A powerhouse team of creators came together to make Shadows of the Bat, an ambitious effort to tell one mega weekly story in one Batman-related title, an emotional, gorgeous, powerful, character development-filled, roller coaster of a ride. One of the most powerful aspects of this story has been its ability to feature characters and ideas that are familiar while also making strides to move the characters and Gotham City as a whole forward into a bold new era.
All things must come to an end, but some endings are actually just a beginning. All that was to say that DC Comics’ twelve-week Batman one title event story ‘Shadows of the Bat,’ and backup story ‘House of Gotham’, has come to an end.
Over the past twelve weeks Mariko Tamaki, Ivan Reis, Danny Miki, Brad Anderson, Ariana Maher, Max Raynor, Luis Guerrero, Amancay Nahuelpan, and Jordie Bellaire have crafted an amazing story. There were high stakes moments, gorgeous artwork that showcased the city/characters/action while hitting every emotional beat perfectly, plenty of iconic shots, more characters than one could ever hope to fit into one room together, and overall, just a giant story that felt very Batman-esque while also moving the line/city/characters forward in meaningful ways.
In the time this has been running Tamaki ran a masterclass in how to juggle the aforementioned massive cast of characters in such a way that everyone got their moments and not a single one felt like they were left out or just a cameo. She has captured the voice of every single Bat-Family member as well as some of the classic rogues that showed up in this event. Characters like Deb Donovan, Chase Meridian, Christopher and Koyuki Nakano, and other newer characters feel like they’ve been part of the mythos for decades rather than years. That’s how well fleshed out they are at this point and fit into this story.
Much like I liked the way that Tamaki started this event off with a flash-forward to how everything turned to crap, I love that this issue starts off with all the fighting being done thanks to Koyuki wearing the mask at the end of last issue and saying it should be over. We open in the aftermath epilogue basically, there wasn’t a need to have one final blow-up battle that winds down. Instead, we get to spend quality time really dissecting what went wrong, what the various characters involved do next, what the next step for Arkham Tower is, and begin to seed the next story arc that sees a certain questioning classic rogue returning.
The opening page as well as a few others just like it, where Deb Donovan is working on her story and pulling up pictures and it’s all styled like her laptop screen, are not only beautiful but set the tone perfectly. As noted, this is an aftermath and continuation story where Nahuelpan and Bellaire nail that energy perfectly. Being someone that has a journalistic degree and experience the way this is depicted and just overall how Deb Donovan has been depicted this whole run makes my journalistic heart happy.
Just like the last issue the artistic duo nails every single thing they bring to the table here whether in the characters talking pages or the handful of action-filled pages, to all the deep emotional development pages. There are tons of really bright popping colors mixed with more subdued realistic ones and plenty of trademark shadows to play within. One thing that has been true of so much of this new era is just how utterly diverse and gorgeous various artists make Gotham be within the Batline of books, and Nahuelpan and Bellaire are definitely doing that here.
There is a shot right outside a seedy motel on the outskirts of Gotham that has Gotham looming in the background and even though it’s full of danger and concern it’s also so picturesque and shows off just how big and large Gotham is, always looming. Also in that area, there is a scene where Batman pulls off a disguise that he somehow wore over his massive costume and while conceptually one might think it should look silly, it looks epic and terrifying at the same time. Especially thanks to the deep black ominous shadows that surround the infuriated vigilante. Nahuelpan’s creative and keen paneling choices help sell all the emotions and make for some of those previously mentioned iconic shots (love that Steph/Batgirl, one of my favorites, gets one here).
Bellaire brings a lot of really bright sometimes neon colors to the table at times, allowing them to be like colorful deep filters over things, but also knows when to pull back and let the natural colors and shadows of a place do the same work. There are a number of reasons she’s one of the best colorists around, and every issue showcases that.
I could spend pages gushing about the lettering work of Maher, and at this point between all these reviews, I actually have. There is great energy she brings to her work, that allows every personality or emotional beat to be crystal clear in the words on-page. All while presenting the font in realistic ways that match tone and volume, instead of leaving one to imagine it, all by just changing font size or style. All the SFX to are like living breathing elements on the page, right in the middle of whatever is going on because they are bold and big and colorful and incorporated into the moment
Through these twelve issues, ‘House of Gotham’ has been quite an interesting ride. Matthew Rosenberg, Fernando Blanco, Bellaire, and Rob Leigh presented a trip through the ages of Gotham centered on one unnamed boy/man and how the darkness of the city and the war between “good/evil” takes many unknown victims. All along the main and backup stories have mirrored one another in many ways, diverging here at the end where the main story ends with some notes of hope for the future, this one ends in darkness and tragedy.
The eternal debate about Batman not killing Joker is one of those discussions that has been done to death, especially in online circles, but Rosenberg made it actually work great here. Batman tries to talk the man down from crossing that line while trying to finally get him the help he needs. Not by putting him back in Arkham or anything, but actually listening to him and pointing out how he can do so much more by continuing to help others.
Truly, the way that the story felt like it was building towards a hopeful or happy ending only to snatch that away and speak to the idea that sadly in life there are tons of “unknowns” that are casualties in these big and small wars that will never be thought about. It was stark and brutal and hit me hard in that moment, which was what it was meant to do. We read Batman and others saving the day, but this story was a reminder that for every one or two they save so many others fall through the dark cracks of Gotham.
Any story or book that has Blanco and Bellaire paired up is one that I will pick up immediately, and their stuff apart too, because they are magical. This is an issue that spends its time in the sewers and a burned down building and there is so much detail to them they feel one hundred percent real like they will come off the page, and the shadows and darker colors heighten all the confined feelings. There are just enough of Bellaire’s signature bright color styles within the panels, some of them slightly muted for tone, to fit the overall feeling of possible hope to the story before it’s dashed away.
This book has had great lettering this whole event because Leigh hits all the same notes that Maher does with personality and energy clear in the dialogue and adds that realistic tone/volume along the way. Joker’s far-away mutterings being almost faded out dialogue-wise is brilliant in showcasing how he’s not in the same area that Batman was in the moment, only to start to appear more the closer the vigilante got. There are a whole ton of colorful right there in the moment SFX to start things off which is always fantastic.
These two stories and everyone involved have been amazing and should be applauded for what they pulled off. I’ll miss reading and reviewing this book every single week, but the work and strain it must have taken to pull this off was probably tremendous. It landed perfectly though and is surely something I’ll revisit time and time again in the future.
Detective Comics #1058 is now on sale in print and digitally from DC Comics.