Thursday, December 14, 2017

Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses

 Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Batman knows!

 Scott Snyder returns (Kind of....) to Batman with the DC/Dynamite crossover epic BATMAN/THE SHADOW: THE MURDER GENIUSES. I say "Kind of..." because this is one of those cases where the book was "Co-authored", which jaded fans like me know means that the name author said "Batman meets The Shadow!", and the lesser-known author does all of the heavy lifting. In this instance, I was fine with that, because I think that Scott Snyder is a vastly overrated hack, whose Batman run was average, at best, and ridiculously overblown at worst. I may or may not have read something that co-author Steve Orlando wrote at some point (MIDNIGHTER....?), and I remember not finishing it, whatever it was, because I didn't like it.

 The good news here is that Orlando does a good job, and the book, while bearing many of Snyder's little tics that drive me nuts (Batman's over-reliance on his tech, Batman suffering mortal wounds that barely cause him to miss a step, robotic Bat-suits, stupid new villains, etc.), is very readable.

 I've read a lot of comics that star The Shadow, yet I really have little to no understanding of his origins or his basic character, aside from what was shown in the (Excellent!) Alec Baldwin movie. So I'm not the one to say if his portrayal here is authentic or not. (I've read a lot of complaints online, though.) That said, he is a total douchebag in this book. The plot revolves around a seemingly immortal murderer called The Stag, who needs to complete five thousand and some odd ritual murders in order to gain entrance to Shamba-La, the mystic land that gave birth to The Shadow. There's loads of fighting, as Batman and The Shadow argue amongst themselves while trying to track down The Stag, encountering a gaggle of Batman's rogues along the way, leading to a bizarro showdown in Shamba-La that seems to have been conceived in a drug-induced fever. I have no idea if this weird shit that happens in the end is Shadow canon or what, but it was, probably, the wildest stuff I've read in a modern mainstream comic in a long time. I wish I knew a Shadow expert whose brain I could pick....

 Orlando writes a kinder, gentler Batman, which goes a long way to offset the prickish Shadow presented here. The art, by Riley Rossmo, is reminiscent of Michael William Kaluta, which is a good thing.

 BATMAN/THE SHADOW: THE MURDER GENIUSES collects the six-issue mini-series of the same name, complete with covers and variants, as well as the prologue from BATMAN ANNUAL #1.

 The weed of crime bears bitter fruit, but BATMAN/THE SHADOW: THE MURDER GENIUSES earns seven out of ten of those bitter little suckers:

DC Comics provided a review copy. DC, you REALLY missed the boat by not including some of the great 1970's Batman/Shadow crossovers in this collection. It wouldn't have added too many more pages, but it would have added a ton of value to the overall package. A real missed opportunity.