Batman/The Shadow #2
Written by Steve Orlando and Scott Snyder
Art by Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by DC Comics/Dynamite Entertainment
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
“For all your wars, Bruce, you do not truly know the evil that lurks in the hearts of men…”
The second installment of DC and Dynamite’s team-up between the Batman and the Shadow leans harder into the base elements of both properties to great effect. Picking up moments after Batman tracks down the Shadow to the French Alps, writers Steve Orlando and Scott Snyder embrace their enthusiasm for vintage pulp and transform it into something that feels fresh. By turning the spotlight largely on Shadow this issue, it allows Orlando’s script ample room to maneuver around some of the more problematic elements of the anti-hero while embracing his odd, violent origins and filtering them through the current attitude and tone at DC Comics.
Batman/Shadow #2 really does sport a belter of a script. Pulling from both Batman and the Shadow’s bench of side characters as the Stag threatens to kill the best of Gotham, Steve Orlando shifts focus after the opening bringing both title characters to center stage and presenting the heroes as harsh opposites, using scenes of how they interact with their allies to explore that. While Bruce Wayne is the rational moral detective with a heart, the Shadow represents raw bloody vengeance, a being almost disdainful of his former humanity. This contrasting of the Shadow goes a long way toward making him interesting for new readers and helps to ease this incarnation’s transition onto Earth Prime.
Though his work on The Wild Storm has been chilly as of late, colorist Ivan Plascencia really comes alive here, as if being paired with his "Night of the Monster Men" partner Rossmo brings out a whole new mood and tone from his colors. That isn’t to say that the debut was slouchy, but this second issue feels warmer and more mercurial in its color choices; something that comes out in a big way when he is coloring the Shadow and his otherworldly abilities.
A clear and creepy example of this is the scene in which Shadow pays a visit to his old allies Margo Lane and Harry Vincent. Rossmo does a great job at amping up the horror film visuals by staging Margo and Harry in the center of the panel with the Shadow’s literal shadow cutting imposingly through the space between them, his coat and crimson scarf spreading like searching tendrils across the borders of the page. But while Rossmo pulls his weight, Plascencia turns the dial to 11 in this particular scene with smoke-stained furniture, heavy brooding lighting, and deep swathes of Dario Argento-inspired reds that blossom from Shadow’s costume across the pages like some sort of fashion conscious Great Cthulhu; perfectly on-brand for the character’s deep roots in radio series and “weird” fiction.
Rossmo and Plascencia’s visual acumen is on full display here, and while Rossmo’s layouts are a kind of middle of the road, especially when compared to some of his Bedlam and "Night of the Monster Men" set pieces, they still keep pace with Orlando’s focused script, showcasing characters at every opportunity, such as a tense stand-off between his Eduardo Risso-by-way-of-Tim Sale take on Batman and the shifty, unnaturally bent Shadow. This sequence is given extra flair by Rossmo’s deliberately paced build-up of Bruce putting on his mask as well as the blood red cackling laughter looming over the stand off from letterer Clem Robins.
With a script that builds well on the debut issue’s character work and artwork befitting of the heroes of the night, Batman/The Shadow #2 uses the tools and visuals of the past to bring new life to a vigilante icon and a vintage edge back to the World’s Greatest Detective. Steve Orlando, Scott Snyder, Riley Rossmo and Ivan Plascencia have tapped into something wonderful, and strange with Batman/The Shadow, and one can only hope they continue this streak to the bitter end.