Overview: The Shadow and Batman strike back at the Secret Seven from their civilian identities and a shocking truth is revealed.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): The Story opens at Wayne Enterprises where Bruce Wayne and the Shadow’s new civilian identity of Allard Cranston move to attack the financial holding of the Secret Seven through the stock market, causing Shiwan Khan and Ra’s al Ghul to bicker over how to respond. Wayne and Cranston have a drink and celebrate their successful campaign. Bruce talks about his concerns that toppling the giant financial machine behind the Secret Seven would have grave consequences for the world without something else in place, causing Cranston to have an angry outburst at the prospect of having to wait to act. Cranston gets a hold of himself, speaking about how he is not himself, and in the wake of Margo Lane’s death, along with the destruction of Shamba-La, that he doesn’t remember who he was before the Shadow.
Meanwhile in New York City, Robin attacks a NYPD Captain who reveals himself to be a reanimated corpse controlled by the Secret Seven. The Secret Seven begins to speak through the Captain, revealing to Damian that Ra’s al Ghul is behind the Secret Seven.
Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne and the Shadow speak about his loss of humanity and discuss Shiwan Khan’s backstory in Shamba-La. Bruce Wayne gets a call from Lucius Fox and tells the financial attack has mysteriously been corrected as if it never happened as Shiwan Khan appears at Wayne Manor and a fight ensues, with Bruce Wayne changing into his Batsuit.
The issue ends with Damian Wayne vowing to track down Ra’s al Ghul and Shiwan Kahn taking control of Batman, with the revelation that Batman was never really brought back from the dead and has been controlled by Shiwan Kahn since that time.
Analysis: Well, I didn’t see this coming. This book has been building off the previous Batman/The Shadow series, which is one of the advantages of Steve Orlando returning to write this follow-up. For the most part the connective tissue has been in having The Shadow dealing with the loss of his humanity following the loss of Shamba-La and the death of his biggest tie to humanity, Margo Lane, and that idea is expanded well here in this issue. Far more impressive is the way Orlando has chosen to tie Batman’s story in this series to his apparent death and resurrection in the original series.
Looking back on the last few issues, Orlando did a masterful job of putting the pieces in place to make the reveal of Batman possibly being a corpse under the control of Shiwan Khan unexpected yet not coming out of nowhere, but without telegraphing that this particular twist is coming. Orlando set up the fact that the series closely follows the original series so that not a lot of time has necessarily passed in between the two series. The first couple issues sets up the idea of reanimated corpses that pass for the living. Even the choice of villains gives Orlando an opportunity to really play with this idea. Let’s be honest, whether or not Batman is revealed to be essentially be a zombie, by the end of this series, Batman’s going to be just fine. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the story chooses to incorporate the Batman villain with those handy Lazarus Pits that can bring back the dead.
Damian Wayne continuing to investigate on his own feels appropriate for the character. I can’t help but wonder if Damian’s shock at his grandfather being involved would have more weight if we didn’t already know that Ra’s was partnered with Khan. I do also feel that Damian’s feelings about Ra’s have been heavily explored elsewhere and I’m not sure we need to see yet another face off between the two characters.
Giovanni Timpano’s art continues to impress. I love the use of heavy inks in his art which adds a healthy does of atmosphere to the book without feeling like the artist is using it as a cheat to not put more detail into his pencils. There’s also some great panel layouts, especially in the Wayne Manor scenes.
Final Thoughts: This series continues to impress, with Orlando and Timpano delivering well thought out and layered story. More please.