By Justin McCarty
Here is the newest Shadow Batman team up. It promises to give us the best of Batman and The Shadow as they have to deal with a decades-old conspiracy. There has been a steady run of Batman Shadow books lately, and that's for a good reason, they feed into each other. The Shadow inspired Batman, and it’s clear as Batman became popular, the mythos fed back into The Shadow stories. As long as we keep making great Batman Shadow comics, the loop will continue.
Professor Pyg lands in New York to wreak havoc at the Times Square new years celebration. His intentions are not fully made clear. He just wants his toys back. New years is a time of new beginnings and transformation. Professor Pyg is all about transformation. He seems to be the harbinger of change through which a larger, more sinister evil, operates. Bruce and Damian are at odds again. Robin is now operating out of New York, no longer wanting to be a sidekick.
It struck me right away that Batman just happened to be in New York, but the inconsistency is waved away in a reasonable manner. I did feel as long as Robin was going to be such a big part of the story, why not let him kick things off? (I digress.) Bruce is coming to terms with a sidekick that doesn’t need him. This could be mirrored by the coming conflict Batman will surely have with The Shadow. By the end of the issue, it seems Robin gets the best of Batman, and I have to wonder how that would ever happen? There must be more to their conflict than what is apparent on the surface.
So far this has been a Batman and Robin story with The Shadow only making a cameo. There is a fun Blue Cole easter egg early on that I’ll leave to the readers (and die-hard Shadow fans) to find. Professor Pyg and whoever has tampered with his Dollotrons are way out ahead of The Shadow. What does Pyg know that the Shadow could not know? I did notice right away that the trademark laugh was completely absent from the story. The Shadow is portrayed a little uncharacteristically here. This adds weight to whatever secrets are waiting for us. The Shadow only appears for just a couple of pages; this leaves us wanting to know more. Batman has uncovered a mystery that he will clearly need The Shadow, and Robin’s, help to solve.
There are some hints laid for us, giving us clues to the mysteries. Bruce makes a reference to Alfred about Jonathan Lorde, the actor known as Silverblade. Jonathan Lorde literally can become whatever he portrays -- a master of disguise. Does this allude to other people that may not be who they seem? Bruce says this to Alfred. What secrets might he hold? The final panel on that page has Alfred alone with his shadow cast along the floor, a hint of red in the shadow. Wonderful storytelling on the part of everyone. Bruce later seems to have an epiphany: he wonders how one could know if a person were a part of a cipher without a keyword. In the context of what Bruce discovers the statement is still a little cryptic on its own.
This first issue sets up a major conspiracy that spans decades. There are so many questions that leave us wanting more. I’m hooked.
The Shadow Batman #1
Dynamite Entertainment/DC Comics