This is the last chapter of the second act of “Shadows of the Bat.” So far, barely anything interesting has happened in the story. It’s also a very expensive series. If you were to buy every single issue of this event, you will spend at least $60.88 (see my brief breakdown of the price point in my #1047 review.) Anyway, this comic has been a frustratingly tedious read. Is there a possibility that the story gets better? I’m not feeling optimistic. Let’s have a look.
Truth be told, I do think this issue is slightly better than previous ones. Slightly. I still don’t like the story, but there are moments here that I think are decent, even if some of those moments don’t really amount to anything worthwhile. First of all, I like how Batwoman and the Batgirls, at the start of the issue, absolutely beat the living daylights out of the Party Crashers that are attacking them. I just like seeing my heroes kick ass. However, I really don’t know what the point is in having these Party Crashers around. As an organization, they’re a total disaster! They fail at nearly every step of the way and there’s nothing about them that I find interesting or appealing. How am I even supposed to take their drug operation seriously if the characters themselves are such losers that get beat into the ground all the time?
Another thing I like is that, after the fight with the Party Crashers, Batwoman starts to give very clear and very direct orders to the Batgirls. This is in line with Kate’s characterization, because she has a military background, and it also finally—finally!—creates some sort of focus and plot-based action for the Bats. What I don’t like about this, though, is that it took so damn long for this to happen. We’ve spent issues just seeing our heroes stare at computer screens while talking about what they are maybe going to do, instead of seeing them actually do something about the Tower situation (simply infiltrating and walking around in a different outfit doesn’t count, because they were barely accomplishing anything while doing that). What I also don’t like is that Batwoman says that Oracle needs to be set up somewhere secure and that Cass needs to protect her, like Barbara can’t handle herself. Perhaps that’s not how the writer intended it, but that’s how it comes across.
One more thing I like is that Nightwing finds out about Psycho-Pirate, because this means that, hopefully, we’re done with the writer’s convoluted, desperate attempts at making this whole situation seem more mysterious and complex than it actually is. What I don’t like about this is that it (unintentionally) hammers home just how tedious that whole mystery aspect of the narrative has been, because apparently all Nightwing had to do was barge into Psycho-Pirate’s office and slap him a couple times, and that’s it? Why didn’t the Bats just sneak into the building at night, discover what’s going on behind closed doors, and save the day? This story hasn’t presented any real problems or obstacles that would make that impossible for them. Batman has done this type of stuff a thousand times or more over the course of his career. You’d think the other heroes would be capable of this as well.
We also need to talk about the villains for a second. Both Dr. Wear and Psycho-Pirate are idiots. Both of them are doing everything wrong that they possibly can do wrong, which makes them totally unimpressive as villains. Because of this, it’s even more baffling that our heroes take so long to do anything about the Tower situation. If Dr. Wear, Psycho-Pirate and the Party Crashers are as utterly incompetent as they are presented to be, then what does that say about the capabilities of our heroes? I’m afraid it’s not a good look.
The art isn’t that great, either. While Raynor’s action scenes and layouts are dynamic and clear, his backgrounds are bland and his characters’ facial structures morph slightly from time to time. But mostly I’m wondering what’s up with Barbara’s sexualized poses? I don’t mind cheesecake, especially not when it’s clearly a consistent style that an artist has chosen, but in the case of this comic Barbara’s poses are just weird and awkward. There’s no reason why she should bend over her console like that. It even seems like Kate’s checking out her backside, if you follow her eyeline. It’s just really inappropriate for the context of this scene, because now the whole thing is even harder to take seriously. As for Guerrerro’s colors, I’m still not a fan. They look flat to me. There’s no strong sense of depth. It doesn’t enhance the pencils or the narrative. I’ve said this before, but the art throughout this entire second arc looks somewhat rushed.
Once again the backup steals the show. I love Blanco and Bellaire’s gritty Gotham, the dark colors, the dangerous splashes of red, the claustrophobic alleyways, and the menacing appearance of Jean-Paul Valley/Batman. The angles are close on the action, and the art conveys a strong sense of tension. The writing continues to get better and better, too. Rosenberg only has a handful of pages for each of these chapters, which forces him to be concise and to-the-point, and it works great for him. The adventure is really kicking into a higher gear, and I’m rooting for the unnamed protagonist. The story does rely on its readers knowing about the 90s Knightfall saga, though, which could be a slight drawback. Readers that aren’t familiar with Jean-Paul Valley and what he was like as Batman during Knightfall might end up a little confused, although the basics should be clear to anyone: Jean-Paul is a bad Batman. In any case, “House of Gotham” is definitely a story worth reading, and as I’ve said before, I really wish it wasn’t overshadowed by such a terrible main story. If DC doesn’t collect “House of Gotham” in its own paperback, far away from “Shadows of the Bat,” I’m gonna riot!
- You are invested in “House of Gotham” and the price tag doesn’t scare you away.
Overall: The main story isn’t worth your time or your money. The writing is mediocre at best and the art isn’t anything to write home about, either. At least there’s a bit of narrative focus now, but I really don’t know why they took this long to get to that point (probably so they could milk the sh*t out of this event in an attempt to make more money). The backup story is great, though, and I really want people to be able to enjoy it, but not for this insane price. I recommend skipping all the tower stuff entirely and waiting for DC to hopefully publish a “House of Gotham” trade one day.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $40.92 (or $46.91 with the 2021 Annual).
(It would’ve been a 4/10, 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.