Batman #123 review

This is part five of “Shadow War,” a crossover event that’s currently running through the pages of Batman, Deathstroke Inc, and Robin. So far this event has bored me to tears and as such I’m not feeling very optimistic about this issue. But who knows? Maybe the creative team manages to surprise me? Let’s have a look.

Sadly, they didn’t surprise me. This issue is just more of the same. If you have been enjoying “Shadow War,” then you’ll likely continue to enjoy the event as you read this issue. If you haven’t been enjoying it, this issue likely isn’t going to change that for you. My main gripe with this story is simply that it’s completely lacking a hook, a reason to keep wanting to read on. What was meant to be the story’s hook is nothing but a failed premise involving Ra’s al Ghul, and with such a shaky setup, it’s hard to get into the rest of the story.

This issue in particular feels like a ramble. Scenes don’t quite connect, which disrupts narrative flow. What’s more, some of these scenes don’t even feel finished, like they are cut short. For example, Batman and Robin interrogate a prisoner in Blackgate, which I guess is meant to show the Dynamic Duo’s detective side. However, after a super brief exchange, the prisoner says something about a handsome guy who wanted to wear a replica of the classic Deathstroke costume while killing Ra’s. That’s hardly a lead, but once Batman and Robin hear about that, they’re off to the next scene! Nothing is developed here. There’s no intrigue. This is part five, and I still don’t give a monkey’s about who Ra’s’ killer might really be. If the central mystery still isn’t the least bit compelling, five issues in, you know there’s a problem.

Batman and Robin also don’t seem like the sharpest tools in the shed in this issue. For example, there’s a scene where they’re infiltrating an enemy base. I have no idea why on earth Damian would do this, but for some reason he thinks it’s a good idea to tell Bruce that he has a girlfriend just as they are sneaking in, trying to avoid traps and security systems. Bruce, somehow, gets distracted and accidentally triggers a trap. I guess the creative team thought this was necessary to get Batman and Robin from A to B, but it just doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s poorly timed, poorly executed, and there’s no way that I’m going to buy Batman not being focused on the task at hand when he’s right there in the lion’s den!

Moving on, the writer attempts to create drama in this comic, but it only distracts from the story. A character ends up in mortal danger and I feel nothing. The reason is that this character was never built up properly within the context of this event, so if this character dies, it won’t have any impact whatsoever. Sure, you could argue that if you read the title in which this character first appears, you’ll get more character development and you might end up caring more, but I have read that other title and I still don’t give a hoot. As a result, this issue’s cliffhanger feels tedious and boring to me and I just want to stop reading this altogether at this stage.

As for the art, Porter’s stuff will never be my cup of tea, but I like how he puts Batman and Robin in the shadows in the early pages to make them look more menacing. I like how clean the panel sequences and layouts are, too. Another positive thing about the art is that the colors are nicely varied and blend quite well with the pencils and the inks. What I don’t like as much, though, is how rough the content of the panels can be at times. Characters look rather uncanny because their facial proportions seem off to me, and I think that there’s a bit too much emphasis on cool character poses rather than making them move naturally through each of the scenes. Finally, fight scenes can be crowded and messy to a point that it’s hard to keep track of what exactly is going on.

Unfortunately, the backup isn’t anything to write home about, either. It’s more of a quick wrap-up to this two-part Batman versus Deathstroke story than anything. Hairsine’s art works best for me when there’s an emphasis on action and fighting, but when the majority of the issue shows characters being passive and the emphasis is on their faces, the art doesn’t work for me at all, which is the case here. I don’t like that the characters’ facial proportions are off; it’s rather off-putting to me, and too distracting. The story itself is entirely forgettable. Batman fights Deathstroke and Joker and wins, and that’s basically it. I honestly struggle to come up with reasons as to why you should read this, because I would never have read this if it wasn’t for this review.

Recommended if…

  • You are invested in “Shadow War.”
  • You just want a quick, easy read.

Overall: This comic isn’t great and quite the opposite of entertaining for me. I don’t care about the premise and I don’t care about what happens to certain characters. The mystery is incredibly uncompelling to me and as I read this I just don’t get the feeling that the creative team gave this all they had. This issue reads more like a ramble than a strong story, and overall this entire event just feels mandatory, which takes away the fun. Luckily we’re getting a new creative team next month, which I’m hella excited about. I recommend you skip this issue and wait for Zdarsky and Jiminez to arrive!

Score: 4/10

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