Shadow War: Alpha #1 review

I’ve been enjoying Williamson’s Robin run so far. Damian had some nice character development and we were introduced to some cool new characters, such as Flatline. However, I didn’t ask for this crossover and hearing about how this will set up Dark Crisis in some way or another doesn’t really make me excited, either. So is this going to be worth it? Let’s have a look.

As an opening chapter for Shadow War, this isn’t bad. The key players and the core conflict are established and there’s even a little mystery tacked on at the end that makes me at least a little bit curious to see what happens next. However, that doesn’t mean that I really enjoyed this issue, unfortunately.

The main problem that I have with this story is that Ra’s and Talia are unrecognizable for the most part. At least Talia shows her typical vengeful side after a while, but Ra’s reads like an entirely different character who just happens to have the same name. For one thing, I don’t understand why Ra’s suddenly acts like a good guy. It’s a way too sudden shift from his super-villain past. This guy didn’t even get a redemption arc of any kind, he was just changed completely for the sake of a plot point and that’s never a good thing. Ra’s also gets shot in the head, which is the inciting incident for this story, while giving a speech about how he wants to share the secrets of the Lazarus Pits with the world. Now, I think it’s extremely unlikely that Ra’s would just get up on a stage and let himself get shot like that. Unless it’s some kind of fake-out (which also seems unlikely because his killer made damn sure that he can’t get resurrected anymore), I just can’t buy into Ra’s being this incredibly naïve. None of this seems authentic to me.

I also can’t help but feel like the writer went for a cheap shot here. There’s absolutely nothing shocking about Ra’s death to me because the second that he got on that stage, I knew that someone would snipe his @$$. That always happens in movies and comics that depict scenarios like this. I saw this coming from a mile away. Even if Ra’s death wasn’t spoiled beforehand I would’ve at least suspected that this might happen, and that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

Furthermore, the drama between Bruce and Damian that happens as a result of Ra’s death feels forced, because the entire premise feels so fabricated. I guess that Damian has to act emotional in this moment after everything that he’s been through in Robin, but then they start talking about Alfred, and Bruce tells his son, “If I was the one there, I could’ve saved Alfred.” Damian, upset, walks away. And I hate this. I hate everything about this. The only reason why Williamson has Bruce say this is to make the drama more intense, which is absolutely not needed. I’d rather see Bruce be supportive and caring. I’m so tired of forced character conflict. It’s not fun. It doesn’t add much to the story. It’s done to death at this point and it was never interesting to begin with. Instead, I want my Dynamic Duo back, is that really too much to ask?

The art by Bogdanovic is pretty good, although characters’ faces look a little bit thin and long at times. The action is big and explosive, which I like, and the character designs are solid. I’m not sure why Damian has big white lenses in his domino mask in certain panels and just his normal eyes in others, though. But for the most part this book looks good. The art really isn’t the problem.

Recommended if…

  • You have been reading Robin and/or Deathstroke, Inc. This crossover story involves both titles, as well as Batman.
  • You like big, explosive action.

Overall: The key character, Ra’s, isn’t written authentically at all, and since I don’t buy the book’s premise, everything else feels forced, right down to the conflict between Bruce and Damian. While I didn’t quite enjoy reading this, at least it does an effective job setting up the crossover’s main plot. Still, I don’t really recommend buying this as a single issue. Maybe wait for the eventual trade so you can pick it up with a nice discount if you really want to read this, but even then I recommend checking out reviews of the upcoming issues before buying anything related to this crossover.

Score: 4.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.