Friday, July 19, 2013

SHADOW OF THE BAT #19 - Late October 1993

The Tally Man
Credits:  Alan Grant (writer), Vince Giarrano (art),  Todd Klein (letterer), Adrienne Roy (colorist)

Summary:  Batman stops a robbery next to a New Age store’s warehouse.  Intrigued by a poster, Batman enters a sensory deprivation tank and explores his subconscious.  Meanwhile, the Tally Man kills the mobster Big Mike.  Next on his list is Mike’s brother, Johnny Mahoon.  Tally Man searches for Johnny at his hideout, the New Age store’s warehouse.  Batman has already incapacitated Johnny and his friend by the time the Tally Man arrives.  After killing Johnny, the Tally Man targets Batman.

Irrelevant Continuity:  

  • This arc apparently continues an ongoing storyline involving a mobster named Buto that was killed, allegedly because Big Mike sold him out to Batman.  The Tally Man has been hired by Buto’s brother to kill Big Mike, Mike’s brother Johnny, and Batman.
  • While exploring his subconscious, Jean-Paul sees visions of his father programming him to become an assassin during his sleep as a child.  I’m assuming this is material already covered in Sword of Azrael, but most of the details of Jean-Paul’s past have been left vague in the main titles.

Review:  The first coincidence in this story, that Batman would stop a robbery next door to a warehouse with sensory deprivation tanks, one with posters advertising the tanks even though it’s a warehouse and not a store, isn’t so bad.  What Grant wants to do is to have Jean-Paul learn about sensory deprivation and be inspired to try it out.  Fine.  The second coincidence, that the New Age store’s warehouse is also a mobster’s hideout, one that just so happens to be on the same hit list as’s a harder pill to swallow.  There might be some context in the previous issues that makes this less ridiculous (apparently Batman was in this neighborhood in the first place investigating Buto’s murder), but it’s hard to get past the idea of mobsters hiding out in an active warehouse filled with New Age equipment.  It’s absurd, but never played as absurdly funny this issue, so it just comes across as a lethargic plot convenience.  

Regarding Jean-Paul’s journey to the center of his mind, I have no problems with Alan Grant using Jean-Paul’s mental state as an excuse to explore sensory deprivation, but Vince Giarrano’s art fails the scene spectacularly.  Giarrano’s rendition of the boneless, smoke-like Tally Man is tolerable, and I like some of his Gotham cityscapes, but the bulk of his art resembles a bad Erik Larsen impression.  That anatomy is atrocious, sketchy lines appear everywhere for no reason, and the human characters just look ugly.  It’s amazing that prestige format books like Excalibur and Shadow of the Bat often ended up with subpar fill-in work during the ‘90s.  I would think editorial would’ve been much more discerning when finding replacement artists for these titles.


m!ke said...

if recall correctly, "sword of azrael" didn't get into super detail about jean-paul's conditioning in the system, or to the extend that his father was involved. that was covered more in azrael's own spin-off title two years later.

the bat-titles during this mega-arc really weren't big on filling in the details. i think they largely learned from this experience with "no man's land".

Scott Church said...

As a kid I LOVED the Tally Man issues, I felt they were so stunning art wise and the really nice paper helped since everything else was normal paper stock.

A fun thing to do with these Shadow of the Bat issues is to wear 3/D glasses with them, it makes the mist and other items really stand out, for some reason my friend group would read comics with the Valiant Vision glasses and these issues really popped out, might have been the coloring and paper it was printed on.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, VInce is... rough. There's things he does that I like, but overall, I agree that it's kind of shocking that for a book like this., they got a guy who really should have been cutting his teeth on a back-up in an Extreme Justice Annual (not sure if the book lasted long enough to get one, but if it did, they should have called Vince...)

IIRC Blevins comes back once the Tallyman stuff is over, and honestly, SotB will still have the weakest art of this storyline.

Anonymous said...

Giarrano was in the early Jae Lee, Larry Stroman, Quesadextreme, Tom Tenney school. Around this time, he would get the regular gig at Peacemaker

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