Shadow War Zone #1 review

The longer the Shadow War event continues, the less it seems like a war and the more it resembles a hunt. Shadow War centers on the death of a major Batman villain and the subsequent clash between the League of Shadows and the Secret Society of Supervillains. The four stories of the Shadow War Zone #1 tie-in focuses on separate backstories and incidents designed to expand the main story. As expected, some visions work better than others.

“Old Friends”

Written by Joshua Williams and interior art by Otto Schmidt.

Otto Schmidt has a recognizable art style. The colorfully animated look of his digital paints compliments the dynamic character designs. Although the design of the main villainess is very metal and may not appeal to some not into the edginess. The layout has an economical use of space and as a result feels very neat.

William’s story surrounds Black Canary being hunted by Deathstroke’s enemies in the League of Shadows because of her time in T.R.U.S.T. The bulk of the story happens in a single setting roadside clash with Angel Breaker of the Demon’s Shadow. Despite being Angel Breaker’s debut in this event, she is written as if she was an old friend of Dinah’s or rather a student. Ultimately it is set up similar to a fighting game. Otto’s familiar use of the canary cry from his Green Arrow run is a stand out visual. Most of the art is fighting and most of the dialogue involves reminiscing or banter.  The overall reasoning for the fight requires reader investment in Black Canary’s relationship with Angel Breaker, but its conclusion has nearly no larger implications on the story to come.

Score: 6/10

“Inner Demon”

Written by Nadia Shammas and drawn by Sweeney Boo.

Inner Demon more intimately follows a young Talia Al Ghul as she rebels against her destiny as the Demon’s Head. What makes this story unique is the way Talia is written like a Disney Princess. The entire vibe of the story fits the angsty young adult tone and colorful character design palettes reminiscent of Disney’s Pocahontas, Mulan, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Especially Sweeney Boo’s version of Mother Soul, who resembles a fusion of Princess Kida from Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas.

While the art style may fit the narrative, I don’t believe it works as a part of the tie-in. Shadow War thus far has been a somewhat serious battle between two major villain organizations in the DC Universe. However, any one of the characters in Inner Demon could break out in song. This particular story is told in flashbacks about fledgling Talia’s fears of not seeing her true potential, her old friend Amal, and her relationship to her family.

The only portion that connects to Shadow War relates to the secret of the Lazarus Pits first hinted at in RobinThe reader’s feelings on the story overall depends on if you actually can relate to Talia’s plight or can invest in the mystery teased about the Lazarus Pits. If you’re into the art style it can be cute but ultimately open ended.

Score: 5.5/10

“Panic Room”

Written by Ed Brisson and art by Mike Browden.

Ghostmaker traps his new sidekick in a panic room and forces him to defend Black Spider from a series of ninjas. Ed Brisson writes a hair raising scenario for those interested in knowing more about Ghostmaker’s thought process, but provides another ire provoking excuse for those who hate the character. Brisson does use a dark sense of humor to make him easier to handle depending on who you ask.

From what I can tell, Ghostmaker is designed to be a chaotic good character aligned with the infamous “Goddamn Batman” from the All-Star Batman series by Frank Miller. The way his tactics are written conclude that he is supposed to be a cold, calculating, sociopathic version of Batman that unfortunately for some, isn’t going anywhere for a while. Additionally, readers finally get to see the results of the off panel training for the similarly infamous Clown Hunter. While the mostly action driven scenario doesn’t offer much in the way of character development, it does become an example of what to expect in the Batman Incorporated revival.

Mike Browden’s line art is extremely inconsistent in proportions and figure/shape relationships. In some panels Clown Hunter is sometimes as tall as the ninjas or the size of Robin. The foreshortening is completely exaggerated in some of the action scenes. I also have to mention Antonio Fabela’s ugly blue, brown, and violet color palette. None of the art or color harmonizes and is not pleasing to the eye. Outside of the premise alone, it is the worst story in the tie-in, but ironically the most relevant.

Score: 3/10

“Ninjas At The Arcade”

Written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Ann Marlina.

A Harley Quinn centered story about the clown fighting off ninjas in an arcade while being evaluated by an off-panel neutral party intending on recruiting her. Right off the bat, the story uses a lot of humor and slapstick to characterize Harley visually. This visual information contrasts with the deeply serious analysis of her morality and capabilities. 

Harley Quinn is a DC favorite with a lot of pros and cons brought into the conversation of the issue. Things about Harley Quinn that have been points of debate can be seen as pros or cons depending on a writer’s intentions. For instance, one writer might be interested in utilizing her time as a major Arkham psychologist to connect with or analyze opponents. Other writers could cite her problematic connection with the Joker or Amanda Waller as reasons not to trust her. Some fans love the feats she accomplishes like leading the Suicide Squad, or hate her being able to escape the Trinity of the Justice League. Fans might lean one side or another of her infamous popularity, but the looney character won’t sway. Harley can be drawn bouncing off the walls to attack a swath of ninjas in an arcade and still not be affected by debates about her capability on the page or off. 

From a narrative perspective, this issue does absolutely nothing to help the Shadow War event, but from an isolated look at Harley Quinn it proves the character will thrive despite what anyone thinks of her.

Score: 6.5/10

 

Recommended If

  • Otto Schmidt’s version of Black Canary is missed.
  • You are keeping up with Shadow War completely.
  • Talia Al Ghul ever reminded you of a Disney Princess (Or love Disney Princesses and Tumblr in general)
  • You have a need to see Harley Quinn fight ninjas without a care in the world.

Overall

Most of these stories do not accomplish much for the overall “war” happening across the DC event. Shadow Warzone #1 feels more like an obligation than something absolutely essential to the plot. I object to the use of the term war or warzone if there isn’t a reasonable use of war-like settings or campaigns. At this point DC Editorial is religiously abusing the term. What was so hard about calling it “Shadow Hunt?” That aside, a few stories like “Old Friends” and “Inner Demon” could be fun little reads, while just saying the names Harley Quinn or Ghostmaker will draw absolute controversy no matter what. Even with the boon of the artwork, each story is still largely mediocre. This book is the epitome of optional tie-in.

Final Score: 4/10


DISCLAIMER: “DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.


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