The concept of crossovers in superhero comics is as old as the medium itself. When two publishers collaborate on a story that have two creations join forces, things get weird, such as Archie Meets the Punisher. The Dark Knight is no stranger to the crossover either, as Batman has joined forces with everyone from Spider-Man to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Now, with DC Comics collaborating with Dynamite Entertainment, Batman pairs up with one of his earliest influences.
When an Arkham Asylum employee named Lamont Cranston is murdered, the Dark Knight Detective heads to a strange conclusion that the culprit is a man who goes by the name of Lamont Cranston, also known as The Shadow. Each with their own brand of justice, Batman and The Shadow put their differences aside and join forces to face a new enemy in the shape of the Honest Signal, who has paired up with the Joker.
Although Batman is one of the original superheroes, conceived just a year after Superman, the character had always kept one foot in the pulp world of the 1930s where Walter B. Gibson’s The Shadow was conceived through radio and pulp novels. This story from Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando never forgets those roots, showing how their worlds coalesced as The Shadow, whose vigilantism includes bloodshed, is born out of magic, while Batman uses science as part of his detective skills and will not cross the line when it comes to killing.
Although the scripting of all six issues were by Steve Orlando, you can see the Snyder influence as this standalone story features a cameo by Duke Thomas, as well as evokes the history of its eponymous heroes. It also puts on display how one’s teachings inspired the other and vice versa, such as the slight retconning of Bruce Wayne’s mentor Henri Ducard.
More people will be more familiar with Batman than The Shadow, of course, and thus the majority of the story is told through the former’s perspective, making the latter more of a supporting player. In fact, when we delve into The Shadow’s world, the story gets a bit shaky as despite the character himself being a great contrast for Batman, we never really learn who this incarnation is and the more his backstory gets explored, the more it starts to lose focus. Even the Honest Signal, despite his cool design, never really has his motivations explored, and he is largely saved by the witty but sadistic remarks from the Joker.
Having previously worked on a couple of issues during Tom King’s Batman, Riley Rossmo is an ideal fit in illustrating the grim streets of Gotham City. His art is reminiscent of David Mazzuchelli’s work in Year One, with violent scenes that are unflinching. However, his rendition of The Shadow is stunning –his costume has been always bad-ass, but his over-extending red cape adds a nice touch to his menacing presence. Rossmo is also a talent in panel layouts that can be appropriately disorienting and add rhythm to the diverse action.
This crossover embraces the pulp origins of these characters and has fun with their interactions in this violent adventure story that balances both their world views.