Larry Hama makes the best of the “Convergence” hand he’s been dealt with a passable side story in “Convergence: Batman: Shadow of the Bat” #1, which features nice artwork from Philip Tan, Jason Paz and Rob Hunter. Hama provides a plausible-enough reason for both Bruce Wayne and Jean-Paul Valley to be trapped in the imprisoned Metropolis, at least in comparison to other tie-ins. As long as readers can accept the premise, the remainder of the story wisely uses “Convergence” as a story device beyond the dome-in-the-sky constant and even tells an accessible and largely single issue tale that fits within a slightly bigger story that spans the two-issue micro-series.
Both Hama and Tan ensure that their Metropolis is one that hasn’t been living a normal existence since Telos’ dome appeared. An all-but-demolished train platform at the dome wall shows that the city did suffer some significant infrastructure damage, and a burgeoning black market for the sustenance provided to the city’s populace demonstrates one of the many changes that have come about as a direct result. Tan excels throughout the issue; as inked by Paz and Hunter, his textured lines give a dimension to the pages that play into the dark and disturbing tone of Hama’s story. Tan’s Tobias Whale, the villain during the moment at hand, is eerily pulpy and looks like a zombified byproduct of Wilson Fisk and Humpty Dumpty’s faultily spliced DNA genomes. Colorist Elmer Santos ensures that this city is no bright and shiny city of tomorrow, but rather a dark and dank one under its captors’ prison.
It takes awhile for the Bat-guys to lace up their boots but, when they do, Tan executes one of the best interpretations of Jean-Paul’s all-but-forgotten “Knightfall” incarnation of Batman, a character design that looks better than many might remember. Tan takes the opportunity to give Jean-Paul about as much panel time as Bruce’s traditional version, although Bruce doesn’t get — or need — a grand reintroduction. It’s just as well, as one good aspect of “Convergence” is that it gives a reason to unearth many long unseen characters, so Tan just capitalizes on the opportunity.
Once the stage is set and the trap is sprung, Hama delivers a decently paced thrillride that carries the remainder of the issue, and it’s fun enough on its own to the point where one forgets that this is a “Convergence” story. Eventually, though, the conditions of the issue require Telos’ inevitable and now-expected announcement, and the subsequent introduction of another city and its champions. It’s kind of like forgetting that Jack and Rose were even on the Titanic until it struck an iceberg, and it’s kind of a shame, actually, as it amounts to an unwelcome distraction that comes close to derailing Hama’s otherwise enjoyable story.
If this were just a one-shot resurrection of the old “Shadow of the Bat” title, it would have been a pretty decent nostalgic romp. As a “Convergence” issue, though, it’s weakened by the very premise that gave birth to it. As it stands, it can be enjoyed more for what it almost was, rather than what it is.