This is the penultimate issue in the “Shadows of the Bat” event, and I haven’t been a fan of this story. Not only does more than half of this event consist of filler, it’s also a very expensive series: if you were to buy every single issue of “Shadows of the Bat,” you’d end up spending a minimum of $60.88. Please see the brief breakdown of the price point at the top of my #1047 review. At least I’m hoping that we’re getting more plot and focus now that we’re approaching the end, so let’s have a look.
The good thing about this comic is that it’s action-driven and probably the most entertaining issue of “Shadows of the Bat.” It’s still rather light on plot, which goes to show how thin the overall plot has been over the course of the past 10 issues, and there are a few narrative choices that I find confusing and unnecessary, but at least things are happening. Unfortunately, the general execution still leaves much to be desired.
For one thing, the Bat Family is cleaning up the tower very quickly. The previous issues have been incredibly slow, to a point that there was barely any plot advancement or character development. It makes sense for a story to pick up the pace when it’s nearing its conclusion, but the vast difference in pacing between this issue and previous chapters doesn’t feel like a natural progression. It almost reads like the creative team realized a little too late that there are only two issues left and was forced to speed things along. This makes it glaringly obvious how badly structured the event has been. Had the creative team been given 6 instead of 12 issues to tell this story—or even fewer!—I think that it would’ve been easier to create a focused narrative with better pacing and less unnecessary scenes. More importantly, I think this would have made it easier to create a stronger setup for the conclusion as well, because, as it stands, there is hardly any setup for this particular ending. It’s just sort of happening.
This was supposed to be a Bat Family event without Batman, but the Family hasn’t been doing much at all throughout “Shadows of the Bat,” and now Batman himself has returned and steals all their thunder instantly. None of the Bat Family characters were ever stars of this show. There wasn’t a clear reason as to why any of them were included, other than striking a few cool poses in the background as they knock out Party Crashers or arguing for a bit in their secret base. None of them had key roles that only that particular character could fulfill. That still holds true in this issue—none of these characters seem essential at all. At this point they’re just following Batman, who can apparently solve this case without their help with ease. He’s like a deus ex machina, which makes his appearance feel unearned, and that’s saying something, given that this is really Batman’s book!
Then there are a few strange writing choices that just don’t really work for me. One of them is Lady Clayface appearing out of nowhere to save Harley Quinn and two doctors from fear gas. The reason it doesn’t work for me is because this almost reads like the writer wasn’t sure how to resolve the scene, and so Lady Clayface just appears out of nowhere. That might not actually be the case, but that’s how it comes across to me. Another reason why this doesn’t work for me is that I’m not even sure what this scene is supposed to add to the story. This entire event is filled with such random scenes that feel like setups for new plot threads, but which just don’t go anywhere in the end. And even if this Lady Clayface moment does get a payoff, why bother to include it? Shouldn’t we be focusing more on concluding this story properly, rather than having a character that wasn’t even featured in “Shadows of the Bat” pop up out of nowhere? Furthermore, why is Harley even in this book? Why are there so many elements in this entire event that just don’t add anything substantially?
At least the art is pretty good. I love Nahuelpan’s layouts and dynamic action scenes. Bellaire’s fantastic colors on top of Nahuelpan’s art really make this book pop. It’s fun seeing how each panel sets up the next, and how action flows across the pages. The art really isn’t the problem, and it’s impressive how consistent Nahuelpan’s renditions of the characters have been so far. This really is good stuff. A shame that the story itself isn’t up to par.
This chapter of “House of Gotham” is different from the others in that our unnamed protagonist isn’t even in it! Despite that, I still rather enjoyed the backup, because it puts focus on Batman as a detective. The strange thing about this chapter is that it feels like I missed something, because it’s quite the narrative jump from the previous issue to this one. Without knowing how the story will end in the next issue, it’s a bit hard to judge this one. While this chapter feels somewhat disjointed, I’m optimistic that the conclusion will tie it all together.
Bellaire and Blanco put out strong artwork once again. It’s detailed, it’s layered and it’s beautiful. This is the best art in this whole issue, and the art of “House of Gotham” has easily been the best throughout all of “Shadows of the Bat.” Even if the conclusion doesn’t work in the end, a trade paperback that collects all this fantastic art would still be great!
- You like good action art.
- You’re a fan of Jordie Bellaire’s amazing colors.
- You came this far. Might as well pick up the final issues of the event.
Overall: This chapter of the main story is much tighter than previous chapters, but the sudden switch from a snail’s pace to breakneck speed doesn’t do the comic any favors. The art is strong, but without an equally strong story behind it, I don’t think this issue is worth buying, especially not at this price point. The backup feature is pretty good, though, but I recommend waiting to see if DC puts out a “House of Gotham” trade paperback if you really want to read it.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $55.89 (or $61.88 with the 2021 Annual.)
(It would’ve been a 5.5/10, 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.