“Shadows of the Bat” has been trying my patience. Not only is there barely anything happening in these issues, they’re also very expensive, to a point that you’ll end up spending at least $60.88 if you were to pick up all single issues in this event (see my intro of #1047 for a breakdown of the price point). Every week I keep hoping that the creative team can somehow redeem this story by course correcting, and every week my hope is fading a little more. Spoiler alert: this issue ain’t it, either. Let’s have a look.
I’m afraid that this story has almost entirely fallen apart by now. This issue makes it too obvious what’s really going on with Arkham Tower and why Dr. Wear is involved, and it’s not even an exciting reveal. It’s merely a confirmation of what a lot of us have been expecting all along. Reading this, I get the feeling that the writer is trying really hard to make this seem like a compelling mystery, but when the factors and players involved are so obvious, most readers see through it. What’s more, the plot of “Shadows of the Bat” is very thin. Perhaps, had this been a 4-issue arc, it could have been more entertaining, but because they’re stretching this out across 12 issues, the story-telling becomes very decompressed and the pacing excruciatingly slow. On top of that, the Bat Family is barely making any progress, and the fact that they haven’t figured much out so far makes them look incompetent as a group of detectives.
We do get an action scene toward the end, and I’ve been wanting more action, but an almost literally mindless brawl in the Tower mess hall is not what I mean. Such fight scenes can be fun to look at, especially in a comic book, but if there are hardly any emotional stakes around it, then it just doesn’t add anything for me…it just feels like a distraction. Instead, the kind of action that I would like to see is the Bat Family actually doing cool stuff. Yet, all we’re really getting is seeing them kind of standing there in their hideout, dumping heaps of exposition on each other.
They talk about the effects of “Numb” on the streets, which is the drug that’s being pushed through Arkham Tower. They say that people are dying because of it. But we’re not seeing any of this! Statements like, “It’s more potent than any drug in Gotham distributed this widely,” remain hollow. When Babs asks for updates, Cass explains what she’s been up to, but Cass has barely been in this story so far, save for a few brief appearances. I need this comic to start taking us on a journey with each of these characters as they are making moves to actively dismantle the Tower operation. Until that starts to happen, as far as I’m concerned, nothing is happening. It truly feels like there’s no progress being made at all, and while that isn’t entirely true, because there’s the bare minimum of progress, the fact that this book gives me that particular feeling is a very, very bad sign.
The art by Raynor and Guerrerro is solid. There’s good energy in each of Raynor’s drawings and the layouts are straightforward but very effective. I enjoy some of the subtle facial expressions that Raynor draws, as well as his characters’ body language. Characters behave realistically or more exaggeratedly depending on the situation, which makes for a pretty fun visual dynamic. Having said that, I’m not that big a fan of Guerrerro’s color work. While the lighting and shadows are fine, and the palette is nicely varied, I find myself critiquing the art for something that I’ve seen in a lot of other colorists’ works, which is that the colors seem rather flat to me. As such, the colors don’t quite elevate Raynor’s work as much as they could—a missed opportunity.
The art by Blanco and Bellaire continues to be great in this fifth chapter of “House of Gotham.” I think the writing is also a step up compared to previous issues. This is now starting to feel like an actual adventure, where we’re following the unnamed protagonist through Gotham, interacting with various shady characters, including the Penguin. However, the protagonist still feels like a blank slate, and that’s not to the story’s benefit. For the story-telling to be really effective, I need a main character that I want to root for. So far, we’ve seen the main character move between locations and do interesting things, but in between all of this plot-driven action there just hasn’t been enough room for character development. Until that gets more attention and I start to understand our protagonist, I’m not sure what this story is trying to say, or why I’m even reading it beyond having to review it.
- You really dig these covers.
- You are a fan of the artists featured in this issue.
Overall: I don’t recommend this comic. The plot is moving so slow it’s starting to get on my nerves, our heroes look like fools, and the villains are unconvincing and not very threatening. This whole “Shadows of the Bat” arc is overcooked and convoluted. Stay away from this issue. Save your money for something else.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $25.95 (or $31.94 with the 2021 Annual.)
(It would’ve been a 4, 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.