Batman and Robin #23.3 – Ra’s al Ghul #1 review

Ra’s al Ghul has lived for hundreds of years and witnessed the rise and fall of empires. Some civilizations have even crumbled at his feet. So how does the Demon’s head react to the emergence of the Secret Society of Super Villains?

Writer James Tynion IV proves with this issue that he gets the character. Ra’s al Ghul stands unimpressed by a band of costumed “super villains.” He sees himself as a constant in the world who has weathered every monumental shift the planet has faced across centuries. The world may change, but it cannot escape him. It can never escape his vision. The only one true global change will be by Ra’s al Ghul’s hand and any other reign is as ephemeral and predictable as the seasons.  To illustrate this point, we the readers are first treated to a scene that show Ra’s al Ghul’s fearlessness during The Crusades. During this scene we even get an homage to the work of O’Neil and Adams as a lone Templar cries out “‘Are you a man? or a fiend from hell?!” the now classic line that Ra’s al Ghul himself said in Batman #244.

And that scene perfectly sums up what it is you’re in store for in “The Demon’s Tower.” It’s part homage to earlier works and part all-new sweeping epic that feels just as timeless as the classic stories Tynion pays tribute to. A nameless messenger (that bugged me a little, I felt that this would’ve been better if the messenger was actually an established, recognizable character. Just somebody from the D-list of villains would’ve been fine) from the Secret Society recites all he knows about the legend of Ra’s al Ghul in an effort to impress the famed League of Assassins master. His telling offers us glimpse of Ra’s al Ghul’s journey but only a glimpse– something I’m thankful for because I like to keep Ra’s al Ghul’s full origin shrouded in as much mystery as possible. We see how he found the Lazarus Pit, how he formed the League of Assassins, and how his hand guided conflict throughout the ages. Unfortunately, someone didn’t take the 2 seconds to go to Wikipedia and double-check the date in which WWI began. Or are we to believe that the DC timeline is so different from our own that the assassination of the Arch Duke took place 3 years later here?

When we finally reach the age in which Ra’s al Ghul meets the Batman we are given a rundown not only of their first confrontation, but recent events in Batman Incorporated. In doing so, new readers are up to speed on the goings on of the New 52 and can go pick up Red Hood and the Outlaws, which this issue turns out to be teasing. Tynion does a brilliant job of expressing why exactly Batman is important to Ra’s al Ghul and how different their relationship is compared to any other villain in the rogues gallery. But sadly, this terrific scene is hurt by there being a complete lack of chest hair.

What am I talking about? Well, the fight that we pay tribute to in this montage from Batman #244 which can be found in the recently released Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Vol. 3. It’s a classic story with an equally iconic cover. Why is it iconic? Is it because of the great villain? The love story? The mystery of the League of Assassins? The action-packed fight scene? No. It’s because Batman has the manliest chest hair in the world. And Jeremy Haun, who illustrated this issue, didn’t put it in! Bruce Wayne is hairless! You expect me to believe that a smooth-chested Batman could attract Talia and survive a sword fight with Ra’s al Ghul and the sting of a scorpion? Come on!

But other than

And Ra’s reveal. I think that Ra’s could’ve been put into a cooler pose than just standing naked in the Lazarus Pit. A Templar night is freaking out, can’t we have Ra’s doing something a little more frightening than show off his wet dong?
that I really dug Jeremy Haun’s work on this issue. The story is perfectly paced and he shows a lot of versatility in being able to illustrate the different time frames.

I also want to commend artists Patrick Gleason and Mick Gray for being the guys who didn’t photoshop the same tied-up Batman in all of their Villains Month covers!

Overall it’s a really enjoyable comic and it’s definitely got a different vibe from the rest of the Batman villain books so it added some nice variety into my review-rotation.

Recommended If…

  • You like sword fights
  • You love the classic Neal Adams/Denny O’Neil stories
  • You read Red Hood and the Outlaws (but that’s definitely not a necessity, anyone can pick this up and enjoy it)
  • You want an epic story that spans several hundred years


James Tynion IV reminds us why Ra’s al Ghul is one of the greatest villains in the DC Universe and gets readers excited about what’s to come in Red Hood and the Outlaws.

SCORE: 8.5/10