Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses By Deffinition
Crossover comics can either be outstanding (Archie VS Predator) or pretty mundane (Superman Meets The Quik Bunny). Every title should be met with a sense of trepidation. However, it’s hard not to get excited when hearing the news that Batman will be teaming up with The Shadow. If you grew up in the 90s then chances are that you came across the Shadow during his feature film starring Alec Baldwin. Chances are you were as enamored by it as I was and even though it was panned in general there was still a lot of fun there for young audiences. Since the blockbuster’s release I’ve always had a nostalgic curiosity for The Shadow so naturally, I was over the moon to see this new crossover comic with my favourite hero, Batman.
On paper, the two seem perfectly matched to fit in one another’s universe and I have high hopes for this series. DC have been known to let me down in the past though and the worry of another crappy crossover comic is definitely lingering in my mind. It will be interesting to see which side this falls on.
So, with that out the way let’s get into Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses.
Opening on a z-list villain crashing a party that one of Gotham’s billionaires has thrown for the children of Gotham, the book feels rather cliched. We’ve seen this action set piece thousands of time and know the outcome off by heart. Batman crashes through a window, stops the bad guy in his tracks, yada yada yada. However, Scott Snyder is a master of subverting the expected and this opening is no different. Realising that whilst he can save the day when it comes to fighting masked men and criminals, it dawns on Bruce that should the real ‘good’ people of Gotham be gone, then the city will be lost. It’s a really introspective look for the character and it poses questions that he asks himself throughout the storyline. Would his wealth be more helpful for the impoverished than Batman is? Will he ever stop the violence through his fists?
It’s a thought-provoking introduction that may be lost on some readers but they shouldn’t let its redundant appearance put them off. Bruce, like his opposite throughout the book, has Shadows within his mind and when he travels to the French Alps his greatest fears materialise.
The return of Henri Ducard
Murders begin happening in Gotham. Chasing a mysterious shadow, known as ‘The Stag,’ Bruce seeks help from his former mentor, Henri Ducard. However, when arriving at the base he discovers that Ducard has never been what he seems and is, in fact just a mask for his true identity, The Shadow.
In my opinion, this will either make or break the book for a lot of fans. Whilst diehard Dark Knight readers may hate this retcon and its eventual explanation, I found it to be plausible. Don’t worry, this is nowhere near as bad as the Mister Freeze, New 52 origin.
Ducard has remained absent from the comics for decades and I believe that this is a good use of the character that allows The Shadow to intertwine perfectly with the Caped Crusader, even if I accept that others might not warm to the book as much. Only you can be the judge on whether this twist appeals to you and either side of the coin is totally understandable.
Elaborating on the plot thus far Batman and The Shadow Battle it out. It can get confusing if you aren’t up to speed with the characters from The Shadow universe but there is enough action and explanation here to tide over readers unfamiliar with the aesthetic. Inevitably, of course, the two team up and it’s a shame that this dislike for one another is dragged out for so long as it severely drags the books pacing.
The Harlequin Of Hate
With The Shadow now in confinement Batman sets out to stop The Stag. As with most team-ups, the villains of the piece follow suit. Aligning with The Joker, the Stag becomes a humungous threat. The new dastardly duo manages to take down Batman as a unit but they never really seem to gel. Neither lives up to their full potential and the trade-offs between the two are very by the numbers. I wish that the dynamism between the two was enjoyable but it lacks any wit and I found it very mundane. They spring into action a plan to murder Batman before he can fulfill his destiny and become the next Shadow.
This Plan is Of course foiled when The Shadow shows up to save The Dark Knight from the clutches of doom and by this point, I felt that the book was as bland as an Alfred Protein Shake. Lacking the subversion that it had in its opening, the storyline conformed to the formula that so many crossovers before it have. This greatly disappointed me and it felt like a huge misstep for all characters involved.
Ending with a showdown in Shambala that has a predictable outcome I felt the story massively missed the mark, especially with the creative team behind it. Whether due to the art or writing there was something missing to it. Lacking cohesiveness it feels to sporadic to be enjoyable and due to this fails to really capitalise on the ideas that were put forth throughout. Making the book a shadow of its former self (at least my puns are getting slightly better).
Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses is a disappointing showing. The writing team and characters could have made a masterpiece, however, all elements fail in most respects and the storyline becomes slightly mundane. It’s not terrible and there are a lot of positives here but nothing seems to really gel well enough to capitalise on the choices made early on and by the end, this is a bit of a mess. I was really hopeful that the storyline would bring back a wave of nostalgia that would make me fall in love with The Shadow once more but by the book’s end he still seems as intangible as his namesake. We get little to no character development on behalf of any of the protagonists and there isn’t really much here to warrant a second read through.
In the dark where it belongs the graphic novel gets a…