In Review: Batman/The Shadow #5

I'm feeling safe in saying, even with one issue to go, this is the best miniseries of 2017.

The covers: There’s a trio of frontpieces to collect for this issue and you can’t go wrong with any of them. The Regular cover is by Riley Rossmo and features Batman and the Shadow surrounded by several versions of the Stag clad in white clothing. The characters looks incredible and the coloring really makes this cover stand out. It was a tough call to purchase this cover or the second variant, but I chose this cover. The first Variant is by Francesco Mattina. This is a dark, moody cover with Batman in the foreground, brandishing a fist threateningly as his other hand holds a batarang. Behind him is the Shadow, arms crossed holding his pistols ready. The Batsignal can be seen behind the pulp hero as are several bats flying across the cloudy sky. Very cool! The second Variant is by Tim Sale and Brennan Wagner and it’s just awesome. Batman and the Shadow are running out of a cave with Margo Lane and Harry Vincent in tow. Corpses can be seen within the cave hanging from the ceiling, while skulls on sticks are outside the entrance to the underworld. I love the looks of these characters and the colors are incredible, with the reds and the whites particularly strong. Overall grades: All A 

The story: This epic’s penultimate issue is stellar. Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando co-write this issue, with the latter doing the script. Batman is on an operating table, the victim of the Stag’s prehistoric dagger. Alfred is doing what he can to save his life, why the Shadow says the hero is as good as dead. Alfred refuses to let his master die and the hero rises, spurred on for his need to bring the Stag and the Joker to justice. Since the Stag was tagged by Batman during their last encounter, the caped crusader can use his technology to find the antagonist. They all see that the villain is in two places at once, confirming Batman’s thought that “He’s more than one person.” Meanwhile, in a “dark place” within Faroe Islands, Margo Lane and Harry Vincent are hanging upside from several vines, Around them are the corpses of older victims. Seeing something off panel, Margo asks, “You. What the hell do you think you’re doing?” The Joker and the Stag emerge from the darkness, each carrying a wicked blade. The Joker proclaims, “We’re on vacation. And you? Two wet piñatas named Margo and Harry.” It’s now a race against time for the heroes to find the villains and save the elderly operatives. As the protagonists journey to the story’s climax, their dialogue reveals how they see each other and those they fight, as well as what should be done with those that are evil. It’s some terrific writing here, with each becoming very defined for the reader. Once the villains are encountered each pairs off with their nemesis and it’s fantastic stuff. The final three pages are jaw droppers for what’s occurred and it’s going to have fans camping out at their local comic book stores to find out how this tale ends. Wow! Overall grade: A+

The art: Riley Rossmo continues to impress with this issue. The first panel of the book is looking down upon a bleeding Batman as Alfred tries to help him. The bottom of the page has five close-ups of Alfred and the Shadow, exchanging words about Bruce’s fate and they look awesome. The last panel on Page 2 is dramatic, and take note of the expression on the character’s face who’s standing on the left. The reveal of Harry and Margo is fun, with the pair upside down and surrounded by so many bones. The cockpit scene in the Batjet on Page 6 shows the level of Batman’s tech and it’s flat out awesomeness. When the heroes journey into the cave, Rossmo wonderfully tilts every panel to show that their journey is askew. The glee on the Joker’s face when the Shadow appears is fantastic, though Margo’s absolute disdain for seeing the Shadow is fabulous. Pages 11 – 16 feature the fight and it is incredible. Usually Batman is the more physical fighter than the Shadow in comics, since the older hero has a predilection for his pistols, but he’s able to exchange punches with the Stag while keeping his guns blazing. It’s awesome. And the battle between the Joker and Batman is outstanding, with it getting four panels of their exchange of blows. The full-paged splash on 14 is beautiful for the arrival of all the thugs. A structure is finally revealed on 17 and it’s cool. The 20 and 21 is the key image of the book, being a partial double-paged spread of a location that’s been teased since the first issue. The architecture is flawless and the characters look great. I’m on fire to see what Rossmo reveals next month! Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Making the visuals complete are the colors by Ivan Plascencia. Look at the incredible use of crimson in the first panel, with it being extremely bright on Bruce’s chest, while the Shadow’s wispy scarf is a dirty red, to symbolize his long traveled road. The first panel on the third page really uses colors well, with the whites making the reds and greens pop off the page. The muted colors within the cave look great, with the reds dimmed by the darkness, but still standing out, especially when the Shadow laughs and his cape splays open. Whites are also incredibly strong, especially when it becomes a key element in the villain’s clothing. Pages 20 and 21 have some incredibly aged browns and greens that suit the environment sensationally. The colors are so strong on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Clem Robins, whose outstanding work can also be found in the many Hellboy books and their spin-offs published by Dark Horse Comics, creates scene settings, moans, whispered dialogue, dialogue, the Shadow’s unique speech, computer text, sounds, yells, the book’s title and credits, and the tease for next issue. I love seeing that the Shadow sounds differently from all the other characters in the book, and his every word drips with vengeance. The sounds on this book are spectacular, with the Shadow’s guns having the coolest looking expulsions of sound in a comic book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’m feeling safe in saying, even with one issue to go, this is the best miniseries of 2017. The story is fantastic and the visuals incredible. Both heroes compliment each other, while the villains enhance the evil of the other. I will be purchasing this when it’s collected, and if it’s not released as a hardcover it would be a crime. 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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