THE SHADOW/BATMAN: VOLUME 1 #1
“You know my name! Grandfather was right, you truly are the world’s greatest detective. Which you should know it’s impossible to take me by surprise.”
— Robin (Damian Wayne)
I’m old school with the connection between the Shadow and Batman dating back to their first crossover back in 1973. It’s one of the most natural cross-company concepts given how much the very concept of Batman owes to his predecessor The Shadow. Dynamite currently holds the franchise license for new Shadow stories in comics form and the fact that the indicia identifies this as “Volume 1” implies that there are plans for more SHADOW/BATMAN volumes in the future.
The franchise crossovers always have various options about how to approach them. Do you concoct a dimensional swap or switcheroo (JLA/AVENGERS)? Do you take the most archetypal version of the characters and pull them out of their own continuity and create a new shared universe (DC’s First Wave Universe)? Or do you take each franchise wherever their current continuity stands and just pretend they have always co-existed and just never run into each other (SPIDER-MAN VS SUPERMAN)? SHADOW/BATMAN takes the SPIDER-MAN VS SUPERMAN route. As a result, if a reader has not been reading current BATMAN and SHADOW comics, there is a bit of a learning curve to catch what all is going on with the status quo of each character in this first issue.
What I was able to infer is that at this moment the Shadow is dealing with the grief and pain that follows the death of his lover, Margo. Batman is increasingly frustrated by the strained relationship with his petulant and deadly bastard son, Damian (Robin), who at 13 years of age is living on his own in New York City. The primary villain of the issue (but probably not the storyline) is the Batman rogue Prof. Pyg who has popped up in New York with his Dollotrons causing mischief that draws out Batman, Robin, and The Shadow.
There are references to the Teen Titans, Ra’s al Ghul, and Mr. Terrific which firmly establish that this Batman and Robin are the same versions currently appearing in DC Comics. Likewise, there are references to the Dynamite versions of the public domain characters, like Black Terror and Miss Fury, that establish that the larger shared continuity of the Dynamite Universe is coexistent with the current DC universe for purposes of these crossovers. If it seems like I’m over-fixating on this topic, I assure you that it becomes important for laying the groundwork for this much grander criminal plot that is percolating behind Pyg’s shenanigans and is the key for why you as a reader (and fan of Batman or Shadow) might be interested in checking it out.
Now, as for the quality of the comic book. Steve Orlando’s writing is clear and the characters felt right. It struck me as an unusual choice to pick Prof. Pyg at first, but the more I thought about it the more it felt right. I could imagine Pyg as a Shadow villain as easily as I see him as a Batman villain. Taking one of the most recent, and bizarre, additions to Batman’s gallery of rogues was a smart choice. The art by Giovanni Timpano is a very strong blend of Frank Quitely and John Cassaday. Nice storytelling and use of shadows to convey the dark worlds of Batman and The Shadow.
It’s difficult to criticize anything other than the mere fact that it didn’t feel complete enough to me—not enough Shadow for sure. The cliffhanger is fantastic. I’ve reread it a couple of times and I’m still not sure how that resolves. All-in-all I liked it and was both pleased and impressed with SHADOW/BATMAN #1. It’s a mini-series that is worth adding to your pull list.