There was no time for anyone in Gotham City rest after the events of Fear State almost destroyed the city. The Batman franchise went from one major event to another as Detective Comics became a weekly series starting in January 2022 to tell the twelve-part Shadows of the Bat over the course of 3 months. While the story took place in Detective Comics the event was largely told without Batman in Gotham City. Instead it featured Batwoman, Oracle, Nightwing, and other Batman Family members left to defend Gotham City in Batman’s absence. So how did this twelve-part event turn out? Let’s take a look.
SHADOWS OF THE BAT CREATIVE TEAMS
Shadows Of The Bat: The Tower
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artists: Ivan Reis (Detective Comics #1047-#1050); Max Raynor (Detective Comics #1051-#1054); Amancay Nahuelpan (Detective Comics #1055-#1058)
Inker: Danny Miki (Detective Comics #1047-#1050)
Colorists: Brad Anderson (Detective Comics #1047-#1050); Luis Guerrero (Detective Comics #1051-#1054); Jordie Bellaire (Detective Comics #1055-#1058)
Shadows Of The Bat: House Of Gotham
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Fernando Blanco
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
This weekly event was split into two ongoing stories. The main Shadows of the Bat story titled “The Tower” taking place in the present post-Fear State was written by Mariko Tamaki. The artwork was done by Ivan Reis, Max Raynor, and Amancay Nahuelpan. As mentioned earlier, the majority of Shadows of the Bat was told without Batman around, as Bruce Wayne was busy dealing with the Batman Inc crisis and involvement with the Justice League. That left Batwoman, Oracle, Nightwing, the Batgirls, Tim Drake’s Robin, and Huntress to deal with what was going on in Gotham City.
Matthew Rosenberg wrote a back-up story titled “House of Gotham” with artwork by Fernando Blanco. The story took place over the course of the career of the Batman Family featuring an unnamed boy growing up during this time. Through the course of telling a story from the beginning of Batman to the near present we saw how not only the Batman Family but Gotham City itself has evolved over the years.
SHADOWS OF THE BAT STORY SUMMARY
To answer the questions created by the chaos Scarecrow brought to Gotham City through Fear State and failure that was the Magistrate program Gotham City Mayor Chris Nakano funded the creation of Arkham Tower. To lead the newly created Arkham Tower Dr. Tobias Wear led the push to reform criminals in Gotham City.
Not trusting what Arkham Tower’s goals are Batwoman led the Batman Family in investigating as she and Nightwing infiltrated the building as workers. During their investigation they found Helena Bertinelli was one of was one of Arkham Tower’s patients after her traumatic experience with the villain Vile.
It was soon discovered that Dr. Wear was working with Psycho-Pirate, Party Crashers and Penguin to control Gotham City. Eventually everything turned upside down as the Arkham Tower patients went rogue by killing Dr. Wear. This led to the revelation that Scarecrow was behind everything. Batman showed up in time to provide some back-up for the Batman Family but it wasn’t enough. Instead the resolution came from Mayor Nakano’s wife, Koyuki Nakano, using Psycho-Pirate’s Medusa Mask to end things.
As the Shadows of the Bat story came to a close the criminal activity behind Arkham Tower was released to the public. Even with that Mayor Nakano tasked Dr. Chase to continue Arkham Tower. Not long after Riddler announced his latest plot leading us into the next story for Detective Comics.
BATMAN STEP UP WITHOUT BRUCE WAYNE
Whether it was planned or not Detective Comics Shadows of the Bat event showed us what Gotham City would possibly look without Batman or Bruce Wayne around. The timing comes just as it is teased that Bruce will likely die in Justice League #75 as part of the start to DC Comics’ Dark Crisis event. And what we saw is that the Batman Family is more than ready to step up to defend Gotham City.
Especially with how Batman hasn’t necessarily been successful with defending Gotham City as he envisions. We’ve seen in recent years events such as City of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State almost destroying the city. That said, Batman has shown the ability to overcome everything and save Gotham City from complete destruction.
