So far I haven’t been a fan of “Shadows of the Bat.” The story is moving too slowly for my liking, and our heroes—the Bat Family—are not getting enough to do. On top of that, I strongly disagree with the price point, as picking up all single issues of this event will cost you at least $60.88, while this series’ quality has been too inconsistent to justify that. (For a somewhat more detailed breakdown of the price point, see the intro of my review of #1047). This particular issue includes a short prelude story for Waid and Mora’s upcoming Batman/Superman series, alongside the main story and the “House of Wayne” backup. Now, without further ado, let’s have a look.
What I’ve seen across several of Tamaki’s Detective Comics issues is that the writing tends to be a bit rambly. I feel that the same holds true here. This issue is being narrated by Nightwing, and the inner monologue is rather long-winded. Besides that, there are some contradictions in the opening monologue that can cause confusion, because what’s written here can be interpreted in more than one way. For example, Dick considers Helena to be different from the rest of the Bat Family because she chose to follow Batman’s path before she ever met Batman. This is immediately followed with the statement that for Helena, following this path was never a choice.
Furthermore, Dick makes it sound like the fact that Huntress never gives up sets her apart from the rest of the Bat Family. While I don’t think it’s Tamaki’s intention to imply that the rest of the Family are a bunch of quitters, this is a conclusion that I can see some readers coming to. That would not be the fault of those readers, but the writer’s for not having worded this more clearly. These are just two examples of contradictory statements that I have seen in the opening monologue. I will not list any more for the sake of brevity, but it should be clear that I don’t think the opening monologue does a great job of leading us into this chapter of “Shadows of the Bat.”
This issue is also almost entirely driven by exposition. While we do get some cool action visuals by Reis, Miki and Anderson, I don’t think that this action really serves to push the present-day storyline forward because most of it references past events that haven’t fully been shown in previous issues. For example, explaining why Huntress has entered Arkham Tower as an inmate after we’ve actually found her in the tower feels like an afterthought rather than key information. Had this story been structured differently, and had it been set up more effectively prior to the start of this event, most of this exposition could have been cut. All the context we’d need would have been established organically as the story would have unfolded. Doing the necessary groundwork removes the necessity to backpedal and rely heavily on exposition, which only keeps the story at arm’s length from its audience.
Having said that, I do think that this issue is an improvement as compared to previous chapters. At least there’s some actual plot development here. The situation in the tower is starting to get out of hand, and Dr. Wear has to deal with the consequences. I also like that Dick is infiltrating the tower as Dan Smith. Yet, as much as I appreciate these developments, I don’t think it’s quite enough just yet, as I still feel we’re getting the bare minimum. At this point I really need to see the Bat Family taking more actions that directly push the story forward. As it stands, everything’s still going at a snail’s pace, and I fully understand if people are just fed up with this series by now, especially considering the price tag and the overall quality of the product.
The entertainment value of the first backup, “The House of Wayne,” is pretty high. That’s mainly because Blanco and Bellaire draw an awesome action scene where Robin (Dick Grayson) gets to kick some ass, and Rosenberg writes Robin pretty well. But still the story doesn’t entirely work for me. First, it’s still unclear to me what this story is trying to say, and I think that by this point that should at least be somewhat clear. Second, some bad things happen to our unnamed protagonist, and I get the sense that the story is asking of us to feel worried about him. The problem is that I don’t think that the boy’s character has been properly established yet, and so it’s hard to really buy into this plot beat for now. In other words, I haven’t really been given a solid reason yet why I should want to follow this character’s story.
As for “Batman/Superman: World’s Finest”, I just want to say that it’s an absolute pleasure to see Dan Mora’s artwork again. He’s about the best Batman artist in recent years, and now he’s proving to be a great Superman artist as well. To boot, he draws a beautiful Poison Ivy, which makes me wish that we’ll get an Ivy story from him at some point. On a writing front, I very much appreciate that Ivy is written as a true villain here. Especially in recent years she has been written more like an anti-hero, which I don’t think is the right approach, because I think that the fine line between her motivation, morality and villainy is what makes her such a compelling and strong character. Without the villain aspect, this character loses something.
Lastly, this is a fun short story, but it remains strictly setup for the actual Batman/Superman ongoing series. I don’t think that readers that are looking to pick up that series require this short story at all, and the fact that DC put this in an issue alongside two other stories that are each in their fourth chapters doesn’t seem very strategic to me. If you are here purely for Batman/Superman, I honestly don’t think it’s worth paying the extra cash for an issue whose other two features are mediocre at best. If Batman/Superman: World’s Finest #1 does its job right, it will give us all the information we need to fully enjoy that story, and I expect this prelude to be included in the eventual Batman/Superman trade anyway.
- You have been enjoying “Shadows of the Bat” so far and have no problem with the high paywall.
- You can’t resist the urge to check out Waid and Mora’s prelude to their upcoming Batman/Superman series.
Overall: The main story is moving too slowly for me because I need more plot progression. The “House of Wayne” backup is pretty entertaining, but I’m not quite sold on this story just yet. The “World’s Finest” backup is well-written and well-drawn, but ultimately it’s just a setup for a different series, and I don’t think this setup is going to be essential at all. Taking into account the price point—as this issue will be a dollar extra due to increased page count—I advice you to skip this issue in favor of a different comic. I wish I could start recommending Detective Comics again, but for now I can’t do that in good conscience.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $20.96 (or $26.96 with the 2021 annual).
(It would’ve been a 5.5, but I’m taking away a full point due to the price.)
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.