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EXCLUSIVE! A Writer’s Commentary: STEVE ORLANDO on SHADOW/BATMAN #2, in stores NOW!

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  • EXCLUSIVE! A Writer’s Commentary: STEVE ORLANDO on SHADOW/BATMAN #2, in stores NOW!

    A Writer’s Commentary: STEVE ORLANDO on SHADOW/BATMAN #2, in stores NOW from Dynamite!




    PAGES 1 – 4:




    This opening scene is our allusion to the great locked-room, closed-system tradition of action movies dating back to Die-Hard, but continuing with the hallway fight in Oldboy and the grand artistry of The Raid and The Raid 2. And here? Our resident hero is Damian Wayne – Robin. The son of the world's greatest fighter, Batman, and raised by ninjas. He's got some stuff to work out.




    But importantly, his mind is always working. We see as he fights these Dead Men, he's studying them. He's calling out their master, the man behind the curtain. Robin can fight like an action hero, but after years of training and his multiple styles of parenting that he's endured, his mind is perhaps an even sharper weapon. He's the first one that sees the patterns that even the Silent Seven cannot hide. It started last issue, and he's sure of it here.




    But, as we see by the end of this scene, Robin is still only thirteen, he is still but a child. And he is bound by the limits of that body. He's overwhelmed by the horde of Dead Men at the hands of Shiwan Khan, no matter how skilled he is.




    PAGE 5:




    But we have layers of surveillance in this book. As the Silent Seven watch everything, Bruce Wayne, Batman, watches his family. He thinks himself the top of the pyramid, but as we'll see later, he is not. Someone is watching him. And one of our conceits here is that Batman especially, and the Shadow to a lesser extent, are battling people that use many of the techniques they endorse.




    And Alfred, all-knowing of Bruce, builds on it. And then the Shadow, himself operating at a level above the limits of the physical world, cuts in above Batman and Alfred's level of knowledge and control. He is in New York, and he is in Bruce's head. He can be where he needs to be, beyond the bounds of physical reality. These are vigilantes not recognizing the hypocrisy, or at the least the symmetry, of their actions, a fractal of justice. But the Silent Seven have opened their cloak past where even the Shadow has gone.




    As we all learn eventually, there is almost always someone bigger. And here, Batman and Shadow must eventually realize that this is the person, or persons, they face.




    PAGES 6 – 7:




    This is our first mention of one of the Shadow's past names, “Ying-Ko.” A name we didn't mention in Batman/Shadow, and one that signifies a hidden, painful part of the Shadow's life. So of course, Shiwan Khan, who knows Shadow better than anyone, would know that. And he would use it, through his Dead Men, to unnerve and hurt the Shadow.




    And yet, again, we see the levels of interaction. The Shadow recognizes Khan's hand at work, and has no problem using what he learned at Shamba-La to dispatch Khan's Dead Men with relative ease. Shadow is a master of men, and his knowledge of the mind, and symbolism (including the signs he makes with his hands) grants him mysterious and unexplained powers in the physical world, because the mind is the medium by which the physical world meets the metaphysical...or as we call it in this series, the Thaumic.




    And as well, the Shadow's appearance in PAGE 6, looming above the fight, and his posing, is our reference to the action choreography of John Woo and other Hong Kong action masters.




    PAGES 8 – 10:




    This scene focuses on the consequences of the surveillance the Silent Seven, Batman and the Shadow are known for. And it's distrust. Robin, though young, knows he's ready to work on his own and forge his own legacy. Even if it’s a version of his father’s, which is a version of the Shadow's no matter what they say, Robin wishes to put his own lens on it. But Batman and the Shadow are not yet broken down enough to where they have no choice but to see what Robin says is true. Things have yet to get so bad so as to force them to change. But they're getting there, they're inching, closer and closer.




    And at the same time, Damian, in his youth, doesn't know what he doesn't know. He's indignant that his father would monitor him, when in fact, if he knows Bruce, it should be no surprise to him. It was no surprise to Alfred, after all. But Damian, while he has all the physical and intellectual tools, doesn't have the experience using them. So he can still be surprised. He still has the emotional needs of a thirteen year old.




    So he blows up, as so many of us did when we were younger. He's had enough of these old people deciding what's best for him.




    And Bruce, himself a violent vision of arrested development, is willing to play his son's caustic, sarcastic game in dialog. Luckily, the Shadow is there to remind Bruce of his place. But without Khan, no one can remind the Shadow of anything.




    The moment, as we see, is people not realizing their behavior. Batman is angry at the Shadow for following Robin, accusing him of this. But at the same time, with technology, he was doing but the same thing. These old men and their egos have driven Robin to irritation. He, conversely, as a teenager, finds insult in utility. This is not the perfect time for these three to work together.




    And the moment, this crimefighting family feud is cut dead seriously by the Shadow's mention of Shiwan Khan, which only gives weight to him and the Silent Seven, if their mere mention can cut the tension between these icons.




    PAGES 11 – 13:




    Then we prove Khan's malice and power. Like the Shadow, he has a relationship with the evil that lurks in the hearts of men...but it's an inverse relationship. Khan embraces it, as he embraces his own evil. And that belief in himself is what's made him more powerful than the Shadow. The Shadow hates the evil in his heart, he is at war with who he is. Khan is at peace with it, and his focus of self is what has allowed him the greatest powers Shamba-La has to offer beyond just hypnotism: telekinesis, necromancy, enhanced reflexes. The Shadow calls himself the Master of Men, but Khan controls not just our minds, but the fabric of our bodies.




