Grim_Noir Explores the (K)Night with Batman & The Shadow #1

 

Batman-The Shadow-01-cover

Title: Batman/The Shadow #1

Writers: Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando

Artist: Riley Rossmo

Colorist: Ivan Plascencia

Letterer: Clem Robins

Published by DC Comics and Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

It’s all fun and games talking about Batman pastiches and laughing at ol’ Grim for liking that old-timey vigilante, The Shadow, until I point out that Batman started out as a Shadow pastiche. Then everyone loses their guano…

Bob Kane and Bill Finger have admitted in interviews that they patterned Batman after some of their favorite pulp vigilantes, especially The Shadow. Dennis O’Neil has had Batman and The Shadow meet in Batman #253 (November 1973) and #259 (December 1974) to solve crimes. Paul Dini and Bruce Timm paid tribute to this lore with their Gray Ghost character in Batman: The Animated Adventures. And, this week, in Batman/The Shadow #1, writers Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando have a different examination of the relationship between these two driven crimefighters.

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The plot begins when a kindly food service provider at Arkham Asylum is brutally murdered in his own apartment. The name of the man: Lamont Cranston. Later, when Batman arrives to investigate, The Shadow appears and warns him away from the investigation. But, isn’t Lamont Cranston The Shadow? And didn’t he already die of cancer in 1963…?

The action in this issue is sparce and mainly boils down to a very tropey “heroes-fight-each-other-in-a-big-misunderstanding.” In fact, a less astute reader might even say that the issue is too talky and loses track of the main plot, however if you’re paying close attention and familiar with Snyder’s previous Batman works or Steve Orlando’s Midnighter works, you quickly realize the writers are comparing and contrasting Batman with The Shadow. And neither of these darkness dwellers come up smelling like a rose in the process.

Is there really that much difference between Batman’s “my way or the highway” attitude or The Shadow’s “Call me Master?” How many of people dream of punching Batman or The Shadow for dragging a relative into an undercover operation? It is subtle, but the point is driven home when you see Matches Malone examining all of Lamont Cranston’s aliases in The Shadow’s Sanctum.

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Riley Rossmo’s artwork aids this story tremendously. Rossmo, a veteran of several Marvel and DC flagship titles, has a style that is mostly reminiscent of Mike Mignola & Mike Allred, but with notes of Jim Lee and Bill Sienkiewicz. This enables us to see a world with bulky superheroes and warped Hellboy-esque undertones. The culmination of all these elements can be seen in the multi-panel page spotlighting the rooftop fight between the gritty, steroidal Batman and the elastic, otherworldly Shadow.

Colorist Ivan Plascencia’s work is also subtle. His “shadows-within-shadows-within-shadows” grayscale is as colorful in this type of story as it is thankless. Do it right and nobody notices it, but make even a single misstep and that is all anyone will talk about. Rossmo and Plascencia have worked together before in creepy Image series and their hand-in-hand relationship is distinctive and flawless.

The trouble isn’t really with the story nor the art, but with the “writing for the trade [paperback]” attitude that modern comic book companies encourage. Chapter One is treated as a pre-credit sequence with not enough story beats happening. We have some great character moments and some minor action bits in Batman/The Shadow #1, but they don’t really add up to a story, yet. However, the potential for a masterpiece IS there…just currently lurking in the shadows.

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Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR may or may not possess a glowing red ring and owe his life to “The Master.” Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or “Friend” on Facebook or Good Reads.

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