Shiva versus The BatFamily! It’s come down to this. A final stand, with the victor deciding the fate of Gotham. Let’s get to it…
Instead of speaking vaguely about the content of this particular issue, I’ve decided to go full-on spoiler with it. So, if you haven’t read this comic yet, you probably don’t want to proceed. And if you came here to find out if you should buy this to begin with, my apologizes for not providing you with a spoiler free review in which to make that determination. (Although, the “Overall” section at the end might still help you out.)
The story starts off with Shiva squaring off against the entire BatFamily. Looking at this picture, it definitely looks like Shiva is about to get steamrolled. I mean, Clayface alone should be able to take her out. Right? What can she do to stop him? Kick and punch him? That won’t knock him out. Slice him up with her sword? He should just form back together. I say “should” because in a previous chapter of this arc, The League of Shadows defeated Clayface by chopping him up into bits and storing each piece in a separate container. That’s good and all, but why didn’t his pieces reform to his body as soon as they were chopped off. Plus, they showed him lying on the floor unconscious when Batwoman showed up at the Belfry. How did they knock him out? I thought all that was pretty weak as it occurred out of necessity for the direction of the story and not necessarily because it made sense.
So, looking at this first image, it seems Clayface is about to envelop Shiva. But then Shiva kicks Batwoman, reopening her wound, and Batman tells Clayface to get Batwoman to safety. It definitely works as a way to dodge the problematic nature surrounding the realistic outcome of Clayface fighting with Shiva, but it had me asking, “Why not just let Clayface take her out before running off with Batwoman?” After all, it wouldn’t take that long.
Shortly thereafter, Shiva activates a 5 minute countdown on the nuclear bomb, and Batwing and Azrael are assigned with that task. Very quickly, we go from Shiva versus 6 opponents to Shiva versus Batman and Cassandra. And that’s probably a good thing, because I don’t think Tynion is all that gifted at choreographing fight scenes with multiple combatants. It’s a problem I had in Detective Comics #944 when The BatFamily fought The Victim Syndicate, and it’s a problem I have now. Allow me to explain.
Far too often, Tynion will have a fight going on, but you know there are characters standing around doing nothing when they could be engaged in the ongoing fight. Almost immediately, Clayface and Batwoman are gone, but we then have an exchange between Batman and Shiva. Cassandra intervenes for a single strike, and then it’s back to Batman versus Shiva. So, what were Cassandra, Batwing, and Azrael doing for the rest of this exchange? Then Batwing and Azrael are removed from the fight. We then have a very lengthy exchange between Cassandra and Shiva. And Batman just watches!! Why?!? Why not fight her together? I know Batman has tag-teamed with other heroes in the past to take on Shiva. Since then, has The BatFamily integrated some weird kind of chivalry into their methodology, where only one person can fight an opponent at a time? It’s just really weird to me.
Ok, so that was all very spoilery, but now we are going for major spoilers.
Ra’s Al Ghul shows up, kills Shiva by shooting her with an automatic rifle, disarms the nuke, and has his Man-Bat Ninjas carry off all The League of Shadow’s Ninjas that Cassandra knocked unconscious. Wow! Every single problem got wrapped up in seconds. I’m calling Deus Ex Machina on that turn of events. It kind of makes the entire BatFamily’s involvement in this story irrelevant. Everything could have very well taken place without any of us readers knowing it was evening going on, including The BatFamily. It could have just been The Assassins and The Shadows fighting in secret. Granted, Ra’s probably used The BatFamily to weaken The League of Shadows so his win would be simpler, but it still robbed The BatFamily of any REAL relevance. And I think it also robbed Cassandra of a meaningful resolution with Shiva. They were just pawns. But….that’s probably the bigger point being made here anyway.
We also discover that Shiva’s attack on Gotham was actually an attack against Ra’s. Apparently, Ra’s is up to some major bad stuff, but destroying Gotham would have been a major blow to his organization since he presumably has funds and manpower tied up in the city. Looks to me like Shiva was playing “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Yes, millions of people aren’t really a few, but they are when you compare that to the potential billions she may have been saving in exchange. In that sense, her actions aren’t all that different from The Colony’s. They were willing to potentially kill a few innocents if it meant that they could save the entire city.
In any case, this realization that Shiva was attacking Gotham to attack Ra’s calls some previous scenes into question. Knowing what we know now, it doesn’t make too much sense that Ra’s helped Shiva earlier in the story. If her attack on Gotham is really an attack on him, why was he helping her to defeat himself? And, look at it from her perspective. Why would you trust someone who is helping you to destroy them? It’s peculiar. At the very least, she should have been more wary of his involvement.
Clayface’s little adventure and The Colony’s involvement also feel like afterthoughts that didn’t quite reach fruition. The Colony was going to eradicate The League with a nano-swarm. When the swarm shows up in the tunnels, Clayface says he is going to deal with them. Kane sees his daughter is alive and recalls the nano-swarm. When they never jumped back to this plot thread, I thought I was missing a page or something. Since Clayface said he was about to do something, my expectations were peaked. So, to then not have anything happen was anticlimactic for me. I can’t help but feel that this b plot could have benefited from a few more panels to wrap things up more clearly. You can guess what happened, but I felt I was left hanging with Clayface and wanting a more solid resolution from Kane.
The last thing we do see from Kane is this. And it’s interesting because it’s an exact opposite of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. When once Kane was willing to sacrifice a few innocents to save the city, he is now willing to sacrifice the entire city to save one individual. It’s a wonderful inversion of his previous feelings and something I really wish would have been given more room to breath. As it stands, it’s said and done and we don’t really have much time to dwell on it or its significance.
One of the other things that kind of bothered me was that this story was really just the opening skirmish of a far greater conflict. This is more about expectations than any real criticism on my part. I’d liken it to going to see a movie and not finding out till the very end that there are actually two more movies to go till you complete the story. As it stands, I simply expected more resolution all around, not to be left with far more questions than I came in with. But, I guess that’s the nature of comics. Gotta get you hooked and coming back for more. I also feel that knowing something far greater is coming down the pipeline makes this story seem less important in comparison.
Marcio Takara is on art duties again, and this time we can actually see what is going on during the fight scenes. Last issue, the panels were super tiny and very dark. It made it fairly difficult to follow the flow of combat. Now, we are at least given a sequential fight where one move flows seamlessly into the next. And that’s really what I like to see in fight scenes. While that side of it makes me happy, I still don’t think Cassandra’s moves look all that unique. It’s just a bunch of elbow and knee strikes. Well executed, but nothing really fancy or unconventional going on here.
- You want to see how “The League of Shadows” story arc wraps up.
I can’t say that I was really all that satisfied with this finale. That’s largely due to the fact that our heroes feel woefully irrelevant to the overall outcome. Couple that with the fact that the resolutions feel either rushed or completely absent, and now you’ve got a story that’s failing to deliver on both character progression and significance. The story also wraps up far too easily and quickly for my taste, as if they ran out of time or (more likely) decided to save the truly good stuff for future issues. Ultimately, this story is nothing more than a prelude and disappointingly incomplete in and of itself. I’m sure this was meant to get people pumped for the stories to come, but in a way, I actually ended up feeling cheated.
SCORE: 4.5 / 10