With both Batmen, Bruce Wayne and Jace Fox, the question was can the Batman Family step up to protect Gotham City? The answer to that question was immediately answered as over the course of Shadows Of The Bat storyline we saw Batwoman, Oracle, Nightwing, the Batgirls, and Tim Drake’s Robin working together to find out the truth about Arkham Tower. While they worked together as the Batman Family each character was able to tackle the story from their own angles. While Kate Kane worked both from the inside as a resident Arkham Tower therapist and as Batwoman, Dick Grayson and Stephanie Brown worked from within Arkham Tower and Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake, and Barbara Gordon helped Batwoman with outside leads.
In the process we got to see how the Batman Family were truly able to manage the multiple layers of everything surrounding Arkham Tower and keep the story contained. While they were unsure of how to connect everything together the Batman Family worked effectively to keep things contained. Even when things blew up at Arkham Tower there were enough preparations made to make sure the chaos did not extend to the rest of Gotham City as it had in City of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State.
All of this went to show establish how the Batman Family can manage without Batman around. Even when Bruce returned as Batman he did not necessarily change the game, just added some timely help when Nightwing was taken out in the final few issues. The continued addition of Harley Quinn to the Batman Family was also a nice touch to show how its not just numbers that the Batman Family have. Everyone is ready to step up in their own way. Which is very timely given that Bruce Wayne’s Batman could be gone for an extended period of time depending on when the Batman Family titles align with the future DC Universe seen in the upcoming Dark Crisis event.
ADDRESSING SUPERHERO MENTAL HEALTH
Along with the main story of the Batman Family investigating Arkham Tower Mariko Tamaki continued the character arc she has been developing for Helena Bertinelli’s Huntress. In the storyline preceding Shadows Of The Bat we saw Huntress pushed to her limits mentally and physically against the villain Vile and those it infected. This plot thread continued in Shadows Of The Bat as Helena was found as one of the patients in Arkham Tower along with Mister Freeze and other criminals.
While Helena’s sub-plot was an in to get a greater investment for the rest of the Batman Family to find out what was going on at Arkham Tower she was not just some plot device. Tamaki continued Helena’s character arc by diving more into her history. Specifically, we saw Helena’s role as Huntress during events such as No Man’s Land have had a serious impact on her life. All the experiences Helena as had growing up and as Huntress made the traumatizing experience, she had in fighting the Vile villain during the previous Detective Comics arc be the tipping point. Helena’s own anger was getting out of control, something Nightwing noticed right before Shadows Of The Bat.
As Helena’s arc progressed we saw her take stock of her own mental health. Which is something we saw previously attempted within the superhero genre in Heroes In Crisis. This time around there was much more success as the mental health of a superhero was better focused with diving into Helena’s character. Tamaki did a very good job making sure to respect mental health in a way that grows Helena as a person. Even though Helena will still be dealing with her mental health we saw that she was able to join the Batman Family in the end to help by stopping Mr. Freeze. How Helena’s arc will progress is hopefully we see explored more by Tamaki and the Batman Family team.
INSTABILITY OF GOTHAM CITY STATUS QUO
The big overarching story of Shadows Of The Bat was how bad things have gotten in Gotham City. The city has been faced with one crisis after another as City Of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State hit Gotham City hard. The first two events allowed Christopher Nakano to gain power by being elected as the Mayor of Gotham City. While initially everything was turning in Mayor Nakano’s favor things took a turn for the worst as Nakano’s full backing of the Magistrate program led to even more chaos for Gotham City as Scarecrow’s Fear State plans almost destroyed everything.
In an attempt to recover his image Mayor Nakano backed the forming of Arkham Tower. But in doing so we saw how bad of a state Gotham City was as the aftermath of Fear State left the door open for even greater corruption to take over the city. Which is exactly what we saw take place as it was clear that the motivations behind Arkham Tower was not a benevolent one. As Shadows Of The Bat progressed Dr. Tobias Wear, the head of Arkham Tower, was revealed to be working with Penguin, Party Crashers, and Psycho-Pirate. It wasn’t till the end of Shadows Of The Bat that we saw the full scope of the corruption behind Arkham Tower.
