Have I told you how much I love this book? Well, let me tell you… I love The Shadow/ Batman! I love everything about this book, and I’m bummed that it’s just a mini-series.
The Shadow/ Batman is a sequel to Batman/ The Shadow. I love also loved Batman/ The Shadow, but I feel that this continuation is superior simply because the quality has remained strong while expanding the story and characters involved. Batman and Shadow’s altercation with Stag has put our heroes on an interesting path. Batman is now privy to a world he previously knew nothing of, while Shadow is a broken man after the death of Margo Lane. The loss of Shamba’La also dealt a heavy blow to Cranston with the solidification that he will never be able to move past the curse that is the Shadow. Now, all he has is his mission.
With a bit of contempt for one another, Batman and the Shadow parted ways after defeating Stag and Joker, but a new threat in the Secret Seven, led by Khan, have brought them back together again. Learning of the threat after stopping Professor Pyg, Batman and Damian – who aren’t seeing eye to eye at the moment – embark on different paths to stop the enemy, whom Bruce believes are the responsibility of Cranston as well.
This chapter kicks off with Bruce and Cranston working to stop Khan through unusual means – money. Bruce discovers that Khan’s finances are tied to a number of stocks that are shared through a shell company, and swiftly attacks that company. The plan is successful enough that it eventually draws Khan out to confront Bruce and Cranston. Now, if you, like me, aren’t overly familiar with The Shadow or his rogues, then there’s a chance you saw Khan in previous issues and wrote him off as a passable villain. Well, this chapter will change your mind. Not only do we get to see Khan hold his own against both Batman and The Shadow, but we learn more about his history, as well as his abilities. Trust me, the dude is dangerous, and this issue sets up the threat he presents incredibly well!
To make matters even worse, unbeknownst to Batman and Shadow, Ra’s al Ghul is still lingering in the shadows. Now that I have a better understanding of Khan, the team-up of these two men feels even more ominous. There is someone who has caught on to al Ghul’s presence though, and it’s a reveal that also foreshadows some great moments for the remaining issues. But the jaw-dropping reveal in this chapter happens at the end of the issue, and I promise it will leave you eager for next month’s chapter! Trust me, it’s a game changer, and I can’t wait to see how it’s dealt with before this arc wraps.
The cover of this issue is drawn by Michael Kaluta and Dave Stewart. I think it’s fine. It does its job of showcasing the two title characters, but it honestly doesn’t do anything to hint what’s in store for this chapter. As with each issue prior to this, The Shadow/ Batman comes with a number of options of variant covers – my favorites being Brandon Peterson’s cover showcasing Damian, as well as Philip Tan and Elmer Santos’ cover featuring the title heroes engulfed in shadow and a rich, red wash.
Giovanni Timpano handles the internal art, and I’ve grown to become a huge fan! I’ve mentioned my dislike for how he draws faces at times, and a wish that his pencils could be cleaner at times… but honestly, I feel like these stylistic approaches add to the story. More importantly, Timpano’s ability to frame the story is incredibly cinematic. There’s also a lot of subtlety to his work that I find is often void from other artists. The physicality of his characters, how he draws them, their stance, the way they fight… every character has a physical identity that goes beyond their appearance. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that the characters carry themselves differently, and at times they carry themselves differently based on the persona they’re emulating (ie: Bruce Wayne versus Batman).
It’s the little things like Bruce tossing out his drink, and the way Damian pins a man to the ground that help elevate Timpano’s work, and I would love to see him do some work for DC/ Batman in the future. I also have to praise Flavio Dispenza’s colors. This book is consumed with shadows, yet he manages to incorporate pops of color throughout the panels, making the comic visually as stunning as the script.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Damian. I love Orlando’s approach with Damian, and I feel he captures Damian in a way that hasn’t been captured since he was introduced and written by Grant Morrison. That’s, honestly, the biggest compliment I can give Orlando concerning Robin. I feel like a number of writers “neuter” Damian to a degree, but Orlando fully embraces the badass that Damian is. He also carries an appropriate amount of angst and anger that feel fitting for the character considering everything he’s been through. In my opinion, Robin has single-handedly elevated the quality of this book.
Shadow’s Loss. I’m really intrigued by how broken Cranston is by the outcome of Batman/ The Shadow. The story feels even more impactful considering the theme King is exploring in Batman, where Bruce is desperately trying to incorporate some type of normalcy in his life in the form of a relationship – something he can turn to and look forward to when his calling gets heavy. It’s something Cranston had and is now without. The loss of Margo really impacted him, but beyond that, he always saw the light at the end of the tunnel in Shamba’La, and now that’s gone. That light has vanished, and it’s put Cranston at risk of losing his compass. The idea that someone doesn’t have something worth living for is interesting – a plot that could ultimately be incredibly damning for a character.
Khan. Alright, Khan is a badass. Before, I thought Khan benefited from the presence of Ra’s al Ghul, but no I think it’s the other way around. Khan is incredibly dangerous and has mastered more skills than the Shadow. Where Stag was potentially an equal to Cranston, Khan is undoubtedly better and smarter.
Dead Dark Knight. Whoa. Whoa! This is huge! Batman was stabbed in the heart by Stag in Batman/ The Shadow, but we all thought Shadow had saved him… Turns out, that’s not the case. Shadow didn’t do anything to save him. In fact, he’s not even alive. Batman actually died, and Khan took control of him – as he’s done with most of the cannon fodder our heroes have had to fight so far in this series. This is insane! And by insane, I mean insanely good! I wish there were more clarity concerning whether or not this story is or isn’t in continuity. Stag was introduced in “Night of the Monster Men,” but it looks as if DC is treating this as it’s own separate story… Which is a shame, because depending on how all of this ends, it could result in a number of great moments for Batman.
Some people might find this issue a little slow or heavy on the exposition, but I feel both of these aspects lead to a strong payoff, so are worth it.
- You want a dark, well written Batman story.
- You want depth in plot and character that is equally as good as the action.
- Damian Wayne.
Overall: Across the board, The Shadow/ Batman is an example of excellent execution. Steve Orlando’s script is masterfully written, with an incredible plot, great dialogue, and outstanding characterization. Every moment has meaning and purpose, while textured with grit and regret. Then to wrap it all together, Giovanni Timpano brings the script to life with amazing art! I’ve said this before, but this is the best Batman book in publication right now, so do yourself a favor and check it out (just make sure you read Batman/ The Shadow first).