By Clyde Hall. Pulp roots run deep in The Shadow/Batman #4, as they have over the entire series. Lamont Cranston reels from a recent loss, grappling with its impact on his shaded counterpart. Bruce Wayne doubts his own autonomy, his worth as father and mentor. Damian escapes such uncertainty with youthful contempt, yet for all his hubris, he’s also driven into harm’s way.
Writer Steve Orlando continues exploring a troubling element of certain pulp fictions: Suspension of disbelief so extreme, you could use it as a bridge. Our antagonists have managed a decidedly long game of power, influence, and corruption. They dominate on a global scale, so entwined that economic warfare is futile, physical confrontation folly. They are invisible, untraceable, undetectable. Their personal power levels reduce even the Living Shadow’s abilities to shoddy parlor tricks. They’re infallible.
Infallible pulp characters work. Team Savage enlists top experts in varying fields, yet Doc is far superior to all of them. Villains construct criminal empires of complexity no flawed, human lawbreakers could ever achieve. It’s part of the reason pulps begat comics, where superhuman characters make the fantastic more plausible. Issue #4 certainly reinforces Infallible Malefactor foundations set forth previously, and the heroes manage a few surprises of their own. Amazingly, Orlando’s melded this pulp trope with modern comic book storytelling quite effectively.
Giovanni Timpano is the right artist for the project. His style delivers synchronicity to the worlds of both headliners. Panels cannot fully contain his energy, some shattering into asymmetrical shards. There’s a ‘but’ coming, yes. But more than previous issues, I had to re-read a few pages to track the flow. Personally, such impressive graphics were worth the minor bumps.
His layouts interpret the heroic downfalls pervading this issue with joyful pathos: Batman’s labored resistance as he’s manipulated by one with the power to cloud men’s minds. The Shadow at the mercy of a merciless arch-enemy. Robin’s flush of success tempered by grim determination when his fortunes reverse. Overboard villain monologuing (sufferance is not acceptance, noted), is balanced by effective villain-speak, both dialogue types true to the source material. In the end, Orlando has funambulated the story extremely well, without snapping the disbelief suspension. He deserves kudos for not playing it safe. Instead, we have normally nigh-infallible heroes facing unconditional defeat. Neither Batman nor The Shadow have ever been more vulnerable, nor an outcome for either been less certain.
Written by Steve Orlando.
Art by Giovanni Timpano.
Colors by Flavio Dispenza.
Letters by Taylor Esposito.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this preview of ‘The Shadow/Batman’ #4, courtesy of Dynamite!