‘Shadows of the Bat’ soars into its penultimate issue, bringing all the pieces together in an awesome character-driven action-packed issue for the Bat-family that also teases some potentially intriguing long-term storylines, including a possible future for Arkham Tower itself. This is exactly the type of book that the Bat-family of titles has needed for quite some time, and hopefully, even with Batman’s return the family and Gotham itself continues to get this same level of perfect coverage and love.
They often say that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” about a great many things in life. While Batman hasn’t been “gone” per se when it comes to DC Comics as a whole, the brief time he’s been away from the city within the two main titles that he usually stars, has been felt. As the Bat-family has stepped up and taken on everything that Arkham Tower has thrown at them, the powerful seismic return of Batman to the picture has been pretty darn epic.
Right off the bat (couldn’t help myself) we get a gorgeous shot of Batman leaping from the Batwing into the tower shot from Amancay Nahuelpan and Jordie Bellaire. It’s powerful, confident, and just all-around amazing. Gotham city stretched out behind him in all its dark but also beautiful glory makes the scene even more iconic in feeling.
All of the issue matches this energy from the artistic duo, from these big iconic shots to the fluid and brutal action beats to the heavy emotional and development scenes that are spread through the whole issue (and event as a whole). Nahuelpan has such a smooth and detailed style with really amazing paneling style choices. Just in the first pages, there is one that I love with Batman taking down Party Crashers in a six-panel sequence that is inset into a full-page panel, where the vigilante and the villains are nothing but shadows (the green grins and red background and yellow SFX as the only colors) as Batman easily dispatches them.
There is a reason that Bellaire is one of the best and most well-regarded colorists out there, what she does sets so much of the mood and paints a gorgeous image of any given city or character in question. This is the same really stylized Gotham and Batman-type stories we saw from her previously in the title, alongside Dan Mora, and her pairing with Nahuelpan has all those same sorts of feelings.
From one of the best colorists to one of the best letterers as Ariana Maher brings all the same love and energy to her work every single time and makes it something special. Character and emotion are at the forefront of what Mariko Tamaki is writing with these characters, and what Maher does with the text from changes in the size of style to alter volume or tone or ‘sound’ of the dialogue makes it even more clear what is being felt in the moment. Interactive SFX, people’s names shouted in logo format, and so much more make it all fun and different in the best ways.
As noted above, Tamaki has such a fantastic handle on characterization and emotion as every single character that appears here, and the cast is pretty big at this point, feels ‘right’ and fits what we expect to see from them while still going beyond. Often there is a discussion on social media or forums about cast sizes of books and how many is too many, but truly Tamaki makes it look easy to fill a book with a massive cast and do every single one of them justice along the way, no matter how often they actually show up.
I’ve always loved Batman and the rest of the Bat-Family, but somehow this series has taken that love and moved it to new levels that I wasn’t even aware could be reached. Cannot wait to see how this story ends and where the book goes next.
On the other end, the backup story “House of Gotham” has been mirroring the main story in the sense of going deep into character and Gotham as a whole, with a much narrower focus. All these trips through time see how the unnamed boy, who is now a man, was harmed by the war between Batman/Joker or good and evil in this city. Allowing us to watch as the character went from a boy you felt sympathy for and hoped would make it out, to a man that you still feel sympathy for but realize has potentially been tipped over the edge and been fully broken.
Matthew Rosenberg has paced and written this story perfectly, peppering in so many great major and minor moments of Gotham/Batman history that the boy crossed paths with, leading to this moment. A moment where he crossed the line towards the villain side of things, creating a trap for Batman and his family and potentially even the Joker himself. Despite all the solid weaving and building going on, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many characters and threads came back into play here.
Seeing Fernando Blanco and Bellaire’s work has been a major highlight of this book, as was seeing them together on Catwoman previously, and hopefully, the two have more work together somewhere else very soon. Everything from the city proper to the outskirts/burned down buildings and the sewers looks detailed and full of life and just amazing. All the right levels of kinetic energy and perfect body/facial work, mixing with the bright but muted and shadowed colors that bring such a moody weight to everything.
Just like with Maher up above, what Rob Leigh does letter-wise is just on another level. There is a ton of that same powerful and fun energy as the dialogue is dripping with personality and the SFX is bold and right in your face in the middle of the action. SFX are something I truly love in comics, especially when they are so interactive and colorful and 100% part of whatever is happening on any given page.
Detective Comics #1057 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.