After a rough attempt at fitting in, and an even rougher fight with Conner Hawke Damian’s found himself face to face with none other than his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul! Just what does the Demon’s Head have in store for him, and is Damian ready to learn? Let’s see.
When I say this book constantly surprises and delights me I am not lying. There’s always something here that makes me smile or stop to do a double take. Opening the pages of this issue to discover that Goliath had made a return was one of those moments. I mean, of course I should have guessed he was behind the rescue at the end of the last issue, but also I did not see that coming and I love it. I’m really happy that Williamson has found a great way of blending together a lot of elements from Damian’s past, and some new characters cropping up on the island. It’s a great way to respect the character’s history, while also continuing to let him grow and change.
From there, the issue isn’t too much of a surprise, but that isn’t a bad thing. Consistently, it’s still strong. Williamson gives us a good story focused on Damian training with Ra’s, and some interesting insights into Rose’s reasons for being on the island. We even get some more plot information regarding whatever secrets Mother Soul and the island are hiding. It makes the story feel well rounded, and continues on that trend of generally good pacing we’ve seen so far. There are a few things that crop up in the issue that shake up the pacing a bit, and worry me, but still, it generally feels like it’s got a good balance there.
Damian and Ra’s interacting are the bulk of the issue, and it leans into that old feeling of kids cartoons or anime that featured the hero training with an old monk they either stumbled on or convinced to help them. Ra’s has serious monk/beach vibes, from his outfit to his general attitude. The story even includes a training montage. Jorge Corona gives us some genuinely delightful panels featuring Damian, Ra’s and Goliath training together and I kind of want to make the one with them all balancing my computer background for the next six months.
As much as I enjoyed the training aspect of this issue, –and I really enjoyed it— it also feels a little rushed. One of my biggest complaints from this issue is the feeling of the pace starting to move just a bit too fast, specifically regarding this training session. Damian only has one day to complete this “all important” training before he has to get back to the island as Mother Soul has announced the tournament will start in earnest the next day. So, that gives Damian roughly 24 hours to recover, train, do some investigating, and get back to the island. It’s just all a little too fast, to have a convincing training scene that might really help Damian down the line. Plus, I’ll be pretty irritated if he’s not still recovering over the next couple issues. Especially since this one makes a point to show us just how injured he is at the start. I’m not even asking for more issues with Ra’s and Damian training, I’d just liked to have seen the story give him another day or so on the island maybe even in the montage, just something to make this a little more believable.
My other complaint is Ra’s himself. He is very chill and nice and generally helpful. All of which are not things I associate with Ra’s al Ghul. Especially since most of his recent canon interactions with Damian have been anything but that. That’s not to say he’s going up for grandfather of the year –that title easily goes to Alfred, deceased or not– but he reads less as the man who once run the League of Assassins and more as, well like I said earlier, the grumpy monk talked into training the overconfident hero. Williamson does use him to share some information about the tournament and give Damian some much needed insight into himself, but otherwise he could be interchanged with a new character and that’s really not what I was expecting from this reunion. It is fun to see this side of him, and there are some touching moments, but I will admit it is also a little odd.
I won’t spend too much time on the subplot with Rose, but I will say I enjoyed it. I like that Williamson is using her as another viewpoint in this story, and I loved seeing that she at least wanted to figure out what happened to Damian. It gives credibility to her wanting to help him, gives us another hero to follow, and helps continue to flesh out the island and other characters.
Jorge Corona takes over art duties this month, and while his style is pretty different from Melnikov’s it does fit this story really well. I really enjoy the way he draws Damian. He gives him a lot of energy, big movements, and great facial expressions. Damian’s outrage at realizing Ra’s rescued him and patched him up is delightful, and I’ve already pointed out how much I loved the montage scene.
I would be remiss not to mention his Ra’s design. We got a sneak peak of it last month at the end of issue #3, but this issue Ra’s is front and center. I am really digging this surfer Ra’s vibe he’s created. It definitely shows that Ra’s isn’t just on this island for show, but he’s actually doing what he claims to be, and meditating on his past.
Williamson wraps the story up by having Damian do some investigating, and while I do enjoy getting some more plot details, the location and time frame the story gave earlier gives me some concerns about pacing in the next issue. My worries might be for nothing –Williamson has done an excellent job with pacing up until this issue– but we’ll see. I will say I’m as excited to read the next issue as I was to get my hands on issue #3.
- Goliath is back, need I say any more?
- If you still need convincing please see exhibit B: Surfer Ra’s
- In all seriousness, this series is still going strong give it a shot, I bet you’ll enjoy it
I’m still in love with this series. While this issue had a few moments I am kind of hesitant about, and a Ra’s al Ghul who doesn’t quite seem in character, it is a lot of fun to read. Damian having a training day with his grandfather is something I didn’t expect to play out quite like it did, but those surprises can be good. Plus, Goliath is back, and that lovable big red bat-dragon is enough to make any issue shine.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.