, it’s still worth a read. Just because I was critical of the issue doesn’t make it bad. My only real criticism if I had to sum it up was the fact that this could have been better than it was. It’s a good start and a good way to introduce a modern audience to the classic Shaft character that sadly was missing from the Samuel L. Jackson version of the movie. The story could have done a lot towards building toward an ultimate goal because prequels are just overused these days but it is what it is. I definitely recommend checking it out.