Writer: Alan Grant
Art: Norm Breyfogle
Colors: Adrienne Roy
Letters: Todd Klein
Release Date: October 1992
The Black Spider:
Batman has become an entity that can challenge gods, and win. It seems that within the last couple of decades, his myth and legend have surpassed our wildest imaginations. Batman is the gift that keeps on giving. Recently, I have started to do a deep dive into somewhat forgotten Bat-Series. Whilst rummaging through my LCS $1 bins, I came across a series titled Shadow of the Bat. After a quick Wiki search, I learned that the main premise of this series, was to dive into the mindset of the Dark Knight’s villains aka sign me up! After reading Shadow of the Bat #5, I am hooked on those late 80’s early 90’s Batman comics. Let’s dive into why.
*Hardcore Spoilers to follow*
Even typing the header to this next paragraph is striking. Often, Batman deals with drugs such as whatever happy pills the Joker wants to give people or the latest fear drug the Scarecrow has cooked up. Well, thinking about the era in which Shadow of the Bat was published, the War on Drugs was alive and well. The main drug that fuels this story is heroin. We are introduced to a character by the name of Eric Needham aka the Black Spider. Originally an addict, he kicked the habit after he murdered his father in a drug-fueled stupor. His main purpose in life consists of being the very best father he can be while fighting drug dealers under the cover of the night. The Black Spider is our narrator through this issue. We are walked through the events of what lead to Batman discovering the Black Spider’s murdered son and girlfriend due to heroin. DC did not pull its punch with weaving the War on Drugs into their comics. It is very…this type of storyline works well with Batman. It portrays the drugs and violence that fuels Batman’s war against the various villains in Gotham.
Shadow of the Bat #5 is a dark issue. With stories like these, I can see why the Caped Crusader eventually metamorphosed into the Dark Knight. Again, the first opening panels of this issue show the lifeless bodies of a mother and son. Towards the end of this issue, you discover how they die…It is heartbreaking. It is gritty. It is dark. In my opinion, these are the stories that set DC apart from Marvel (especially during this time). DC is (was) willing to go there with their top-tier heroes. Having a man fight other humans vs an alien or an Amazon Warrior, showed a grounded side of the DC Universe. Nowadays, you will be hard press to find a DC (or Marvel) comic that truly mirrors what is going on in the streets. This is top-notch DC reading material.
I want…need more Batman stories like this. Shadow of the Bat #5 mirrored the reality that most American’s were dealing with in the early ’90s. Sans the Dark Knight, this is as real as it gets in comics. With an ending that goes out in a bang, I was pleasantly surprised. If you want to read a dark a truly gritty Dark Knight story, this is the one for you. I was able to pick this issue up for $1 at my LCS. Check this issue out. It is amazing.