League of Shadows: Detective Comics #952 (REVIEW)
No matter what happens, there will be no "soft", non-consequential ending to this League of Shadows arc in Detective Comics. Clearly, by the time this whole thing wraps up, something will be changed within the New Outsiders. Detective Comics #952 is a pretty big truck, and it comes at you fairly relentlessly. So buckle up; the limbs of the tree are about to be shaken.
Detective Comics #952 picks up with the ambush of Batman and the New Outsiders at the hands of the League of Shadows. Last issue, the team was lured to a park in Gotham where it appeared that a bunch of people had been dosed with Joker gas. But it turned out to be a bunch of Leaguers ready to put the beat-down to the New Outsiders. This issue starts the fight in earnest. The team engages, we get to see a rare power from Clayface, there are casualties, and Orphan goes toe-to-toe with her Mom in an emotional sequence that was quite unexpected.
It is rare that I find a story so very interesting that it overrides my issues with the art to the point where it still gains the score that I will be giving it at the end. Tynion kind of went a bit hog wild with all of the story beats that he squeezed into this issue. I've checked several times to ensure that this book was a regular issues and not 33 pages. And that's even more of a feat given that this is a team book, and has a cast of six characters minimum. We open up with a scene between Shiva and Ra's Al Ghul, which is an interchange that I've been waiting to see since this whole thing started coiling up two issue ago. And we get to see her combat prowess as she takes apart a platoon of BatSpecOPS. At that point, I was not sure that I had not missed a panel somewhere in the last dozen issues where General Kane's Bat-crazy operatives were working with the League of Assassin's at some point? There are many other big moments in this issue and it kind of feels like what I remember an 80s Justice League comic to be. But most important is the closing scene when we see Orphan break down, lamenting the horror of the woman that she now knows to be her mother. Orphan has been trying to walk herself back away from the murderer that she was raised to be for several issues now. To now see what cloth she was cut from is a traumatic thing, but until now we have not been exposed to her being so open with her emotions. I love the plot-line of her totally embracing Bruce as her lead and mentor and her opening up to leaning on him for emotional support. Which I think will be as much good for Bruce in the wake of Tim's death as it will be for Orphan.
On art, I was tempted to knock the book's score down by a half-point, but I chose not to. In some parts that is because I insist on scoring a comic as soon as I get done reading it and not changing the score. But I convinced myself to stick to that policy because I do not really have a problem with anything the artists themselves did as individuals. Each of their efforts was on point. I just have a problem with the number who had to work this one issue and the inconsistency it gives the book. It is a dynamic driven by DC's editorial program to put their major titles out every two weeks, and it often leads to problems like this. However, because I was pleased with everyone's art as individuals, I determined to stick with the original score.
Rafael Albuquerque has been doing the variant covers on this title for several issues. And his are usually the better cover. This week is the first one that I have felt where the regular cover gave Albuquerque's a run for its money. That Dave Wielgosz cover is creepy as fushnickens. With as many artists as there were on this book (5 pencilers in total), at least they tried to make their pages sensible by cutting scenes from one vignette to the next with an artist change; another reason it was not as jarring to me as some other multi-artist issues have been. The big portrait splash panel of Batman and the New Outsiders taking on dozens of Shadows is painting-worthy. There is a jaw-dropping sequence where Clayface pulls a Multiplicity and splits apart into dozens of Clayfaces. The art here is excellent as well. I could go on, but the basic story is that as each artist comes and goes, they each do an excellent bit of story-telling, adding emotional weight where appropriate, and high-fives invoked by scenes of Bat-team bad-assery.
SCORE: 9.0 / 10.0
When this issue was all over, I had to take a breath. It was tense, with big drum beats and reveals along the way. It felt like watching a season finale of a CW show, yet this is only the second issue in this arc (discounting the preview that was in the recent anniversary issue). So now it's up to Tynion to continue delivering the same caliber of entertainment for the remaining 4 issues. A tough feat to pull off, but as this has become what to me is the headliner Batman title*, I believe Tynion has the chops to do just that. He is relatively young in comparison to the current industry luminaries, but make no mistake. This is Tynion IV's best work, and he has definitely been growing and working his craft to arrive at a point where he can pull a story like this together. It's good stuff, and I can see even greater work in his future.
* - though King and Snyder's titles are very, VERY good, and if you are reading all three you are experiencing a Batman renaissance the likes of which we may have never seen