Despite the odd bit of wonky storytelling, the ongoing exploration of the relationship between DC’s most iconic non-powered hero and the pulp giant on which his character is based continues to be an engrossing and, more often than not, entertaining read. In the first series featuring Batman and The Shadow, we saw the pair in Gotham and the mythical environs of Shamba-La. In this, the third issue of their second adventure, we see them in the setting of the boardroom of Wayne Enterprises as they try to make a dent in the nefarious vast criminal empire of the Silent Seven (or, if we’re being honest, two). Batman and The Shadow as vigilantes of the stock market? Alright, then…
The book opens with our two heroes, in their civilian guises, formulating a plan to damage the Silent Seven through the power of capitalism. Having identified through “forensic accounting” that an investment firm called Maxwell-Grant has access to a large amount of Silent Seven funds, Wayne “shorts” Maxwell-Grant capital, causing a downturn in the share price for the company and wiping off millions of dollars of its value in the process. The reporting of this unexpected event is being watched by Shiwan Khan and Ra’s Al Ghul who then get into a disagreement about how best to respond to this. Ra’s points out that the incident isn’t going to affect them too much and that they should rise above it. Khan is a bit more arrogant and can’t abide the idea of The Shadow and Batman even thinking they may have got one over on him.
While Ra’s and Khan are having their spat, The Shadow and Batman are going through something similar. Bruce is still concerned about Damian; he’s also staggered by the sheer vastness of the Silent Seven’s criminal empire. On the other hand, The Shadow, still dealing with the death of Margo Lane, is allowing his obsession with bringing down the Silent Seven to influence his judgment. Elsewhere, Damian has an encounter with one of the Silent Seven’s undead pawns and works out that his grandfather is behind the organization.
The issue takes in some nice character stuff between Batman and The Shadow and some pages of Damian being Damian before ending with a prolonged confrontation at Wayne Manor between our two heroes and Shiwan Khan who, against Ra’s Al Ghul’s advice, has decided to pay the pair a visit. The final cliffhanger calls back to the ending of the previous series, while at the same time undermining it. Nevertheless, it’s intriguing enough to make me want to see how things pan out next issue.
Well, that was good. I know that Steve Orlando gets a lot of stick round these parts – and deservedly so. Neither his plotting nor his dialogue have been particularly outstanding on books like Justice League of America and Supergirl, but here his storytelling is, for the most part, nicely fluid. Transitions are handled well and the dialogue sounds like it could indeed be spoken by real people – albeit people suffering from a fair amount of emotional stress.
What impresses me most about this issue is Orlando’s characterization of the two main heroes and their opposite numbers. I mentioned in last month’s review, that I think Orlando’s portrayal of The Shadow is excellent and that continues here. He finds the points of contrast between The Shadow and Batman and mines them, not only for dramatic potential, but also in order to give both characters greater depth. When The Shadow confesses that he fears he has lost his former identity in service to his calling to fight crime, it’s hard not to be touched by his despair. Some of that, of course, is down to Giovanni Timpano’s art, which is generally very impressive. Khan’s arrogance, The Shadow’s anguish, Bruce’s determination, Ra’s Al Ghul’s detachment are all delineated clearly and, if Shamba-La (seen here in flashback) is not quite as all-out weird as the last time we saw it when Riley Rossmo was on art, well… you can’t have everything, can you?
On the whole, this was a well-told issue that moves the ongoing story forward rather nicely and ends with an extraordinarily bold cliffhanger. Orlando’s handling of the series’ central pairing is deft and packs a fair emotional wallop, which is amplified by Timpano’s art. Tightly-plotted and entertainingly written, this is definitely worth a look.
NB: This review first appeared on the Weird Science DC Comics website.