Norm Breyfogle had passed away just prior to my LCS’ “Shortboxtober”, so when I saw these issues in the bins that afternoon, I threw them into the shortbox. I had read the first four issues of Shadow of the Bat back when they first came out, but didn’t own them and at roughly a quarter an issue, I felt that this was a bargain.
Issues 1-4 (#3, as mentioned in the title of this post, was missing) are a storyline called “The Last Arkham”, where Jeremiah Arkham, the descendant of the man for whom Gotham’s infamous asylum was named, takes over the hospital and enacts reforms as well as completely reconstructs it so that it is a more modern facility. This is not without its share of controversy and Batman gets himself placed inside the institution in order to expose its fraud. Meanwhile, the serial killer Zsasz appears the be running around slitting people’s throats even though he is in Arkham. In issue #5, Grant and Breyfogle give us a one-off where Batman faces a “player on the other side” type of vigilante named The Black Spider. It’s the last story featuring the character, who had first appeared in some Bronze Age ‘Tec issues.
All of these are outstanding, but that’s what you get when you have the team of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle and especially when you get to see some of their darker stuff in the form of Zsasz, the serial killer who puts tally marks of his victims on his body. This team wasn’t afraid to tap into the horror/thriller stories of the time and always brought us a Batman who was a detective taking on cases and villains a little too big for just the police. With The Black Spider, we get something that, as I mentioned, is reminiscent of 1984’s Michael Golden-pencilled special, but we also get what a Batman/Punisher type of story might have looked like. I’m always a sucker for reflection-type stories and a good one-and-done.
Detective Comics #595 is the lone Batman tie-in to 1988’s Invasion! crossover series (Batman was wrapping up “A Death in the Family”) and while Grant and John Wagner are writing it, Irv Novick is on pencils and there is a bonus Mr. Freeze story written by Jeff O’Hare with pencils by Roderick Delgado. Both are okay at best and I admit that I skimmed them knowing that I am going to revisit these comics in a few weeks when I reach their coverage on the “First Strike!” podcast (I’m not committed to reading every Invasion crossover, but I do own a few so I figured I’d read the ones I do have along with the show). I’d still recommend plucking it out of a cheap bin if you find it, especially if you like Batman doing espionage work in Gotham and Havana against alien invaders, especially Thanagarians.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Shadow of the Bat Issues: Donate; Detective Comics #595: Keep (for now).