“Shadows of the Bat” begins in this month’s first issue of Detective Comics, written by Mariko Tamaki with art by Ivan Reis, also featuring a backup story by Matthew Rosenberg on writing and with Fernando Blanco doing art. This issue started and got into gear in no time flat, so let’s do the same.
The plot of the issue moves fast, very fast. Not even a couple pages after establishing the opening of Arkham Tower (something built up to in the backup stories in previous issues of this run) does everything go right to hell. I’m impressed with how no-nonsense an approach this is, getting right into the classic “inmates running the asylum” stuff you would normally expect to happen as the teaser for a later issue. While it loses a bit of wind up, it still knocks things out of the park, the suddenness even making the characters unprepared as they scramble to get more information while leaping into action. It’s a great setup that makes you excited for the next issue right off the bat (ha).
Characters actually take a bit of a backseat to the plot this time, but they’re still done very well. Our central focus seems to be on Kate Kane’s Batwoman, with Batman himself out of town due to events going on in Williamson’s Batman run right now, something that also got set up last issue. She’s the one staying informed with Deb Donovan, the run’s resident press contact, and being the POV through which we see the Bat Family’s reaction to Arkham Tower’s downfall. I like this, since Kate doesn’t get featured in as many stories as she deserves, and Tamaki seems to have a solid grasp of her as she does the rest of the cast.
In the backup story, we get what is (I presume, it’s not outright said in story) the origin of the minor villain in this run, Nero Xix. It’s set back in the earlier days of Batman, showing how Xix’s parents were murdered by the Joker and he was sent to Arkham as a boy, setting up his criminal behavior shown in the modern day. It’s brief, but very effective, feeling right at home in tone with other classic early career Batman stories like Year One or The Long Halloween. The characterization in it is strong too, despite its shorter length.
The art in both stories is superb. Reis’s stuff in the main story is very detailed and realistic, but in a way that still feels distinctly “comic book” and doesn’t cross into uncanny valley territory at all. It’s a very nice style that feels right at home in Gotham. I also adored the work done in the backup — not only is the line art good, but the coloring and atmosphere are ridiculously fantastic. I have to hand it to Blanco and colorist Jordie Bellaire, they really provide some of the nicest looking art I’ve seen in awhile.
Overall, the start to this storyline is what I would call a success. While some may lament the lack of more buildup, I very much liked the approach of just getting right into the thick of things and playing with the sudden panic and disaster. As the story has been telling us, it’s Arkham; this was never going to end well for Gotham City. That being said, it’s only part one of many, and we have a long way to go until this current storyline meets its conclusion. But with a snappy plot, good characterization, great artwork, and a stellar team of creatives, I have some high hopes for how this will go.
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