There is no time for rest for Batman as he goes from Fear State to crisis with Batman Inc to Shadows Of The Bat events back-to-back. Continuing that trend now Batman finds himself in the middle of a new crossover event with Deathstroke Inc. and Robin titled Shadow War. This crossover is bringing Bruce Wayne back to his connection with the Al Ghul Family as he is reuniting with not only Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia Al Ghul but also his son Damian Wayne. The last time Bruce and Damian interacted things didn’t go very well in the fallout of Alfred Pennyworth’s death. Adding Deathstroke to the mix could make this reunion one that is filled with chaos. Let’s see how the crossover begins with Shadow War: Alpha #1.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Viktor Bogdanovic
Inkers: Viktor Bogdanovic and Daniel Henriques
Colorist: Mike Spicer
A sick Ra’s Al Ghul watches Talia Al Ghul training Damian Wayne at The Demon Palace in Nepal. As he watches Talia and Damian train Ra’s remembers Mother Soul telling him that the Lazarus Pit is cursed and starts coughing up blood.
In Gotham City, Batman quickly defeats Lock-Up. He is then informed by Oracle that, as reported by various media outlets, that Ra’s Al Ghul has agreed to turn himself over to the authorities but has sent the DEO a list of demands before he can be arrested.
Back at The Demon Palace, Talia calls out her father for what he announced as she is not turning herself in. Ra’s says that it is time for them to answer for their crimes and asks Talia to trust him.
At the Markovian Embassy in Washington DC, as Ra’s and Talia are being transported by the police Batman watches over the proceedings. Robin suddenly appears which leads to an awkward moment between Bruce and Damian.
Ra’s then begins his press conference by admitting for a long time he blamed humans for the destruction of Earth but recently thanks to his family he has seen signs of a better future for all of them. Ra’s then announces that he would like to share the secrets of the Lazarus Pit with the entire world.
As soon as he says this Ra’s is shot in the head and killed instantly by Deathstroke. Deathstroke then seriously injures Talia with additional shots from his sniper gun.
Batman finds Deathstroke and starts fighting him while Robin goes to check on Talia. Seeing that he is losing the fight Deathstroke blows up a nearby van. In all the chaos the Robin orders the League of Shadows to get his mother to safety.
Robin then goes to find his grandfather. He notices a grenade near Ra’s body. Robin tries to get to Ra’s but is unable to get there in time before the grenade blows up. Seeing this Batman quickly swings Robin to safety.
Damian calls out his father for not being able to save Ra’s with tears gushing from his eyes. Bruce hugs Damian, saying he saved him because Damian is his son. Bruce then asks Damian to come home.
Damian admits that prior to this he wanted to tell his father everything he has been up to and about the friends he has made but after now losing two grandfather’s because of Bruce’s choices he isn’t sure anymore. Bruce says that if he was there he would’ve saved Alfred. Stunned from hearing his father say this Damian walks away in disgust while saying he is going to get Deathstroke dead or alive.
In Nepal the League of Shadows bring Talia to a Lazarus Pit but Talia gets up before being put in. Talia says she wants her doctors to treat her and to make the call to assemble The Demon’s Shadow to kill Deathstroke and everyone connected to Slade Wilson.
Over in Zandia at the headquarters of Deathstroke Inc., Deadline and Prometheus angrily call out Deathstroke for killing Ra’s Al Ghul. Deathstroke doesn’t know what they are talking about since he has been training his son, Respawn (the genetically engineered son of Slade Wilson and Talia Al Ghul created by Ra’s Al Ghul), this entire time. As Deathstroke realizes he has been set up The Demon’s Shadow burst into Deathstroke Inc looking to kill Slade. End of issue.
There is no time wasted into getting the Batman, Deathstroke Inc., and Robin titles connected together for the Shadow War. Joshua Williamson, the current writer for all three titles involved in this crossover, understood what he needed to do to quickly establish why we are having this story. Having that connective thread be Ra’s Al Ghul is something fans of the three titles will instantly understand and be invested into finding out what happens next.
