Writer – Alan Grant
Artists – Tom Raney and Joe Staton
I am a huge fan of DC Comics’ Elseworlds stories and I am always looking out for ones I haven’t read before. A friend of mine has been on a Batman kick lately so I was looking in the dollar bin for some comics featuring the Caped Crusader and I came across a Shadow of the Bat Annual from the early 1990s.
In this tale, Batman rules over Gotham City with an iron fist. The police are under his control and crime is at an all time low. Anarky has tasked Catwoman with stealing top-secret documents from City Hall in an effort to overthrow Batman’s reign of terror. Once Anarky deciphers the information, he must unite the Penguin, Two-Face, and the rest of Batman’s Rogues to reveal the ugly truth about the lengths Batman has gone to maintain law and order in Gotham.
Each Elseworlds story has one small change or twist to heroes and villains’ origins that set them on a different course in life. Dr. and Mrs. Wayne are both gunned down in Crime Alley but Bruce is saved from being killed by one his foes. This person has a hand in raising Bruce during his formative years, instead of Alfred, and we see how Batman’s war on crime becomes much harsher than we are accustomed to in regular continuity.
Anarky is the perfect foil for Batman in this story. He is a motivated young man with intelligence and ferociousness on par with Batman. Anarky is an underrated villain and I’m glad he gets the spotlight in this annual. You’ll be surprised at who Catwoman is in this alternate reality and what Jim Gordon’s role is within the GCPD.
As I was reading this issue, I couldn’t help but notice that it was very reminiscent of V for Vendetta: both stories featuring a masked man trying to overthrow a fascist government. I’m not sure if it was intentional or purely coincidental. I enjoyed the theme of nature versus nurture in this story. We have seen how Alfred’s role as adopted parent and mentor to Bruce influenced him both in and out of costume. Alfred’s relationship with Bruce is an important one and it’s an eye opener to see what happens when someone else raises Bruce from boyhood to adulthood to his early years as Batman.
It’s nice to see an evil take on Batman long before Dark Nights Metal made it popular. Batman thinks the ends justify the means for a crime-free Gotham but will he realize he has made a major mistake in his quest for peace? Can anything be done to correct the path he has taken before it’s too late?
I checked ComiXology and this annual is currently unavailable for purchase. However, it is available on eBay and some online comic websites if you would like to add it to your collection.