Shadow War is well on its way to wrapping up, and Robin is a major factor in that. This issue continues the event directly after Deathstroke Inc #9 and if you haven’t read that yet, go check it out then come back here.
I wish I could say this book feels like more of a Robin issue than last month’s, but that would be a lie. It does focus on Damian quite a bit, but Talia and Slade are the real center here, when they appear. There’s a lot of fighting in this book. So much so, much of it flies by as you read it, leaving little time for serious moments.
Because there’s so much fighting in this book, I wanted to highlight the art first. Specifically Roger Cruz’s fights. His pencils are clean and overall look really great. Right at the start of the issue, he has a huge group scene that, while packed doesn’t feel busy. Instead it is easy to follow despite the large cast count. Luis Guerrero’s colors make it even better as each character stands out from the others, everyone seems to have their own color scheme making each character pop.
Cruz’s fight scenes focused on fewer characters are equally clean and nice to read. The majority of these are focused on Talia and Deathstroke, and look good in pretty much every panel from their initial tense face off to the ultimate end of their fight. He creates a lot of emotion on character’s faces, and in their body language to tell the narrative. It’s great because there are often panels and even a page or two with almost no dialogue in them.
Talia and Deathstroke’s one-on-one fight is one of the central pillars of the narrative this issue. This is the climax of the Talia vs Slade conflict that’s run through the entirety of Shadow War, as both finally come face to face. Originally pushed to fight by the fake Slade’s assassination of Ra’s, they’ve both got other reasons to continue the fight now. Talia more for her pride and general beef with Slade, and Slade for the death of Respawn.
Unfortunately, it’s these motivations that really don’t hold up well under scrutiny. If I could name a theme for the character’s motivations in Shadow War it would be: artificial angst. Don’t get me wrong, there are some legitimate moments of anguish and grief felt by characters. Specifically Talia over Ra’s, but so much of Shadow War is built off of relationships that are shallow at best.
Slade in particular is a focus of this artificial angst. He’s barely known Respawn long enough to form a connection, let alone be broken up over his death the way he seems to be. He’s sent his whole secret society after Talia and her Shadows, risked his own life, and is willing to make further enemies of Batman and Robin for Respawn. It’s hard for me to believe his whole motivation is centered around this one character dying.
Even Talia doesn’t have that much reason to still be going after Slade. She seems aware that he didn’t actually kill Ra’s, yet continues to fight him. And when Damian tries to dissuade her, she states she doesn’t care. It really makes this whole event feel like a story written simply to have a bunch of characters fight each other, and for no other reason. And honestly that isn’t a good enough reason to stop three books for, at least in my eyes.
Damian is a bit of an exception to this feeling of emotional manipulation. I felt it a bit with Williamson rushing to have him repair his relationship with Ra’s in this series, and there are inklings of it with his response to Respawn’s death. For the most part his heavy emotional beats feel earned. His scenes with Bruce are the other pillar of this particular story, and I did generally enjoy them. The biggest moment is when he and Bruce finally discuss Alfred again, and Bruce apologizes for basically blaming Damian back in Shadow War: Alpha, and clarifies what he meant to say. It’s a nice moment of bridge building that I can only pray holds out for a good long while.
The issue wraps up with two big moments which are a major character death, and the reveal of who the fake Deathstroke is, and why they set off this whole war.
Those moments are when Talia kills Deathstroke, and when the fake Deathstroke is revealed to be Geo-Force. Both of these are undercut but the same fact: Deathstroke is very obviously alive in Dark Crisis.
Slade’s death at Talia’s hand could have been a pretty cool moment, except that we know it won’t stick. It’s hard to miss the fact that he’s one of the faces of Williamson’s next huge upcoming even– I mean it’s even teased in an ad at the start of this comic. That completely erases any real tension and weight not only to his death, but kind of this whole event. It’s equally frustrating to Geo-Force’s plan, who generally wants both Talia and Slade dead for their parts in hurting his family and country.
I’ll end with this: I was mildly excited for this event when it was announced, and over the course of it that excitement has disappeared in a wave of exhaustion. I’m beyond ready for it to wrap up, and for Robin to get back to telling stories that are focused on Damian.
- The fight scenes are cool, and there’s plenty to enjoy
- You want to see Talia vs Deathstroke
- Batman’s gliders look like giant batarangs, and that’s got to count for something
It’s hard to recommend this issue when so much of it relies on the reader buying into emotional beats that carry little to no weight, and accepting events exactly as we’re told they’re happening. Those events that do hold significance feel drowned out under everything else that’s happening. With just Shadow War: Omega left to wrap up this event, I am more than ready to see it over.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.