    Then we reveal Khan's partner in the Silent Seven, and perhaps his match in ego: Ra's al Ghul. Al Ghul is a man that was old when Khan was young. He's the reason to Khan's fire. It is their combined hubris that set them on a path of mutiny against Moriarty. Just as Batman and the Shadow follow a line started by Sherlock Holmes, Al Ghul and Khan are the murderous, bloodthirsty sons of Moriarty, in a spiritual sense.




    And we see in Khan and Al Ghul, as immortals part of a longstanding family, a bit of the impetuousness of youth. They have not had to mature in the ways mortals do, and so in their hubris they've decided they can do with TWO what Moriarty did with SEVEN. But will it backfire on them?




    We also in this scene see the fleeting life the Dead Men live, knowing Khan can return them to dust at any time. As well, we see it was PYG that revealed the Key Word to Batman, their name, the SILENT SEVEN. It is Khan and Al Ghul's overlooking of Pyg that let Batman know what to look for, that allowed him to know a concept such as the Silent Seven could exist.




    They don't even know Pyg accidentally knocked over the first domino, and even they can't stop them from falling now.




    To close the scene, we see the truth of what Khan's done: he could not best the Shadow in ferocity, so he clouded his mind, he hypnotized Shadow into thinking he killed him. In the background, we get the details of Sherlock Holmes's death: Moriarty may not have defeated him alone, but with the Silent Seven, he was able to claim his heart as a trophy.




    PAGES 14 – 15:




    Here, we return to the Batcave and see that Robin and the Shadow are more similar than they think – perhaps too familiar, as their attitudes drive them against each other. They're cruel, they're standoffish, and they do no suffer fools. The only problem is they consider each other fools. The Shadow is NOT a parent, like Bruce. He is hard on Robin. But in the Shadow's mind, treating Robin harshly is treating him like an equal.




    Batman, himself doubting Robin earlier in the series, will stand up for Robin when someone outside of their family criticizes him. Here, when cornered emotionally, Batman can see what Robin's done that's positive. But when calm and logical, he worries, he becomes cornered by his paternal nature. We see flashes of truths Batman hasn't fully seen yet in his defense of Robin.




    Everyone here, despite their training, has been pushed beyond logic by their emotions. And more importantly, their anger. Robin is angry at authority, he's the first to be driven over the edge by what he sees as yet another example of adults making his decisions for him, not thinking he's ready.


    So Robin bolts, and that sets the fuse to Bruce's temper next.




    PAGES 16 – 20:




    Robin's departure sets off Batman. People say and do things in anger they wouldn't otherwise. And Bruce has not had an outlet for his frustration with Robin. But now, Batman has the Shadow. He has someone who, even now, does not varnish his opinions or compromise. And he has someone that can handle Batman's full fury and anger.




    These are crimefighters, but they're also humans. And they both need a release. Batman's been pushed as far as he can go, so when the Shadow tries to control him, to override his emotions and use a Mind Technique on him, Bruce pops. The Shadow, even as a peer, is antagonistic by design, and Bruce has had enough.




    Shadow sees it. He sees that Batman is forcing this fight. And that's enough to set the Shadow off. He has the most self-control, the most mind over matter strength, but he too has been wrestling with his inability to control a personal situation. He too has been frustrated with his limitations. And he too will pop if pushed too far. The Shadow was Batman's teacher, but he is not above fighting Batman to prove a point.




    As the two men fight, we see they're not truly mad at each other. They're mad at abstract concepts, but they don't punch those things, they can never fight those things, and so their rage becomes focused at each other. These men are proxies for the things they cannot fight: parental responsibility, mortality. As they strike and rant, their emotions come to the front. This is them working through their problems.




    So, driven to his most raw, the Shadow even must admit what he's truly angry at: the death of Margo Lane, the strongest person he ever met. She was the monolith of his life. He's furious at his inability to save her from natural death. And without her, he has no rudder for who he is. Because the Shadow, as we've seen, does not believe in himself or his goodness. He has always hated the man he is inside, and relied on others to love him, if they can. Now there's no one but the man that hates himself.




    Batman's notes about death also echo his decision in the climax of Batman/Shadow where he turned down immortality offered by the Teachers of Shamba-La. Batman understands more about life than the Shadow BECAUSE he's been forced to face mortality. Immortality has allowed the Shadow to never confront things he fears. Batman has no choice. He doesn't have that luxury.




    Can he learn to do otherwise? Batman once said he could show him how, calling back to the end of Batman/Shadow. Now, it's time to prove it.




    PAGES 21 – 22:




    Then we close the issue with a callback to Grant Morrison's ROCK OF AGES arc in JLA. This was a moment where we saw Batman has more tools than those that reside in the Batcave. In that story, Bruce Wayne took on Lex Luthor in business combat. And so, here, we see the Shadow and Batman take a different approach to bringing the Silent Seven out into the light. Business warfare. If the Silent Seven controls the data and business markets, then Batman and the Shadow must draw them out using Market Forces.




    As well, the Shadow's new human name “Allard Cranston” is of course a combination, as he says, of some of his most famous secret IDs: Kent Allard and Lamont Cranston. As well, our Batman lead-in line about the Shadow's suit is my Joel Schumacher and Batman Movie Series in general callback, which is always making jokes about Batman's “other suit” and his “other car.”




    To end the issue, Batman and the Shadow think they have the upper hand. But are they still thinking too small? Are they still thinking like mortals?



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