Review: BATMAN #122
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artists: Howard Porter, Trevor Hairsine
Colors: Tomeu Morey, Rain Beredo
Letters: Clayton Cowles, Willie Schubert
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Batman #122: Ra’s al Ghul is dead, and Talia is out for revenge! Batman is on the case to find Deathstroke before Talia’s elite killers do! But Batman starts to piece together that not everything is what it seems in Ra’s’s death…and knows whom he must interrogate to get answers…Talia herself! Can the two former lovers ever work together again? Plus, a backup tale showing the secret first fight between Batman and Deathstroke!
Joshua Williamson’s Shadow War crossover event continues from Shadow War: Alpha #1. In that opening chapter Deathstroke has been framed for the assassination of Ra’s Al Ghul. His death leaves Talia in control of the League of Assassins. And Talia declares war on Deathstroke Inc., intending to kill Deathstroke in revenge for her father’s death.
This story is particularly notable for bringing Batman and Robin back together as a team. Damian ended their partnership recently, and had left Batman and Detective Comics for his own title Robin. But this current story has brought Bruce and Damian together to deal with this mystery. But will their partnership be re-established in this story? Or will it drive them further apart?
And Ra’s death is an enticing mystery. There’s many ways this story might end. It’s possible that some as yet unknown person masterminded this plan, and posed as Deathstroke. However, it seems quite possible to me that Deathstroke might actually have somehow orchestrated the villain’s death. However, it’s also believable that Talia might have killed her own father to take control of his organization and to move in on Deathstroke Inc. And there’s also the possibility that Ra’s masterminded his own apparent death, and that he’s not really dead.
Such a mystery will undoubtedly require Bruce to exercise his skills as a detective. And it will also give us opportunity to see how much Damian has learned those skills from him. And with them caught between the League of Assassins and Deathstroke Inc. their fighting prowess will be sorely tested as well.
There is an interesting encounter between Bruce and Talia in Batman #122. The encounter starts off confrontational with each taking an accusatory tone. However, it segues into a tender moment and they end up in a kiss. They clearly still have unresolved feelings for each other. Will this story lead to a resumption of their former romance? And if so, what about Bruce’s relationship with Catwoman?
Ultimately, I could see Bruce ending up with Selina, but I can’t see his relationship with Talia going anywhere. Bruce clearly is attracted to bad girls. I think Bruce might be able to build a relationship with a thief like Selina. But Talia is an assassin. And killing goes against Bruce’s most basic beliefs.
At his core, Bruce has an unshakable belief that killing is never acceptable. For Bruce to commit to Talia would be a betrayal to himself and all he believes in. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel desire for her. This conflict between Bruce’s core beliefs and his desire is rife with possibilities, and it would be interesting to see if Chip Zdarsky picks up on this thread when he takes over the title.
There is also a backup story in this issue which reveals the previously untold story of Batman and Deathstroke’s first encounter. In this story, Deathstroke comes to Gotham to carry out a contract on the original Robin, Dick Grayson.
I find this quite interesting, as originally, Deathstroke was a Teen Titans villain. Dick encountered Deathstroke multiple times before Bruce first faced him. But this story turns that dynamic around, with Batman being the first to face the assassin. However, this change is not done in a way that negates the Teen Titans stories. It’s still quite possible for Dick to have those same run-ins with Deathstroke at some point after this story.
The story also gets at a perennial criticism levelled at Batman. First Commissioner Gordon asks of Batman, “You wear black and hide in the shadows. But your partner wears bright colours… Doesn’t that make him an easy target?”. And Deathstroke downright accuses Batman of using Robin as bait. This gets under Bruce’s skin. Perhaps Bruce fears that on some level that is exactly what he is doing. I wonder if this story will have Bruce coming up with a justification for Dick seeming to be an easy target.
I have no complaints about either story. Williamson’s writing is on point, and the artwork of Howard Porter and Trevor Hairsine is gorgeous in each of their respective stories.
However, the fact that this is a crossover between multiple titles might cause annoyance for some readers. To understand the full story, one has to buy regular titles Batman, Robin, and Deathstroke, as well as 3 Shadow War one-shots (Shadow War: Alpha, Shadow War Omega, and Shadow War Zone). So, they might have to buy more titles that they usually would.
However, it is a fairly small crossover event. It’s not like you have to buy the entire Bat-Family of books or the entire DCU lineup of titles. And with Joshua Williamson as the current writer on all three regular titles, this event is a lot more cohesive than most crossovers.
Shadow War is shaping up to be an engaging mystery. I am really looking forward to seeing where Williamson’s story is leading. And also seeing what the status of the Batman and Robin partnership will be as Chip Zdarsky begins his run on Batman.