The League of Shadows has torn through every member of Batman’s team, and it doesn’t look good for Gotham City. Whatever Lady Shiva is planning, it’s brutal. The last issue ended with Batwoman being stabbed in front of her father, while Batman ran into Ra’s Al Ghul in the Batcave. Even by the end of this comic, Ra’s motives are unknown.
Written by James Tynion IV, this entire League of Shadows story arc is intense. There isn’t too much to say about this issue without spoiling it, considering there’s a lot of exposition. Ra’s explains a lot about the League of Shadows and the power struggle within, but without revealing the plans for either his group or Lady Shiva’s. It’s all fascinating stuff, and adds a lot of depth to this very intense story arc. Just in case the idea of an exposition heavy issue sounds like a chore to read, Batman’s doubt that the group exists helps keep the writing interesting. The narrative also briefly looks at Colonel Kane’s side of the story to weave a bit of action and build-up into the exposition, keeping the pacing going. While there isn’t much action in this particular issue, it’s a necessary break considering how much there has been so far, and the ending teaser promises that the next issue will get right back to the action in full force.
The art by Marcio Takara is good, even if it feels like he’s a rushed fill-in artist here and the quality seems to vary. I have seen better from him. There’s a smooth appearance to everything. What little action there is in this comic feels intense, like when Uba, Ra’s assistant starts throwing Batman around, and there are good use of motion lines. Facial expressions do a good job at conveying emotions, like Ra’s smug smiles as he’s explaining to Batman that the League of Shadows does exist, Lady Shiva’s subtle raised eyebrow when she clearly doesn’t know how to feel about Ra’s move after they meet in this comic, and the sheer determination in Colonel Kane’s face when he’s trying to break out of his cell. The flashbacks move to a much simpler, classic look that works quite well. Marcelo Maiolo’s colouring is great. There’s fantastic use of shadows in the dark, glowing from the energy-based cell in the Batcave during Batman’s conversation with Ra’s, and there are times when the eyes really stand out in the right ways.
Detective Comics 954 manages to take a mostly exposition issue and makes it entertaining to read, thanks to the clear hostility between Batman and Ra’s and smartly placed interludes. That’s not to say this comic is perfect – the art varies in quality, and I’m willing to guess it’s because Takara was rushed here, but it’s still at least good. If the idea of a Batman team book interests you, then you should be reading this series.