On a recent visit to London, I was idly browsing through the section of reduced graphic novels in FP and I came across two books that I was very interested in. I didn't buy the reduced HC of Gotham Central Book 3, because £18 seemed a bit steep for a scuffed book, and I had a feeling that Book 1 might be out of print.
However, I could see nothing wrong with the £9.99 copy of Shade Book 3 when I compared it to the £14.99 copies of the book at the other end of the store, so I eagerly exchanged said funds for a copy of this marvellous book.
I think I first fell upon Shade when DC launched the Vertigo line, so somewhere in the thirties. Although I've subsequently bought a lot of the individual issues, I've never had a full run, so I've never read 'The American Scream' from start to finish. This book, collecting issues 14-19, includes the final 5 issues of that epic story.
The first issue is drawn by Bryan Talbot, and although it's rare to be underwhelmed by his artwork, I find it completely overshadowed by the first page of issue 15, and the first sighting in this book of Chris Bachalo's wonderfully playful panel design.
The culmination of 'The American Scream' is completely madcap and more or less impossible to describe. It's a heckuva ride.
But more pertinently, the final issue in this collection is issue 19, a Christmas story called 'Bethlehem USA'. In this story, Shade is held captive by a lunatic who thinks Shade is the New Messiah and who plans to stage a Christmas Day massacre because he hates Christmas. It all turns out okay in the end, and the artwork, as ever is marvellous.
It takes the form of a letter from Shade to Kathy, and in this letter, he mentions how they celebrate on Meta.
"In older days folk would dig up the actual bones of their relatives and hang them in their parlors, festooned with garlands of flowers and tinsel. Nowadays, the skeletons are plastic, usually filled with a special liquid that glows with bright colours. Sometimes the plastic skeletons play tunes. Some people think the day of bones is becoming too commercial. We're forgetting the real meaning of digging up our ancestor's skeletons."
It's a perfect introduction to the series, a relaxing interlude after the madness of 'The American Scream', and for £9.99 it's a steal. (Of course, it's even cheaper online)