In Review: Batman/Shadow #1

Run, don't walk, to get this. A masterful book in every possible way.

The covers: Five different covers to find if you have no fear in your heart to seek them out. Riley Rossmo, the interior artist and colorist for this series, is the artist of the Regular cover, and there’s nothing regular about it. It is a beautiful frontpiece of the Batman standing atop a chimney that could have been built in the 1930’s. He holds one of his many ropes ready to throw. Beneath him, holding two pistols blazing death, is the Shadow. His cape is splayed behind him, while his scarf is thrown upwards, providing a crimson frame for the World’s Greatest Detective above him. Artwork like his deserves to be hung in a gallery. Utterly fantastic. The first variant is by Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner. The Shadow is in profile as he emerges from a cloud of fog. The city is behind him, with the Batsignal lit up. Within the clouds above the city is the visage of the Dark Knight. This, too, is a good cover, with the coloring being really strong, especially on the Shadow’s eyes and scarf. The next variant is by Cliff Chiang and it’s spectacular in its simplicity. The Shadow is leaping down with a yellow brick wall behind him. He’s evading bullets as he’s hurtling to deliver vengeance. His cape is thrown open as he descends, casting a massive bat shaped shadow on the wall. Outstanding. There’s a Blank Sketch variant cover that features only the title, price, publishers, and number at the top, while four of the book’s creators are in the bottom right. This is a wraparound blank cover that could be taken to a convention to have one’s favorite artist draw a one-of-a-kind illustration or get the creators of this book to sign. This cover doesn’t do much unless it’s got something on it. The final variant is a Black and White version of the Regular cover. This is an excellent way to look at Rossmo’s work before he colors it. Overall grades: Regular A+, Sale Variant B, Chiang Variant A+, Blank Sketch Variant C+, and Black and White Variant A-

The story: In the French Alps, Henri Ducard asks Bruce Wayne what he can do for him. “Teach, Ducard. For years, you always helped me through countless cases…but I’ve finally found a mystery I can’t unravel.” The scene then moves to one week earlier in Arkham Asylum. A employee that delivers food to the many infamous inmates makes his rounds. He provides food to Poison Ivy, Maxie Zeus, Two-Face, and Mister Freeze. His work done, he goes home to his apartment, greets his dog, and makes himself dinner. Someone appears out of the shadows and kills him. The murdered man’s name was Lamont Cranston. For those not in the know, that’s the Shadow’s identity when not fighting crime. Batman arrives at the scene to find the killer and finds something much more. This story by Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando does both characters immense justice. Batman has to do a lot of detective work in this book and I’ve missed seeing him do this for a long time. Having him do the leg work is a terrific way to pull the reader into the story, learning the pieces of the puzzle along with Batman. The Shadow isn’t in the book as much, but when he does appear it’s ferocious. When he and the Bat tussle, and you know that they have to, it’s magic in every way. The reveal at the end of the book is spectacular and will be a treat for fans of both heroes. Overall grade: A+  

The art: I didn’t know if it would be possible to have both characters interact in the present day, as the Shadow is such a character of his time. I shouldn’t have been concerned: Riley Rossmo’s work on this book is stellar. Arkham Asylum is wonderfully sinister on Page 2, with the inmates looking extraordinary — Two-Face’s appearance is very humorous, considering his dialogue. Cranston’s death on 5 is dramatic, with red being used supremely to show the violence that’s occurring just beyond the reader’s view. 7 shows Batman’s tech superbly. Pages 8 and 9 have some tremendous, quick action with Rossmo making it very easy for the reader to follow. The use of red on these pages is also incredible. There is a spectacular large panel on 10 that echoes the brilliance of William Michael Kaluta. The disguise that Batman adopts on 13 is terrific. The character that Batman speaks with on 14 retains all the class and elegance she had in early adventures, and her being in the shadows was a scream worthy touch. The character that Batman encounters on 15 is freaky with a Peter Lorre vibe that instantly puts the hero and the reader on alert. The items on 18 are ghastly and cool. There’s a transformation that begins on the penultimate page that’s incredible, with the smoke snaking up the sides wonderfully. Rossmo is creating visuals that will be spoken of for decades to come. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins, who normally can be found giving words to the Mignola titles at Dark Horse, is the letterer for this issue. He creates scene settings, dialogue, a recording and computer speech (the same font), screams, sounds, malfunctioning mechanical speech, the story’s title, the book’s credits, and the tease for next issue. I was happy to see that recorded and computer speech were given a font different from characters’ dialogue, separating them from mortals. The sounds are great, and they are a specialty of Robins. The best in this issue is STGH-SHLIRK, which is a perfect match for the grisliness occurring. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Run, don’t walk, to get this. A fantastic story where the World’s Greatest Detective lives up to his nickname and the Shadow creates some extraordinary fear in the Dark Knight. The visuals are sumptuous and flawless. A masterful book in every possible way. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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