The third and final act of “Shadows of the Bat” begins here. To those that came in late, you haven’t missed much, because so far we’ve only gotten the bare minimum of plot progression throughout the event. Hopefully that changes now that we’re getting closer to the conclusion, but I’m not feeling optimistic. And it should also be noted that if you were to buy every single issue of this event, that would cost you at least $60.88 (see the brief breakdown of the price point at the top of my #1047 review). So, without further ado, let’s have a look…I guess…
This issue opens with two entire pages of exposition. While it’s somewhat boring to read, especially if you’ve been reading the entire event from the start, it does do a pretty effective job of catching readers up to speed. The downside, however, is that with this exposition here, I think you could easily jump from #1047 to this issue, and I doubt you’d feel like you’ve missed much, plot-wise.
The exposition does make a couple silly statements, though. First, it talks about Arkham Tower having opened its doors to noncriminal patients. This is a point that’s come up before, but it’s worth repeating: why would anybody even want to get treatment at Arkham Tower? The close proximity to the psychos, mass murderers and serial killers wouldn’t exactly do wonders for anyone’s mental health, would it? The reason I’m bringing this up again is that, so far, “Shadows of the Bat” has failed to explain this point, and I doubt it ever will. It simply makes no sense whatsoever.
Second, there’s a line that reads, “In the wake of Batman’s continued absence from the city, many are asking who will bring this nightmare to an end.” This is a dumb line, because surely the people of Gotham know about the legion of allies that Batman has running around the city. The Bats are everywhere and they’ve saved the city countless of times. But perhaps this line is speaking to how the writer presents our heroes as incompetent and reluctant. For the most part, they’ve just been kind of standing around, staring at computer screens, talking about what they might do about the Tower situation. Yes, they’ve infiltrated the tower, but they’ve wasted a lot of time by doing exactly that, instead of sneaking in at night in full costume and going directly to the offices, where they’d no doubt find Psycho-Pirate, just like Nightwing found him last issue by simply barging into the pirate’s room.
Speaking of reluctant heroes, that problem persists here. For some reason Batwoman, Batgirl and Oracle—who are still outside the tower—think it’s a good idea to wait until they hear from their allies on the inside. Now that chaos is ensuing in the tower, you’d think that that would finally push them to take more drastic actions, and yet they’re still not motivated to rush to the tower and start saving innocent people. Sure, Oracle has trouble cracking the tower’s security, which has locked everyone inside…but Wear got thrown out of a window, meaning there actually is a way in! Reaching an open window high in a tower has never been a problem for the Bats before. Seriously. What is this? Is DC actively trying to make these Bats as unheroic as possible or something?
That said, the comic does get really fun for a while during Huntress’ segment. A negative here is that she gets stabbed and that her stab wound isn’t really of any consequence, as she’s leaping, kicking, fighting and holding her own against a fully armed Mr. Freeze like nothing happened. At the same time, it is the leaping, kicking and fighting that makes this good. Huntress is an absolute badass during this scene, and I almost forget how stupid this event is for a while…
…until Nightwing shows up.
Not only does Nightwing let Psycho-Pirate get away, at the same time he allows Mr. Freeze to get the drop on him. Then Nightwing falls into a hole in the ground, and that’s his entire contribution to the scene. In short, just as things get entertaining, the writer has to ruin it by making one of our heroes look totally incompetent again. This has to stop.
Nahuelpan’s art is great, though! I wasn’t a fan of what the art team featured throughout Act 2 brought to the table, but this, I like. The art is creepy and close-ups highlight the insanity of the villains. It’s also tense, with lots of thin panels, which creates a strong claustrophobic atmosphere. The sequence of panels is put together carefully, resulting in a steady pace and a consistent aesthetic. The backgrounds are detailed, but not overly so, and the action is dynamic, with Huntress versus Freeze being a real highlight. It’s also a delight to see today’s best colorist in American comics return to the main feature. Bellaire’s fantastic, layered, intricate coloring lifts Nahuelpan’s art up, and makes it match Mora’s issues earlier on the title in aesthetic. I’m a big fan of this art team and would not mind if they became the regular artists on Detective Comics.
It’s amazing to see how “House of Gotham” is still getting better and better. Blanco and Bellaire continue to kick ass. With this chapter being set in the “No Man’s Land” era, they get to draw an apocalyptic vision of Gotham City, where we go from city ruins to a survivor’s camp, all the way to Croc’s lair. And Croc looks very intimidating, especially when he approaches our protagonist and stares him down with those glowing yellow eyes. But our protagonist doesn’t let that get to him, which is perhaps the best thing about Rosenberg’s writing throughout “House of Gotham.” The main character started out at the bottom, but he’s been taking more and more actions that have direct impact on how the story unfolds, and in this chapter he’s starting to become a hero. I love reading this backup and I love the protagonists’ character growth. What I don’t love is that it’s sharing the magazine pages with that Tower nonsense. I’ve said this before, but now, having read this chapter, I feel it more than ever: “House of Gotham” deserves its own trade—this is good stuff!
- All you need is good art, even if the writing is bad and the price point sky high.
- You are only here for the excellent “House of Gotham” backup, and the good art in the main story is a nice bonus.
- You are a Huntress fan.
- You are a Killer Croc fan.
Overall: The main story has great art and a great Huntress scene, but other than that I don’t think it’s worth your time or your money. The backup continues to be great, and it’s absolutely worth your time, but the price point is still too high. I recommend waiting for the “House of Gotham” trade (please make it happen, DC!) and skipping “Shadows of the Bat.”
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $45.91 (or $51,90 with the 2021 Annual.)
(It would’ve been a 4.5/10, 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.