And so we arrive at the conclusion of perhaps the most expensive event that I’ve ever reviewed. I haven’t been enjoying “Shadows of the Bat” at all, and I haven’t been feeling optimistic about this conclusion, either. This is an event that, at most, should’ve been 6 issues instead of 12, but it could probably have been told in 4. Moreover, those who’ve been following my reviews will have noticed that I’ve been talking about the price point a lot. Not only do I point this out in case customers aren’t aware of this, but a price point this high sends a signal to me that DC doesn’t care about readers who can’t afford their books. If they did, they wouldn’t charge at least $60.88 for a 12-issue, weekly series (you can find a brief breakdown of the price point at the top of my #1047 review). Anyway, let’s just get this over with and have a look.
What we have here is a disjointed collection of different scenes. There are hardly any smooth transitions from one scene to the next, and there isn’t a strong sense of plot throughout the comic. Stuff just kind of happens, and then it just kind of ends. Because of this, it doesn’t even really serve as a proper conclusion to “Shadows of the Bat.” Nothing really gets resolved; Arkham Tower doesn’t get shut down; Psycho-Pirate just sort of walks away or something; and I struggle to see the point of it all.
For example, there is an elaborate scene where Penguin finds out that Psycho-Pirate is holing up inside a motel. When Penguin’s henchmen arrive, it turns out that it’s a trap set up by Batman, who’s waiting for the henchmen to arrive dressed as Psycho-Pirate. Then the Bat Family beats the henchmen into the ground, and the Bat Family simply leaves after the beatdown, and Oracle thanks them for it, for some reason. I have no idea why mindless violence is presented as a good thing, but that’s not even the main problem that I have with this scene. No, it’s that there is no point to this whatsoever. The art looks cool, but this is violence for violence’s sake, and I resist the idea that Batman would indulge like this. It’s just dumb. I’d rather see him actually save innocent people instead.
There is also a scene that involves Huntress and Harley. Their dialogue doesn’t go anywhere. Harley says something that’s obviously meant to be funny, but the joke doesn’t work for me at all. If at least this scene would’ve added something to the story or to Huntress and/or Harley’s character development, I would’ve let this failed attempt at a joke slide, but since it turns out that this entire scene solely revolves around that attempted joke, it just seems like a waste of panels to me. At this point, what are we even trying to accomplish here? Did the creative team run out of material? Did editorial think this is what this story needs instead of an actual resolution? Who knows anymore!
Furthermore, I can’t figure out why Nakano isn’t shutting Arkham Tower down after everything that’s happened. Sure, he wants to use the facility for actual patients instead of psychotic villains, but so many horrible things happened in that building that I’m not sure who would even want to set foot in there, even with the psychos no longer being held there. This only hammers home just how nonsensical the premise of this story really is.
I’m not happy with the dialogue, either. To me, it looks very inconsistent. For example, you have that Harley joke that I talked about earlier, and then there are moments where characters’ reactions are very short or even distant, as if the dialogue was rushed. But there are also instances where the dialogue reads more like a prose description than a natural flowing conversation between two (or more) people.
I do like Nahuelpan and Bellaire’s art. Once again Bellaire’s colors are layered and beautiful and they mesh well with Nahuelpan’s pencils and inks. Nahuelpan draws detailed cityscapes and awesome characters. It’s clear to me that Nahuelpan has a real knack for sequential art, but unfortunately the script doesn’t always let him commit to it. For example, before the fight scene with Batman and the henchmen can properly start, it gets cut off because we abruptly switch to a different, unconnected scene. That said, Batman breaking out of the Psycho-Pirate costume is a very cool visual. I suppose you could argue that it’s weird that Batman wears his full Batsuit underneath a replica of Pirate’s outfit, but that’s where suspension of disbelief comes in. This is a comic about cartoon characters, so these kinds of shenanigans are totally fine in my book. I just wish that there was a good story behind the art because, as it stands, it’s just a collection of pretty pictures—nothing more, nothing less.
In this issue we also get the “House of Gotham” finale. Blanco and Bellaire bring their A-game, like always. We see excellent page layouts that shape to the story that’s being told. For example, Batman gets surrounded by enemies in the sewers, and the panels themselves as well as the layouts are somewhat crowded, which, to me, emphasizes claustrophobia and reinforces the idea that Batman can’t get away from these people under these circumstances. Toward the end the pages have fewer panels, which allows the story to breathe a bit more. I like that because it makes for a calmer and more focused approach to the ending. Bellaire’s bleak colors fit the story’s mood well, and even though I use the word “bleak,” these colors are still as layered and varied as ever. Blanco and Bellaire are a fantastic creative team that expertly renders the world of Gotham. I wish that they’d get to work on more Batman projects. Their art simply rocks!
Yet I’m not sure how I feel about the writing. I don’t think it’s bad by any means, but I do have a bit of a “That’s it?” feeling once it’s all over. The final confrontation between Batman and our unnamed protagonist is not a physical fight, but rather a debate. Without the context of the previous chapters, this debate might just read like the typical discussion about whether or not Batman’s presence is good for Gotham and whether or not his use of “child soldiers” is justified. With that context, the discussion becomes a little bit more nuanced because now it’s informed by the protagonist’s own experiences, which we’ve seen unfold. However, due to a limited amount of pages, the debate doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it should be. I also don’t like the way the story ends. While I get what the creative team is going for, I’m just not sure if this type of ending is really appropriate after having followed the protagonist through Gotham, through various time periods. The ending feels too abrupt to me. Still, “House of Gotham” has been a good read overall, and if this gets collected in its own trade, then I think that would be a nice addition to your collection.
- You like good artwork and don’t mind if the story can’t keep up with the quality of the art.
- You can afford a very expensive event in which barely anything happens.
- All you need are the collaborations between Blanco and Bellaire.
Overall: It’s over. It’s truly over! Can you believe it? We made it through 12 weeks of 12 overpriced, bad issues. The “Arkham Tower” story isn’t worth reading, let alone buying. If you really feel like you have to read it, then I recommend waiting until you can find the trade with a massive discount. “House of Gotham” was cool, but I wish that the creative team had more space to develop the ending. But man, I’m so glad that it’s over…12 weeks…12 long weeks! I’m honestly surprised I came out of this with my sanity intact.
If you’ve come this far you’ve spent at least: $60.88 (or $66.87 with the 2021 Annual.)
(It would’ve been a 3.5/10, 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.