Shiva has been systematically capturing the entire BatFamily.  Now, she has a thermonuclear device set to detonate on a major fault-line running underneath Gotham. With only Cassandra remaining to foil this dastardly plan, will she have what it takes to confront The League of Shadows and triumph over Lady Shiva, or does this spell certain doom for the good people of Gotham City?

Jumping into this comic, the first thing that caught my eye was the image up above.  I immediately wondered, “Are they naked?”  Sure enough…they are.  My initial knee-jerk reaction was, “Grosss!”  But then I stopped and thought about it.  This is actually a stroke of genius.  Over the many decades that I’ve been reading comics, I’ve seen the hero of the story get captured by the villain hundreds of times.  And inevitably, the hero always escapes.  Sometimes by using their surroundings, but also by utilizing things hidden on their person.  Even in stories where the villain had the foresight to remove Batman’s utility belt, he would often have lock-picks or tools hidden elsewhere.  The fact that Shiva had them all stripped of every shred of clothing is really the simplest idea in the world and made me wonder why nobody had ever thought to do that before.  In that sense, it really is kind of genius.

When Shiva shows up with Batman, she not only instructs her minions to strip him, but also to weld shut the locks that will be holding him.  Why?  Because Lady Shiva knows that Batman is the kind of guy who would not only have things hidden in his suit, but also on his body.  Perhaps something embedded underneath the skin that could be dug out.  Perhaps something that could be regurgitated from his stomach.  Perhaps something in a false tooth.  In any case, she knows to take the extra step with him because he really is that over-the-top.  It’s a quick little throw away moment in the bigger scheme of things, but sometimes it’s those smaller moments that help remind us why Batman is so awesome.

The bulk of this story is about Cassandra Cain mowing through hundreds of League of Shadows ninjas.  Most shots start as wide-angle vistas with her jumping head-long into dozens of guys.  Then you get a bunch of smaller panels depicting close up action, like these:

This is then followed by larger shots, once again, showing all the guys incapacitated around her feet.  Personally, I found this to be somewhat lacking.  If you’re going to have an issue-long fight scene with Cassandra, we need to see her moving.  Since she doesn’t really speak, it’s all about body language, facial expressions, and movement.  Take this for example:

This is an older image I pulled from Batman and Robin Eternal #8.  When it comes to Cassandra, it’s not just that she can whoop your butt so easily because she can predict your moves, but also because it’s so hard for you to predict her moves.  I mean, look at that.  It’s completely unconventional.  I don’t want to see standard punches, kicks, and elbow strikes.  I want to look at it and think, “I’ve never seen anyone fight like that”.  Incidentally, this comic brings up that very point.  Cassandra moves like nobody you’ve ever seen.  So…show me her moving like nobody I’ve ever seen.

There’s also a storytelling element that runs parallel with the action scenes.  You see, after Shiva beat Casandra, the Ballerina from #950 decided to help her.  And while Cassandra was recovering and  unconscious, the Ballerina was reading Cassandra a story.  It’s about some girl that believed she was a shadow.  As far as I can tell, it’s a made up story.  Personally, I thought it seemed a little too on-the-nose that Cassandra would cross paths with a person that just happened to have a story that fit so perfectly with Cassandra’s situation.  On the flip-side, I’ve heard lots of people say that they felt certain songs were written just for them, so I suppose it’s possible the story could apply to a wider range of people.  It’s kind of about fitting in regardless of who you are, which is universal.  But if you’ve read the issue, I’m sure you see what I mean about it being written specifically for Cassandra, instead of finding an existing story that suited her situation.

This is basically the moral of the story:

Oddly enough, it got me to thinking about Superman.  Far too often if you ask someone who Superman is, they say he’s this guy that can fly, has super-strength, and can shoot lasers out of his eyes.  But that’s not who he is.  That’s just his power-set.  Far too often I think a character’s powers define them in the public eye.  But that’s not who they really are.  It got me to thinking, “Who is Cassandra Cain?”  So, here’s the interactive part of this review.  If you feel like playing, tell me in the comments who Cassandra is.  And don’t just tell me what she is capable of.  Tell me who she is.

With everything that’s done to show Cassandra in her utmost max level of badassery yet, you’d think one of those moments would stand out as my favorite scene from this issue.  But no.  It’s this one right here:

I don’t know why, but this struck me as utterly hilarious/awesome.  Maybe it’s because Ulysses has the same level of fandom for Robin that I have for Batman.  I know how I would react if I got the Holy Grail of Batman collectibles, so it’s not too much a stretch of the imagination to picture how happy Ulysses is at getting an authentic Robin suit.  And let’s be honest, you all know you’d put it on at least once.  And even if that’s not your thing, I think you know what I mean.  If you were given a working lightsaber, you’d turn it on and cut a tree in half.  If you were given a 1989 Batmobile, even if you were scarred to death that you would get in a car accident, you’d drive it around at least once.  There is just something about tangibly using a collectible that is far more satisfying than just letting it collect dust on a shelf.  So yeah, of course he put that thing on.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind.

Art for this issue is once again handled by Marcio Takara.  If you read my review for #954, I don’t really have too much more to add.  So, I’ll just say that this was my favorite image from the issue:

There’s just a lot more finer detail and nuance going into this expression than you’ll find on any of the other faces in this issue.

Spoiler

Let’s talk about this for a second.  I can see Batman and Clayface being useful in this fight but Jean-Paul, Kate, and Luke were all stabbed.  They haven’t received medical attention.  Sure, the wounds were designed to be none fatal, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t hurt like a %*$*@.

And where exactly did they get their costumes from?  I can’t imagine The League kept them in the same room with them.  And even if they did, how did they suit up so quickly.  I get that this is supposed to be an epic cliffhanger, and it is if you don’t give it much thought.  But obviously when you do like I just did, you start having a lot of questions.

Earlier in the story, it’s said that “Shadows must stand alone.”  I thought to myself,  “That’s not true”.  You can’t have a shadow unless there is something else there to cast it.  I was going to comment on how this metaphor didn’t work.  But then I realized it was just what the girl thought.  Not the truth of the situation.  And this truth comes back around at the end of the story.  In that sense, this cliffhanger actually makes me very happy.  It seems to me that instead of Cassandra winning the day alone, it will actually be her and her entire family that takes down Shiva in the end.  An unexpected twist if it does come to pass, as the one-versus-one showdown is what I was expecting.

Recommended if…

  • You love seeing Cassandra reach new levels of badassery.

Overall:

While the story does have Cassandra defeating throngs of ninjas, half the action occurs off-page while the rest is depicted in minuscule panels that don’t do Cassandra’s frenetic and acrobatic style any justice.  The theme is also a little too simplistic for my liking.  That’s not to say the message of the theme isn’t worthwhile, just that the execution felt a little heavy-handed.

SCORE: 7 / 10