The instant investment was key as some readers may be looking to pass on a crossover that involves having to pick up two or more comic books a month to get the full story. Williamson shows an understanding of selling the reader on Shadow War by giving a strong reason why all readers should stick around. There is a lot of heart given to the narrative threads for Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, Talia Al Ghul, and Slade Wilson that all connects these characters from the three titles involved.
Right away centering Shadow War: Alpha #1 around the current state of Ra’s Al Ghul, as after hundreds of years, is suffering from the effects of using the Lazarus Pit his entire life got your eye brows to raise. This is a state even at his worst we haven’t seen Ra’s Al Ghul before. Being closer than ever to death seeing Ra’s reflect on what he should do now after accepting being part of a family with Talia and Damian was a great narrative choice.
You get thrown off as the reader because this self-reflective Ra’s isn’t what your used to. It makes his announcement that he does want to help lead the world to a brighter future by not destroying people have a stronger impact. The set-up for his character before this moment made you understand why he is doing this. Which leads to his assassination to be even more shocking as it wasn’t the result that you expected to be what officially kicks of the Shadow War crossover.
In the lead up to Ra’s assassination Williamson does a lot of great character work with Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne, and Talia Al Ghul’s characters. With Damian and Talia their mother-son relationship has never been better with Talia accepting the person her son has become. Their training scene showed how far both have come from their separate journeys over the years. Creating this connection made you feel their respective heartbreak over Ra’s assassination even more as you understand why they are now both driven to kill Deathstroke.
With Bruce, unsurprisingly we see that he still has a hard time not keeping Damian at arms reach. This attitude from Bruce is given a greater spotlight with how Barbara Gordon continuously urges Bruce to hug his son. Even when Bruce does finally have his moment of being a father to Damian when hugging his son after Ra’s death it doesn’t fully heal their relationship. The tension that exists between the two isn’t something that can disappear with one hug.
That is shown with how Bruce without thinking fires back at Damian that he would’ve saved Alfred if he was in Damian’s spot when his son says he lost two grandfathers now. It is one thing for Bruce to say this, which was already terrible, but the way he said it without a second of silence in between hit hard. This was clearly something Bruce has been thinking ever since Alfred’s death and has been wanting to say out loud the entire time. Now there are serious questions if Bruce and Damian’s relationship can ever be repaired, which hopefully is something we do see answered in Shadow War.
The Deathstroke side of things is where Shadow War: Alpha #1 is hit-or-miss with me. On one end the mystery around who was the person that dressed up as Deathstroke to assassinate Ra’s Al Ghul is intriguing. There are many possibilities given all the enemies that Batman, Robin, Talia, Ra’s, and Deathstroke have. Though that intrigue is tempered a bit given how much we’ve seen clones be involved with Slade Wilson’s story. It is tough to even feel bad for Slade being set-up in this way as nothing DC Comics have done has made him a compelling anti-hero, which in turn makes him lose points as a villain.
Viktor Bogdanovic was solid throughout Shadow War: Alpha #1. Bogdanovic brought a strong energy the different emotional beats that were hit with where Batman, Robin, Talia Al Ghul, and Ra’s Al Ghul’s arcs went. The emotionally charged scene between Bruce and Damian especially stuck out with the way Bogdanovic drew the character reactions. The only thing that did hold the art back a little was having two inkers as you could see how Bogdanovic and Daniel Henriques inking change the way the art look.
Overall, Joshua Williamson accomplished what was needed to be done to sell readers of the Batman, Robin, and Deathstroke Inc titles on the Shadow War crossover. The motivations for all the characters involved are made clear with the stakes already set at a high level. Where things go from where Shadow War: Alpha #1 leaves off will drive a lot of excitement for the rest of this crossover event.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10