Saturday, March 26, 2016

Shaft: Imitation of Life #1 Review

"By the time I was nineteen, I was in Vietnam. Had my first confirmed kill before I turned twenty. Killing came a little too easy for me."
-John Shaft

     John Shaft has a monster inside him. The monster emerged in the jungles of Vietnam, but it began to be formed on the mean streets of the concrete jungle of the 1950s and 1960s. Once a soldier, now a no-nonsense private-eye, Shaft has just finished a case in which he fed his monster, and spilled a whole lot of blood. The case took its toll, but now he's back, ready to hit the streets again, and find find those who are lost, and save those who need saving...For a price, of course. When a family comes to Shaft looking to find their long-lost son, he reluctantly takes the case, and delves headlong into a sordid world of sex-trafficking and hard men. But John Shaft is a hard man himself, and once he takes a case, he doesn't back down from nothing and no one. But nobody is immune to death in the Big Apple, not even John Shaft. Will he find the kid before death finds him?

   David F. Walker is back with the super-bad, hard-boiled, P.I. from the 1970s, John Shaft. A follow-up from last year's "Shaft," "John Shaft: Imitation of Life" puts us back on the trail with Shaft, the "cat who won't cop out when there's danger all about." Walker writes Shaft as if her were writing music: hitting all the right notes, putting the reader inside John Shaft's mind through a inner monologue that is just brilliant. Shaft is stoic, gruff, and hard but underneath it all is a desire to see justice done, even if he has to break the law to do it.  He's not an angel, but he truly desires to protect innocent people from the gritty, dirty world that he knows intimately. Dietrich Smith's art is pretty and clean, if a bit stiff at times; but, overall he does a great job of bringing Shaft, and 1970s New York, to life in the pages of the comic. This book is not for kids - Walker leaves several elements of the blaxploitation genre in this book (urban setting, racial slurs, foul language, scantily clad women, etc), but he does tone it down somewhat. If you are fan of hard-boiled detective stories, tough talk, and tougher action, this book is not something that you will want to miss. I sure don't. 

RATING: 9 out of 10

FUN FACT 1: Samuel L. Jackson did a remake of Shaft in 2000. He played John Shaft II, the nephew of the original John Shaft. Richard Roundtree, who played the original John Shaft appeared in the film. It was critically panned, but financially successful. I liked it.

FUN FACT 2: Blaxploitation films were targeted at Black, urban audiences, but soon gained a following across various racial and ethnic lines.

FUN FACT 3: Luke Cage was Marvel's response to blaxploitation films. Luke Cage is basically John Shaft with super-powers.

I leave you with the opening credits of of "Shaft," the smooth sounds of Isaac Hayes, and the theme of the 1971 hit film.


  1. Great review on a 70's icon Tex!
    Be awesome if they did an ongoing TV series.

  2. Thanks, Gil!!

    A Shaft TV show would rule! They'd have to tone it way down or put it on a premium channel.

  3. The cover looks like an early 70s papaerback that did some coaster duty.
    Nice touch. :)

  4. Right you are Robbie,

    Wow. I don't even think I caught that.