The combination crossover/murder mystery/exploration of Batman’s debt to The Shadow in pop culture continues in Batman/The Shadow #2. The big reveal in the previous is that Henri Ducard, Batman’s mentor and Liam Neeson’s character in Batman Begins, was one of many civilian identities that The Shadow took on to strike out at evil. Artist Riley Rossmo and colorist Ivan Plascencia continue to draw The Shadow more like a force nature than a man throughout the comic, and Batman seems clumsy and unwieldy in the face of his supernatural opponent and former mentor.
The main highlight of Batman/The Shadow #2 is Rossmo continuing to draw The Shadow like a gun toting, will-o’-the-wisp, but Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando have also plotted a hell of decades spanning, complex, yet archetypical mystery. The Shadow deals in absolute good and evil, and that is why his nemesis, the Stag, is preying on the “best” people of Gotham, including Leslie Thompkins. Also, with the death of Lamont Cranston, he lacks a connection to humanity. By trotting out the wizened, old versions of his “agents”, including love interest Margot Lane, Snyder, Orlando, and Rossmo show that The Shadow is a manipulative bastard, who only had relationships with people to further his war on crime. Batman has acted this way sometimes too, like in Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Death of the Family” storyline in Batman, and it’s interesting to see him be used by The Shadow as a kind of tour guide in Gotham to track down The Stag yet again.
There is an anarchic energy to Rossmo and Plascencia’s art in Batman/The Shadow #2, and it’s the furthest thing from superhero house style. Rossmo plays with the supernatural of the Shadow by making him barely fill out the edges of a panel and then having him collide into Batman like their opening hand to hand battle. His line is stronger any time there is the scene in the present or any kind of corporeal action while Rossmo uses a looser style for flashbacks, like Batman questioning the Shadow about the different identities and people he’s slain over the years. With his predominantly dark grey palette, Ivan Plascencia is a perfect choice for these two dark vigilantes even if the first splash page featuring The Shadow has a run of crimson too.
Batman/The Shadow continues to be the dark double of the classic “Beware the Gray Ghost” episode of Batman: The Animated Series where Batman meets Gary Trent, his childhood hero. Whereas that episode had a rose-colored, nostalgic view of the pulp heroes that inspired modern superheroes, Batman/The Shadow shows that these characters were intense and often disturbed. Batman may be a creature of the night, but after his early appearances in the 1930s, he never capped criminals in the head like The Shadow. They aren’t essential to the plot, but Batman’s conversations with Alfred, who he treats as a friend, ally, and not some disposable weapon, make his humanity shine. Along with Rossmo’s close-up of him dropping a bowl of soup when he hears that Leslie is in danger, it shows that Batman has friends and wants to help them instead of just following an obsessive quest to wipe out evil like The Shadow.
Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, Riley Rossmo, and Ivan Plascencia continue to explore Batman’s violent, supernatural, and handgun wielding past in Batman/The Shadow #2. Except they add a twisting, turning mystery and an idiosyncratic art style to the mix so there’s a little for everyone in this intercompany crossover. There’s also just a touch of the old school pulps in the comic, like the swashbuckling duel between Batman and “Ducard” that opens the story.
Story: Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando Art: Riley Rossmo Colors: Ivan Plascencia
Story: 8 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review