The League of Shadows arc has been really intense. It started with Lady Shiva invading Gotham City with an army of assassins, often disguised as normal people. As the story went on, Batman started losing his allies all over the place, the mayor was assassinated, and a bomb was planted underneath the city that would cause Gotham City to cave in and flood. As Lady Shiva’s daughter, Cassandra Cain ended up being the main dramatic focus for this story arc, and it worked very well.
Written by James Tynion IV, Detective Comics 956 concludes the League of Shadows story arc with a very intense closer. The comic opens with Batman’s full team, now reunited, against Lady Shiva and her most dangerous followers. There’s other stuff going on involving Batwoman’s father, but it’s best to leave that for when you read this comic. The battle itself pits Cassandra Cain against her mother in a powerful duel of both fists and words, with Cassandra speaking a lot more than usual. It still fits her character’s minimalistic language, which is part of why it works from a dramatic standpoint. She’s angry and she’s got something to prove.
Each of the other characters are touched on a bit as well. For example, Batwoman’s wounds from a couple issues ago come into play, essentially taking her out of the fight. Batwing focuses his efforts on defusing the bomb. And while Batman is no match for Lady Shiva from a skill standpoint, he doesn’t give up until Cassandra Cain really starts unleashing herself. As satisfying as this conclusion is, there’s still a lot of unresolved mystery to drive this comic forward. There’s still a lot of character drama left to explore, like Kate Kane’s strained relationship with her father that seems to be mending lately, there’s whatever’s happening with Spoiler (who’s not in this issue), and whatever intentionally unreadable message Lady Shiva gave Cassandra Cain before [redacted]. It all comes together for a fantastic comic that contains plenty of action, great dialogue, intense drama and a fascinating story.
The art by Marcio Takara is great. For the most part the backgrounds are minimalist, but since it takes place in the sewers, that’s fine. The action itself feels intense, with a great flow between panels and facial expressions showing the pain characters feel when they’re hit. There’s a lot of subtle work with characters’ eyes that express anger, fatigue, excitement, sorrow and a touch of reflection. Takara’s style always seems to emphasize the eyes, and why not? He’s really good at drawing eyes. The backgrounds become a lot more detailed at the end of the comic, with the lights of Gotham City’s nighttime skyline highlighting the buildings form the window. Marcelo Maiolo’s colouring is also great. There’s a lot of red in the background that emphasizes the brutality of the action, but it’s balanced out by more colour variety in scenes outside of the sewers. There’s also great use of shadows and monitor glows illuminating characters’ faces.
Like I said in the All-New Wolverine 20 review, I’m not yet sure which of these two are my favourite comic of the week. This one is the darker and more dramatic comic of the two, while ANW is more balanced between action, drama and fun. Since this is the final issue in a brilliant story arc, it is more satisfying. Detective Comics as a whole is a Batman team book that should be read by fans of the Batman franchise, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, you’re making a mistake.