Shadow War hits the second half of its story with Batman #123. The previous two chapters of Shadow War placed an emphasis on Damian Wayne and Slade Wilson’s part in the story as Slade is being hunted for a fake Deathstroke killing Ra’s Al Ghul. In the previous part we saw both Batman and Robin as well as Deathstroke’s family coming together respectively. Now with these two sides taken along with Talia Al Ghul’s League of Shadows lurking around how will things go next in Shadow War? Let’s find out with Batman #123.
Writers: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Howard Porter (Shadow War Part 5); Trevor Hairsine (Batman Versus Deathstroke…And The Joker!)
Colorists: Tomeu Morey (Shadow War Part 5); Rain Beredo (Batman Versus Deathstroke…And The Joker!)
Batman and Robin go to a prison to interrogate one of the guys who acted like Deathstroke under the Royal Flush Gang’s orders that the Justice League captured. They are able to discover that one of the fake Deathstroke’s the Justice League fought was different from the others and is likely the one who killed Ra’s Al Ghul.
Over in The Haunt, Ghost-Maker talks to Batman to reveal he and the rest of Batman Inc. captured Deathstroke’s Secret Society to keep guard over them while keeping an on Slade Wilson.
Over in Washington DC, Slade, Rose Wilson, and Respawn go to where Ra’s Al Ghul was killed so Slade can see if he can figure out what happened from a killer’s perspective.
Elsewhere, as Batman and Robin fly to Central City Damian admits that he wants to save Respawn from Slade’s influence and give his clone brother a positive influence like Bruce and their family was to him.
Batman and Robin soon arrive to where the Fake Deathstroke is hiding out in a secret room. The Fake Deathstroke reveals that his aim for starting this war was to see Slade Wilson truly punished.
Back in Washington DC, Slade calls out the Hood for keeping tabs on him and his family. Before their discussion can get any further the League of Shadows attacks Slade, Rose, Respawn, and the Hood.
The battle gets intense as everyone is split up by the League of Shadows. Finding his father in trouble Respawn jumps in front of Slade and takes all the bullets meant for his father like a human shield.
Rose is able to fight off the ninjas after her and finds Hood appearing to be dead. Rose then finds her father clutching Respawn’s bloody body. End of main story.
Reading Batman #123 you see how necessary the chapters of Deathstroke Inc. #8 and Robin #13 where to this story. It does not necessarily mean those chapters are made better or worse, but they got us to this point where Batman #123 could provide Shadow War with strong character moments.
The standout of Batman #123 is the dynamic between Bruce Wayne and Damian Wayne. Joshua Williamson does a good job still having some existing tension between father and son. At the same time, Bruce and Damian have put aside problems between them they’ll have to eventually deal with so they can operate as the Dynamic Duo. In the process we see how much their dynamic as Batman and Robin leans more into using theatrics and intimidation than Bruce’s other Robin partners.
Establishing how they operate as Batman and Robin was important into how Batman #123 the talk between Bruce and Damian while looking for the Fake Deathstroke. We saw how Damian has truly changed thanks to being part of the Batman Family. Little things like using “our” instead of “your” when talking about the Batman Family is a character detail that shows even having worked solo for a while Damian has developed as a person. It makes Damian desire to help his clone brother in Respawn even more meaningful as we understand that Damian sees a lot of his pre-Robin self in Respawn.
Which worked well as a transition point for how Slade Wilson’s family acted. While Slade certainly cares about Rose and Respawn he is more of a hands off father as he can’t let go of his killing intent. In all of Batman #123 Slade doesn’t turn off thinking like Deathstroke until the final page after Respawn sacrifices himself. Which speaks to a tragic part of Slade’s character is that he doesn’t embrace being a father until its too late.
Rose Wilson being present in all these scene with Slade and Respawn helped elevate this part of the story. The biggest problem Deathstroke Inc. #8 had was that Respawn was too much a Slade Wilson clone that they both came across as one-note. Having Rose with her father and brother mixed things up so there is a different voice in the room to make the dialogue better.
While not a big part of the issue Williamson made the most of Ghost-Maker’s appearance in Batman #123. Ghost-Maker’s appearance helped to reinforce how he is in fact the leader of Batman Inc. Even as he is helping out Bruce its made clear that Batman Inc. is Ghost-Maker’s operation, which helps strengthen this aspect of the franchise.
Howard Porter is an artist that is hit or miss for me. A big reason for that is how often Porter’s artwork comes across as very sketchy with how the art is inked. That is not something that is escaped here as certain scenes feel rushed. That said, some of the bigger moments like the Batman and Robin interrogation scene and Deathstroke holding Respawn’s bloody body was elevated by the artwork.
The one part where Batman #123 isn’t as strong is the back-up Batman vs Deathstroke story. I get that this back-up is supposed to connect Batman and Deathstroke’s early careers with each other but it is just falling flat. Having the Joker involved isn’t helping any as this just further emphasizes how no other Batman villain is allowed to be part of major narratives. Its all disappointing given this back-up page count could’ve been given to Talia Al Ghul or other players in the Shadow War story.
Batman #123 does a lot to push the narrative of the Shadow War crossover forward. We get some great character moments between Bruce Wayne and Damian Wayne. While the artwork is not this issue’s strong point the ending had a strong hook that drives up interest for the next chapter in this story.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10