“Shadow War” isn’t a crossover that I’ve been looking forward to. As I’ve explained in my Shadow War: Alpha review, I think that the premise just doesn’t work, because Ra’s’ character development is being forced and rushed for the sake of a plot point. When the premise doesn’t work, the rest of the story usually doesn’t quite work for me, either. So, is the creative team able to course correct with this issue? Let’s have a look.
First of all, I’m not feeling confident about the way that Williamson writes Batman. In Shadow War: Alpha, he was basically just standing around doing absolutely nothing while Ra’s was getting shot in the head. In this issue we find Batman examining the crime scene (where, for some reason, not a single police officer is present), and he talks about how he had eyes in the sky, trained on Ra’s location. If that’s true, then how did Batman miss the sniper that shot Ra’s? As for the detective work itself, it’s very bare bones and I don’t get a sense that the detective work itself is going to lead to any interesting plot points because, as it stands, it feels somewhat inconsequential to me, like it’s just something for Batman to do while talking to others.
Furthermore, I’m not a fan of the dialogue. Now, that doesn’t mean that I think it’s all bad. I just think that there’s nothing particularly noteworthy or interesting about it. Most of the dialogue does its job and all of it is fairly concise and easy to read. However, the writer relies heavily on exposition in a way that doesn’t feel natural. Clearly, the writer is using characters to explain things to the readers, instead of just having characters talk to each other. This is especially noticeable when characters are explaining things to each other that they should already know. I’m pretty sure that there’s a better way to incorporate exposition in dialogue without making it this obvious and thereby making it harder for readers to get immersed in the story. At a certain point, it’s like the writer is constantly explaining the story to readers instead of actually telling a story to readers. Of course there should be room for some exposition to bring readers up to speed, but if this keeps coming up throughout the book, then I, for one, will start to lose interest very fast.
Zooming out and looking at the writing in this issue as a whole, it’s almost like we’re just going through the motions to get from Plot Point A to B. Basically this issue consists of a few sections that don’t mesh incredibly well, without any real transitions between them. I don’t get the sense that I’m following a character arc or that the creative team is taking the time to flesh out plot beats. Other than moving characters to different locations so the story can continue, I don’t think that there’s much substance to this issue and I don’t think that readers would miss many important details if they were to skip this one.
That said, there are moments where this comic gets very entertaining, and most of that is because of Porter’s artwork! Even though Porter’s art style isn’t entirely my cup of tea, I always admire his skill and ability to create these dynamic splash pages and fight scenes. Porter puts a lot of energy into them, and I appreciate that Williamson doesn’t write any dialogue during a scene where Batman fights against a group of ninjas. It’s in these moments, where the writer allows the artist to tell the story and to choreograph the fights, that this comic is a lot of fun!
This issue also comes with a backup feature, and it’s about Batman encountering Deathstroke for the first time when Deathstroke is tasked with killing Robin. The majority of the comic consists of fighting, and Hairsine draws solid, sequential art to render the fight scenes. The writing is okay, but the writer is rehashing a lot of ideas that have already been explored by other creative teams in the past. I’m also not a fan of Deathstroke being able to tell exactly which masters Batman learned his various martial arts skills from just by watching Batman punching and kicking. I guess the point of that is to present Deathstroke as Batman’s equal in battle, but to me this kind of stuff just seems fabricated rather than good characterization that rises organically out of the narrative. If you like fight comics, you might enjoy this backup. Otherwise I wouldn’t really recommend this.
Overall: This comic has very entertaining fight scenes and strong art, but the writing feels rushed and unpolished. The heavy reliance on exposition keeps taking me out of the story, and the lack of plot almost makes me feel like nothing important happened in this issue. I think you can safely skip this chapter if you’re not too concerned with collecting every single Shadow War tie-in. Besides, there are much more interesting books on stands this week, anyway.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.
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