Lady Shiva.

I think my work here is done.  No?  Ok then, I guess I’ll elaborate.

The story opens with Lady Shiva torturing a Colony member, and for those readers not familiar with Shiva, it does a descent job at filling you in on the kind of person she is.  Someone without mercy.  Who isn’t squeamish about doing whatever it takes to get what she wants.  Someone who takes a sort of perverse pleasure in her line of work.  She doesn’t bandy words, and when she makes a decision, she acts swiftly without doubt or hesitation.

As much as I think this is a great intro for the sake of the story and the sake of the character, there is something about it that is a little too “been there done that”.  I mean, torturing someone and promising that you won’t let them die, but instead make sure they will live in order to continue their agony.  I’ve definitely heard that bit before.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s still a scary as hell concept.  And if you are in that situation, I’m sure you’d be wetting your pants.  But as an audience member, I’ve heard it a little too often to be astonished by it anymore.  It still totally works, it just doesn’t really stand out as anything special or unique anymore.  Just page 10 of the villain playbook.

After that kick-start of an opening, we jump to Gotham and get filled in on the current state of affairs through an exchange between Batman and Batwoman.  Apparently, some time has taken place between issue 950 and 951 as it’s revealed that Batman and Hady have been working together to weed out corruption.  While I am happy that we are onto the League of Shadows storyline, I feel like this would have been ripe for at least an issue or two worth of storytelling.  Instead, we gloss right over it.  I just feel like we never get to see Batman making any real difference in his city.  Sure, he stops major criminals all the time, but that just keeps the city in check.  We don’t usually get to see his efforts put the city in a state that is any more than tolerable.  Taking the time to show his struggle bettering the city in a way that’s more than just a stop-gate to total chaos would have been nice.  And it would have made it even more tragic when things fall apart again.

Spoiler

Much in the way that I felt Shiva’s threats were very “been there done that”, Batman ends up getting framed for murder.  Call it what you will: cliche, stereotypical, tenet of the genre.  Whatever the case may be, I’ve seen this before dozens of times, so I didn’t find it very original.  But as familiar as it was, I did still find it enjoyable.  Really, there are only so many inciting incidents you can use before you’ve seen them all, so I can’t completely hold that against Tynion.  What it’s ultimately going to boil down to is how distinctive he can make this story from all the others.  It’s the divergent path he sets up from here on out that will really shape my opinion.  So, at this point in time, it’s too early to tell.

I did think it was kind of funny that bat-shaped swords are what is linking Batman to this killing.  Seriously?  Because everybody knows Batman for all those bat-shaped swords he is always carrying around and using.  I guess it needed to look that way so that us doofy readers would be able to visual connect it to what Shiva did to the Colony guy at the beginning of the story.  But really, it would have made more sense if it had just been a single Batarang embedded in his skull or something like that.  But…whatever.

Incidentally, the news report says that Hady was impaled with 6 swords, but it’s actually 14.  Editing mistake or in-world error in which the news station simply wasn’t given all the info pertaining to the case?  You decide.

While I’m in the spoiler tag, I might as well mention the similarity this has to Batman&Robin Eternal.  Remember how that story had sleeper agents that could be activated and mind control that would turn normal people evil.  Yeah, this story has both those things too.  I think I was ok with one or two things reminding me of other stuff, but now I kind of feel like Tynion is copying himself too.  I’m not too upset about it just yet, but it might end up wearing me down as this story goes along.  I’ll have to wait and see.          

One of the most interesting things to come out of this issue was that The Colony really was keeping the League of Shadows at bay.  And now that Batman has taken out The Colony, The League isn’t at all dissuaded about carrying out their plans against Gotham.  Maybe The Colony wasn’t one of the good guys, but they were fighting fire with fire.  Batman was so intent on taking out the controlled burn The Colony was implementing that he didn’t see the raging inferno barreling down on Gotham.  Am I saying that Batman is responsible for what is about to befall Gotham.  No.  But he did exacerbate the situation and speed up the dilemma.  Kind of makes it all the more tragic.  In trying to do the right thing, it just blew up in his face and made stuff worse.  Must be frustrating.

Art for this issue is handled by Christian Duce, and while he hits some of the right beats, his work just seems a little plain compared to series regulars Martinez and Barrows.  For instance:

This is a classic shot.  Batman entering through a penthouse sliding door and casting his shadow across a room left in a state of disarray.  You just know something is about to go down.  But then you have shots like this:

While it’s similar to the angles that I’ve seen Barrows use, it’s just really generic looking.  Like a stock image I expect to see over and over again on the likes of paper plates and cups for a child’s birthday party.  I don’t have any real complaints about his technique, but no real accolades either.  It’s nonetheless acceptable.

His version of Clayface is scary as hell though.

When I first laid eyes on this cover, I thought it was pretty sweet.  I liked the lighting coming off the Bat-Signal and I thought this single image set the stage nicely for the coming arc and gives you the basic premise: Shiva versus the Bat-Family.  It also illustrates that they are in for a fairly rough time.  But then one of my colleagues pointed out a pretty inane detail.  Clayface has a shuriken embedded in his head.  Did Shiva just beat Clayface with a little itty-bitty throwing star?  Fortunately, this cover never actually plays out in the story itself, so we aren’t forced to accept the notion that this would even be possible.  But it’s still kind of an odd detail to include.  Since he brought that up, it got me looking a the cover more closely.  After a more in-depth inspection, I have to say, Shiva is looking a little…manly.

In any case, I think a Shiva/Clayface fight would be cool to see.   I can picture her going at him with her Katanas and swings so fast that he ends up looking like shredded cheese floating in the air.  But them little tendrils would come off each strip and just pull him right back together.  Kinda curious to see how she plans on taking him out.  When it comes to conventional means, he’s pretty much invulnerable.

Interesting Facts:

  • Artist Neal Adams.  Last weeks issue of Batman had all kinds of past creator references in it.  But while King implemented them in connection with what was unfolding on the page, this Adams reference seems like more of a “just because” inclusion than actually connecting the artist and his past works with something on the page.

  • I wonder if this was intentional.  After reading that box, I couldn’t help but hear Jeremy Irons’ voice saying, “The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men…cruel.”

  • Anybody else think of the 1989 Batman movie when this happened?

Recommended if…

  • You’re a fan of Lady Shiva
  • You want to see what machinations the League of Shadows has in store for Batman and Gotham.

Overall:

While I enjoyed the issue, I think it definitely relied a little too heavily on cliche.  And not just that, but some of the stuff in this story echoed things I’ve seen Tynion do before.  Add to that some generic, yet acceptable, art and I was somewhat underwhelmed with the first part of League of Shadows.  Considering I’ve been fairly pleased with almost everything Tynion has released since the beginning of Rebirth, I was just a little surprised by how average I found this story.

SCORE: 7 / 10