Throughout all of this Tamaki was able to give greater weight to the events that have taken place in Gotham City. It wasn’t just one event that made it easy for criminals to manipulate Mayor Nakano and steal directly from the city. Shadows Of The Bat was a culmination of how big of an impact City Of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State all had to make Gotham City such an easy target to be manipulated. Taking this angle elevated the story around Shadows Of The Bat it was all built on the investment created by the Batman Family titles up to this point. Which as a fan is what you want to see in an ongoing narrative with the DC Universe being a living and breathing place that’s always evolving.
CONSISTENCY IN ART DIRECTION
With Shadows Of The Bat being a weekly event one of the big questions was how it would look art-wise. Because telling a weekly story is a tough task for any artist to take on, especially one that takes spans three months. Which was why it was so important that Shadows Of The Bat established a strong artistic direction from the beginning.
That is exactly what artist Ivan Reis along with inker Danny Miki and colorist Brad Anderson did with the first four parts of Shadows Of The Bat starting with Detective Comics #1050. Reis artwork set the tone that this was going to be a big event with a strong level of consistency. Even though Shadows Of The Bat largely took place within Arkham Tower there was always a feeling that the story involved all of Gotham City. Keeping the scope to whatever happens within Arkham Tower was going to have an impact on Gotham City as a whole is something that Reis, Miki, and Anderson established early on with their artwork.
From there Max Raynor and Amancay Nahuelpan picked up art duties for the remaining eight issues by keeping up the style that Reis’ team established. Credit to Raynor along with colorist Luis Guerrero and Nahuelpan along with colorist Jordie Bellaire for maintaining that consistency with the art direction. It is such an important thing to have for any story. Because as we’ve seen with many comic book stories having a big shift in art styles can be jarring and stop a story as you get used to the new art. That did not happen with Shadows Of The Bat as you could continue focusing on how the story was developing and keep track of everything going on. At the same time, Raynor and Nahuelpan added their own styles to what Reis established to make their parts of the Shadows Of The Bat story their own when it was their time.
EXPLORING THE HISTORY OF GOTHAM CITY
The back-up story by Matthew Rosenberg, Fernando Blanco, and Jordie Bellaire was not what I expected from a back-up story to main plotline of Shadows Of The Bat. Rather than focusing on one of the key characters in the main story the creative team for House Of Gotham gave us a look at how Gotham City changed over the course of Batman’s career. We start with an unnamed boy dealing with his parents being killed in front of him and having a tense showdown with Batman to a mystery close to the present day.
All of this modernized how Gotham City changed over the course of Batman’s career from his first year to the present. From the early days with the original Dynamic Duo to Azrael being Batman to Batman Inc., you really felt how Gotham City was a place that evolved over time. While crime is still rampant there is no denying all the changes the city has been through.
The impact that change has not only on the Batman Family but the residents of the city was fascinating to see play out. It all helped modernized Gotham City as a whole and gave us a new perspective on Batman’s history through the eyes of the kid who grew up through all the passing years. More deep dives into how DC Universe superheroes impact the world around them is something I would love to see more of. Many characters would definitely benefit from having their histories modernized like this.
A weekly twelve-part story is no easy task for any creative team. Which makes the work that Mariko Tamaki, Matthew Rosenberg, Ivan Reis, Fernando Blanco, and the rest of the creative team behind Shadows Of The Bat even more impressive. Both The Tower and House Of Gotham stories told a compelling narrative that used the history of Gotham City, both recent and past, in fascinating ways. The creative team tapped into how Gotham City is a living and breathing city that has changed a lot over the years.
Through all of this Tamaki made a strong case for the Batman Family being more than ready to defend Gotham City even without Bruce Wayne around. It’s a major statement to make given that the City of Bane, Joker War, and Fear State events Batman has been involved in was what directly led to Shadows Of The Bat happening. Overcoming everything without Batman until the very end is made an even bigger deal with Dark Crisis right around the corner.
If you are Batman fan I definitely recommend checking out the two collections of Shadows Of The Bat when they come out. DC Comics is splitting it up for the main story in The Tower and back-up in House Of Gotham trades. Both are well worth to have as part of your collection.