So, the collected TPB of The Shadow/Batman, from Dynamite came out recently. As I was reading it (more on that tomorrow) I found I wasn’t sure if some of the references being made had been previously established, and as it turns out the answer is sort of.
Before Dynamite’s The Shadow / Batman miniseries, came DC’s Batman / The Shadow. So to better understand what I was reading I went back to dig out that series as well. Sadly I couldn’t get my hands on the collected TPB (entitled Batman/Shadow: The Murder Geniuses) but I was able to track down the individual issues. Full disclosure, I wasn’t able to get #4. But by most accounts, I didn’t miss much for plot in that issue, just a few great lines and a big battle. What I DID get was a great story by Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando, intertwining the history of these two heroes in a way that’s never been done before.
The story starts out in the French Alps, as Batman tracks down one of his old teachers, Henri Ducard: “the worlds greatest manhunter”, to ask his help unraveling a mystery even The Batman was having trouble with. The story rewinds to the murder of Arkham Asylum volunteer and all-around nice guy, Lamont Cranston, is found murdered. Possibly by The Shadow. But Lamont Cranston also died in 1963, so Batman starts tracking down the handful of his confederates that are still alive.
As we transition into issue #2, Ducard reveals himself as The Shadow. Before fighting alone at the top of a mountain, Bruce stops to fashionably unzip his coat (bat-costume underneath, obviously) and put on his mask. As they battle The Shadow manages to convince Batman that he isn’t the killer, rather his ancient nemesis The Stag is.
As the series moves on The Stag teams up with Joker; we get a look into Alfred’s life before Wayne Manor; The Shadow reveals that not only did he train Batman, but also numerous others over the years; There’s a battle royal with a bunch of Bat-villains (the missing #4); Bats is mortal wounded, but keeps fighting; the whole thing coming to a head in the mystical city of Shamba-La.
Overall, there’s a lot to love in this series. There were a few points where the story seemed a bit off, and I can only make guess as to the cause. Conjecture aside, by issue #5 the shared credit had changed from “written by” to “story by” with “script by” Steve Orlando alone, with Orlando going on to pen the following miniseries The Shadow / Batman (again, more on that tomorrow). Riley Rossmo’s art is hit or miss for me. I absolutely LOVE his cover designs for this, I also love his creative vision and creative panel layouts. The Shadow’s crimson scarf has a very Spawn-esque flow to it, which looks amazing. His various Shadow characters were creative and suited the pulpy history, however, his Batman characters all failed to grab me; I generally disliked his Batman, and absolutely hated his Joker. But to go back to the positive, his #6 cover is one of my favorite covers in a long time, and one of my favorite variants of Batman ever.
As a series, I’m giving this a 3.5 out of 5.