We’re getting closer to the conclusion of “Shadows of the Bat.” So far the event has been lackluster, to say the least, and it’s also been very expensive—you’ll end up spending a minimum of $60.88 if you’re buying the entire event in single issues! You can check out my brief breakdown of the price point at the top of my #1047 review. In any case, the creative team really has to start setting up their conclusion at this point, as they can’t afford to waste any more pages. Will they succeed? Let’s have a look.
This issue is disjointed and reads like an extended ramble rather than a strong superhero comic. The problems start on the very first page, where Koyuki’s inner monologue and her dialogue with Deb Donovan constantly get in each other’s way, shattering the flow of the scene. While the inner monologue does provide a bit of insight into Koyuki’s mind, I don’t think the scene needs it. Cutting it would have streamlined the comic’s opening and it would have greatly improved readability.
But it’s not just the opening scene. I think this entire issue is overwritten. For example, the writer has a tendency to use two or more lines when the same thing could easily be said in a single line. Besides this, there’s quite a bit of repetition in the dialogue balloons. That wouldn’t be a problem if the dialogue sounded organic, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, there’s a scene where Huntress considers the current situation and draws the conclusion that the Bat Family can’t come to her aid yet because of the security systems. Huntress’ reasoning reads more like a set of bullet points that the writer jotted down to figure out the plot, rather than a natural train of thought.
Then there are entire dialogue passages that don’t even add to the comic. For example, Huntress gets attacked by a random inmate of Arkham Tower, and they have a back and forth that goes absolutely nowhere and disrupts the pacing of the fight sequence. Had the creative team simply removed the dialogue, the fight would still have been random, but at least it would not have been bogged down by hollow words, which would have made this a lot more entertaining.
Then there’s Harley Quinn, who was apparently pretending to be someone that thought that she was Harley Quinn…or something. I’m not a fan of this, because it’s overcooked and yet another thing that went nowhere. What’s even the point of this? Perhaps someone in the DC offices thought that this would be clever but, really, it’s just convoluted and nonsensical. I get that Harley does crazy stuff all the time, but before these types of ideas are implemented in the actual story, a creative team has to ask themselves if the story really needs this. All Harley does in this issue is show up, drop some wacky lines, and then literally smash a console to disable the security systems.
At this point I’m just about ready to start banging my head against a wall. The first half of this comic feels like filler. A little past the halfway point, things finally get moving, but only to immediately let me down again. The fact that all it takes to deactivate the security system is smashing the console with a big hammer tells me two things. 1) It’s an outrageously bad security system, which is ridiculous considering this is supposed to be the new and better Arkham. 2) The writer did not come up with a more creative and entertaining way to disable the security systems, which, to me, seems a little lazy. If this is all it takes, anyone could smash that console. Harley certainly isn’t required for this. Meanwhile, I’m wondering why the creative team didn’t have members of the Bat Family operate the console and disable it? It would have given Stephanie something to do instead of appearing only on a single page, where she tells people to be quiet so the crazies won’t find them. She could be assisted by Oracle, creating a little bit of essential teamwork. Alternatively, it would have given Nightwing something to do, speaking of which…
Nightwing is literally just a punching bag in this comic. He’s hasn’t contributed anything noteworthy to the plot so far, aside from finding Psycho-Pirate. But even that doesn’t really count because, much like the smashing of the console, anyone could’ve found Psycho-Pirate. Instead of making him look heroic by having him save lives, he remains unconscious throughout this entire issue and even gets thrown out of the tower! What’s important to realize here is that this is not even all that exciting or shocking, because we all know that Nightwing can’t fall to his death when he’s the star of his own ongoing solo series for which new issues have already been solicited. If, for example, it was Koyuki who got thrown out of the tower, then there would be more tension, because now there is a chance that the Bat Family might not be able to get to her on time, which could have serious consequences for Nakano’s arc going forward. I have one more point about Nightwing that I think is important to bring up, but I’ll put it in spoiler tags.
Lastly, don’t expect the Bat Family to really do anything cool. The only one that actively saves lives is Tim Drake. Batwoman and Batgirl can be seen running toward the tower the moment that the security systems are disabled, and that’s about it, except that Batwoman also fails to save someone. Don’t pick up this comic if you want to see your heroes be actual heroes, because this story has presented them as the most reluctant, unskilled bunch.
Yet, as much as I dislike this entire story, I do like the art. Bellaire’s beautifully layered colors enhance depth, atmosphere and emotion in Nahuelpan’s pencils and inks. The page layouts are designed carefully and, even though the fight scenes don’t work from a narrative standpoint, Nahuelpan does make them look great, and the choreography flows nicely. The backgrounds are detailed, but none of those details are distracting, so there’s a good balance there. The art is dynamic, engaging and fun, despite a weak script.
“House of Gotham” continues to be a solid read. The situation that our unnamed protagonist finds himself in has become more complicated as he struggles to find food for his people in the post-apocalyptic Gotham of Batman: No Man’s Land. What makes this chapter interesting is the protagonist’s inner conflict: is he leading a gang of criminals, or is he just trying to help people in need? I think it’s a good character dilemma, although I think that if the creative team had more pages, they could have fleshed this theme out a little more. It remains somewhat superficial as it stands.
Blanco and Bellaire return for art duties, and they totally kill it again! The art that they make together always looks so intricate. The way that Blanco frames every sequence, zooms in and out, and finds various angles, makes for excellent sequential art, and I think Bellaire’s colors on this backup are even better than her outstanding work on the main feature. The colors are rich and beautiful and blend seamlessly with Blanco’s pencils and inks. You just can’t go wrong with these two artists.
- You’re invested in “House of Gotham.”
- You’re a fan of Batman: No Man’s Land.
- Blanco and Bellaire are your artistic heroes!
Overall: There are only two issues of “Shadows of the Bat” left after this one. This story has been a waste of time and money. The only good content here is “House of Gotham,” but even that isn’t worth it with this price point. Don’t buy this comic. Seriously. Just don’t.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $50.90 (or $56,89 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.