DC Comics and Dynamite are currently publishing a Batman/The Shadow series which reached its second issue this week. Created by an all-star team of Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo with colors by Ivan Plascencia and letters by Clem Robins, the book really brings a full range of possibilities to the table in exploring these two worlds as a single narrative.
In the opening issue, we learn that The Shadow seems to be killing people in Gotham, particularly his old friend Cranston, and Batman goes on a quest to find out exactly what’s going on, which leads him to an encounter with an old mentor. In this issue, the plot develops as even more specifically “good” people seem to be targets for the same killer, reputedly an unearthly and strange force of evil known as The Stag.
But that’s only the barest outlines of what the struggle in this comic is really about–it’s really about Batman’s inability to comprehend or accept things beyond a materialist view of the universe and the Shadow’s resistance to interpretation as a being who transcends natural laws. And that struggle is at times quite painful to watch, but is very interesting.
Let’s remember that Batman is essentially a detective, a scientist, who operates within the boundaries of extreme science, at least. His desire to exert control on the universe and understand it fully is surely one of his driving traits of personality. Hence the brooding. Hence the obsession with memory and detail. But if something is introduced into his reality that doesn’t seem to obey natural laws–and even has a whiff of evil about it–it’s possible that he can’t control or defeat it, and then things fly apart for him.
So, Batman/The Shadow sets up a peculiar back and forth, a struggle against this new, terrifying being The Stag, but also a struggle between Batman and the Shadow to find a way to understand each other. Batman is naturally primed to judge and dislike beings who laugh maniacally, who talk about “evil in the hearts of men” and particularly beings who can change shape and continually one-up him. This is going to be an interesting ride of a comic.
Rossmo’s artwork on the series is a delight to see, evoking less definite lines in Batman’s strength that suggest his limitations as well as his energy, and Rossmo uses that same elasticity to indicate the Shadow’s malleability and ability to triumph. Colors by Plascencia are also a winning balance between the kind of tones we’d expect from the two noir worlds, albeit different in accent, and bringing in a sense of energy in movement and settings to make it feel like a fresh, new world, too.
The Batman/The Shadow series is one that will reward longtime fans of Batman and the Shadow as characters, with plenty of backstory and references from both worlds, but if you’re a new reader, you’ll definitely be able to pick it up and appreciate it, especially if you start with the first issue and see how this situation is really getting under Batman’s skin and shaking up our view of Gotham.
Batman/The Shadow #2 is currently in shops. Batman/The Shadow #3 will arrive in shops on June 28th, 2017.