Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

Stag Party

Posted by Don MacPherson on May 28th, 2017

Batman/Shadow #2
“Batman/Shadow, Part Two”
Writers: Scott Snyder & Steve Orlando
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover artists: Rossmo (regular)/Chris Burnham & Tim Sale (variants)
Editor: Mark Doyle
Publishers: DC Comics & Dynamite Entertainment
Price: $3.99 US
I’ve been trying to limit the number of four-dollar comics I’m buying these days, as they can make for expensive weekly trips to the local comic shop. However, given Scott Snyder’s and Riley Rossmo’s involvement in this series, I couldn’t resist the first issue. I was pleased enough with what I found to seek out the second issue this past week. And now I’m hooked on the series. Not surprisingly, Snyder and Steve Orlando don’t disappoint with their take on the Batman and his dark world, but I’m quite intrigued by this eternal, supernatural take on the Shadow. I really don’t know all that much about the anti-hero who knows what evil lurks within the hearts of men, but I rather enjoyed him as a figure who throws the Dark Knight off his game. Rossmo’s exaggerated and dynamic interpretation of Batman and Gotham are as sharp as ever, but his fluid, elongated portrayal of the Shadow and his eerie presentation of the serial-killing antagonist of the book really grab the eye as well. This is a thoroughly accessible and entertaining inter-company crossover that clicks in no small part because of the compatibility of the two title properties.

The Batman discovers the weird and ruthless vigilante known as the Shadow has taken over the form of his former trainer and mentor, Henri Ducard. Determined to bring the Shadow to justice for a murder in Gotham, the Dark Knight is skeptical and even incredulous when the Shadow insists he’s not the killer the costumed hero seeks. Instead, he tells a tale of the Stag, a timeless murderer who hunts the very best humanity has to offer, just as the Shadow’s mission is to target the wicked.

Rossmo’s depiction of the Shadow as a whirling dervish of mystery and mayhem is practically mesmerizing. I love the madness in the character’s eyes, especially when juxtaposed with the grim determination and righteousness in Batman’s. Of course, the exaggerated look of surprise on the Bat’s face when the Shadow turns things upside down on him was even more effective. As for the Stag, I don’t know if this is a new character or something that existed in the Shadow’s world before, but Rossmo’s portrayal (and perhaps design?) for the figure is wonderfully ghostly. As strong as the visuals were throughout the issue, they paled in comparison to Rossmo’s interpretation of an iconic member of Batman’s Rogues Gallery at the end of the issue. It was that visual (and the promise of greater insanity that comes with it) that really hooked me on this limited series.

While my previous exposure to the Shadow has been limited, this is easily the most supernatural and most powerful take on the character’s I’ve seen, but I honestly don’t know if this is a spin these creators have brought to the property or if it’s consistent with past portrayals. And it doesn’t matter. This is a surprisingly accessible take on the long-running pulp character (remember, the Shadow predates Batman by almost a decade). Wisely, the writers have crafted a story in which the Batman is unaware of the Shadow’s existence up to this point, so his growing awareness of his mysterious nature serves as the reader’s education on the character as well.

It’s not surprising that the Shadow integrates in better known world of the Batman so easily. The pulp hero served as inspiration for the super-hero. We’re now decades removed from that inspiration, and now the characters differ significantly. It’s interesting that one figure that served to inspire the creation of another could so readily serve to become an antagonist for the (slightly) newer character, as depicted in this issue. As grim a figure as Batman has become in the past couple of decades, he comes off as positively optimistic and kind as compared to the Shadow, and his revulsion at his red-scarf-clad opponent is an even more interesting conflict that the action-oriented encounters in this comic. 8/10

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