In Review: Batman/The Shadow #3

This is well on its way to being the miniseries of the year.

The covers: A threesome to find for this third issue. The Regular cover by Riley Rossmo was the cover I had to purchase and use with this book’s review. The Joker, introduced on the last page of the previous issue, is shown in his insane glory, holding Batman’s skull, cowl, and cape in his left hand, while in his right he holds the Shadow’s skull, hat, and scarf. The villain looks terrific and the coloring on this makes the character and the cape and scarf really pop. Beautiful and twisted. The Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner Variant cover also spotlights the Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime is in the foreground, flashing an evil grin at the reader. Behind him, Batman and the Shadow spar against a city backdrop. The heroes and the city are in an intense, bloody red, and the Joker is in white and violet. Not as twisted as the Regular cover, but very menacing. The Eduardo Risso Variant doesn’t feature the Joker, but it is a moody piece. The Shadow is in the bottom half of the illustration, guns out, scarf billowing about as he searches for his prey. If only he looked up he would see Batman between two gargoyles, looking ready to pounce. Nicely done, though there is a lot of empty space taken up by the smooth wall. Overall grades: Regular A+, Sale Variant A, and Risso Variant A-

The story: Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando open the book with the Joker responding to the Stag’s offer. “You’re new to the city and want to explore what the town has to offer. You want to open up Gotham’s best and see what’s inside? Hint — it’s pink. You want some locally sourced mayhem, and in return, I get a trip to Shamba-la. Well, let me tell you. I’d kill to get to that promised land. So what’s my end of the deal?” The story then moves to Gotham Harbor where the Shadow gives Batman the background on the Stag, ending with “Where I punish society’s worst, he punishes its best. His each and every ritual murder brings the Stag closer to Shamba-La — the same power that created me. After decades, he only needs one more good heart to open the door. You can’t stop him alone.” Batman leaves the Shadow, severely shackled by his hands and feet. Alfred appears and tells his past to the hero because of something he’s seen in the bound protagonist. The story returns to the Joker and the Stag with a deal made and secrets revealed. There’s a strong action scene that results with a hero in peril and the other making a major revelation. This is the type of story that leaves a reader wondering why it wasn’t told long ago, because it all makes perfect sense. Terrific action, tremendous surprises, and exquisite villainy. Overall grade: A+

The art: Riley Rossmo continues to make this book a stellar visual experience. The Joker is an elongated villain, who looks to frail to assist the Stag, though his expertise with a blade is obvious. In the book’s closing action sequence he’s a force to be wary of. The Stag is a frightening villain who is a perfect evil opposite for the Dark Knight: imposing, fast, stoic, and unblinking. When he fights Batman its amazing. The Shadow is in rare form for this issue: shackled as severely as Houdini. His piercing gaze is a horror, stressing his urgency to be free and making each of his words filled with weight. Page 10 has the Shadow revealing something major to Alfred and Rossmo sets up the page in twelve panels that are within the body of a giant Shadow. It’s a poster worthy page. Alfred’s past gets a partial double-page splash that shows the horrors not of war, but of pure evil. Rossmo could have gone much further than he did, but he communicates the insanity of the moment well without needing to get more graphic. There’s some reading revealed that contains no words, which neatly allows the reader to make his or her own interpretation about what’s being shown. My hat’s off to Rossmo for having to communicate this solely with primitive illustrations — well done! There’s a page where a character wakes up and it’s done with panels that start vertically, but fall over to become horizontals, showing that the character has become conscious and it’s really neat. Pages 20 and 21 are a double-page splash with no borders, fulling bleeding to the edge of the page. It features a hero in dire straits surrounded by several villains. These two pages are worth the cover price alone. Amazing. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Ivan Plascencia does the colors for this issue and they enhance the visuals in several ways. Look how the Joker doesn’t just have his freakish pasty flesh and emerald hair, his eyes are colored yellow. This makes him look sickly and inhuman. The Shadow’s cape and scarf constantly provide the brightest colors on the page, always drawing the reader to him. Alfred’s flashback tale gets some tinted colors, alerting the reader visually that what is being shown isn’t in the present. Page 10 has my favorite colors of the book as it shows so many different characters in different times. When the fighting commences the sounds are bright and bold, popping off the page and making the action stronger. Coloring on 20 and 21 shows one character is truly in Hell. Plascencia is acing this book. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Clem Robins is responsible for the scene settings, dialogue, Shadow speak, whispers, sounds, and the book’s titles and credits. I’m so happy that the Shadow’s dialogue isn’t just separated from others’s speech by the shape of his dialogue balloons, but by the font used for his speech: his voice is supposed to create fear when he speaks and the lettering that’s used looks terrifying. The sounds on this book are big, making each punch and crash epic. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is well on its way to being the miniseries of the year. The teaming of Batman and the Shadow is perfect, with this story and the art epic. This is comic book gold. 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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