Anyway, this was the grand finale of the League of Shadows arc and I…have no complaints? James Tynion IV’s script is sharp and intelligent, while the team of Takara and Maiolo once again bring beauty out of the shadows; pun not entirely intended.
I rarely do have complaints, but I will say that this time around it was just a tad more difficult for me to parse together what Shiva was actually trying to do here. And that’s still including the whole white supremacist expy thing that the League of Shadows mostly is. But we’ll get there.
Jacob Kane And The Second Wife He Didn’t Forget About (Featuring: A Dipshit)
Okay, I kind of have to ask about this one. I mean, yes, we open with the Detective Comics team closing in on Shiva, who is super sure that she’s not pure evil (more on that later), but this is a moment that surprised me for a funny reason. See, since January, and possibly earlier, I’ve been making jokes about Catherine Hamilton-Kane, Kate’s step-mom, being completely in the dark about Jacob’s current status after the events of Rise of the Batmen. Mostly because I thought it would be funny if she had no idea what was going on for months on end since Kate wasn’t about to tell her that he was alive or anything like that. It’s not that they hate one another, but it really seems like the kind of thing that would just sort of…slip Kate’s mind. Or she’d just avoid the estate altogether after her brief pop-in in Detective Comics #935. So, then this happens, which seems eerily reminiscent what I teased Jacob about in Detective Comics #952:
So, James, if I have my math right, and since you apparently read all of these reviews I’ve been doing (howdy!) then…kinda gotta wonder if you tweaked the script here after seeing all the jokes. It doesn’t look massaged or anything like that, but you can’t really blame me for wondering. Either way, it doesn’t really matter; I just think it’s funny.
What does matter is that it’s becoming pretty clear that Ulysses is pretty much universally hated by the entire Colony which…suggests some things.
Since he’s a teenager, why would he be working for the military unless he had to be there? So, most likely explanation is that he’s one of those kids that hacked into the Pentagon or something and “knows too much”, so they had to stick him somewhere. Where else but the one place he could be as crazy as possible and that wouldn’t be as weird as like, DARPA or something? Seriously, this kid is psychotic. I don’t want him to die, but maybe get smacked around in the face by Tim and Steph for a few…hours.
Anyway, Jacob swears vengeance on Shiva for, as far as he knows since the League of Shadows doesn’t take prisoners, murdering Kate, and I start holding my breath because he might be repeating a mistake that has haunted him about half his life. The one where he doesn’t get physical confirmation of death.
Kate Kane And The Lady Shiva Vs The World
Kylie and I couldn’t stop laughing at how hard Kate got curb-stomped out of this fight. Yes, it served a clever purpose, but damnit if the staging wasn’t particularly hilarious. She got kicked right in the stab wound maybe five seconds after the fight started again, and the way it’s drawn makes it look like Shiva swept Kate around with her heel, in mid-air, and then tried to crush her ribs before she even hit the ground. Man, if she can take a beating from Bane and Batman and not blackout, imagine just how hard Shiva hits.
Right, so Clayface, being a mensch, high tails it out of there and we’re left with Shiva grandstanding about how things are way more complicated than they seem. She sees herself…well, not as a hero, but not quite the villain, either. Not that anyone truly believes that they themselves are evil, even if they are. But it’s the way this is delivered, along with the rest of the arc, that reminds me a lot of what Jacob argued during Rise of the Batmen. Not that “the greater good” is uncommon, but they’re both working towards a better world. Shiva, however, has a far more complicated motivation behind all this. That is, if I’m right.
So, we know that Shiva is a thorn in Ra’s Al Ghul’s side. He’s not happy with how she’s perverted the League of Shadows, and he couldn’t stop her alone. This implies that she wasn’t aware that she, and her shadows, were being used as tools instead of actual parts of the larger goal. Now, depending on the writer, the actual endgame of the League of Assassins can vary pretty wildly, but let’s settle on the whole eco-terrorist/world manipulation for the moment. Pretty sure that’s what it is over in All-Star Batman so there’s no reason that wouldn’t carry over here. Also it’s the coolest one, in my opinion, so there’s that.
The League of Assassins want to destroy large swaths of humanity due to their corruption, greed and over-population. They believe that manipulating nations and politicians, and entire wars, that they can guide the world into a true utopia that won’t blow up the planet. They’ve been doing this for centuries with Ra’s as their leader because he’s pseudo-immortal. Shiva’s goals seem to link up with this at first glance, trying to obliterate a city that many believe to be pure evil itself. However, when we consider the whole white supremacist thing, which inherently ties into the violent anti-establishment movement, things start to fall into place.
Shiva mentions wealth, specifically that Ra’s has enough of it tied into Gotham that the only way to stop him is to obliterate the entire county. Then she goes off saying that Cassandra is being manipulated into oppressing herself…though she doesn’t say who it is that’s manipulating her. We’re supposed to assume that it’s Batman, but I don’t think that’s what she means. I think it’s Ra’s. I think Ra’s al Ghul figured out long ago what would happen if his endgame ever truly came to fruition: he would no longer be needed, and he would finally die.
In a perfect world, a utopia, there would be no need for the League of Assassins, and thus no Ra’s al Ghul. There also wouldn’t be a need for Superman either, but that’s a whole other thing. So, what if Shiva, in that flashback we see in a place that totally isn’t Nanda Parbat, was finally shown that her efforts as the leader of the League of Shadows were never meant to further the cause at all. That she was never to complete the mission, only constantly delay it so Ra’s, in his hypocrisy, could continue to live for century after century, toying with humanity and the world at large. The her purpose is meaningless.
It would explain, in no uncertain terms, exactly why Ra’s al Ghul never “succeeded” centuries ago, or even recently. He doesn’t want to, since in the end he’s just as human as anyone else…and he likes the power he wields. It never made sense to me that the League of Assassins didn’t just “go for it” when they’re fully capable of doing so, but this would put those questions to rest. If I’m right, that is.
Hell, it could all be connected to the Rebirth mystery, or even just more set-up for this summer’s Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo in which maybe Greg will finally draw Kate. He’s drawn every other member of the primary Batfamily except her. Aside from that one little childhood portrait in Philip Kane’s office during the Zero Year lead-up, but that doesn’t count!
Ahem, anyway. There’s that whole thing with Cass and believing that wounding someone, so that they can heal and thus possibly learn and rehabilitate, is far more effective at changing the world than just murdering people. I’d dig into it more, but that’s…that’s literally it. I mean, I’m not trying to discount how great that is, because it is great, but it’s not hidden or anything.
Parenting 101: Don’t Be Shiva
As the nanoswarm moves further into the caves, Jacob delays the order for them to engage once they find a bunch of not-entirely-dead shadows scattered across the tunnels. Jacob, being smart, realizes that the only people he knows that would leave these kind of people alive are the Detective Comics team. After they come across Clayface disguising himself and an unconscious Kate (in an unfortunate yet necessary reference to the end of Batwoman vol 6) as the enemy, with Basil deciding to drop Kate long enough to…eat the bugs? I don’t know what he was gonna do, but thank God he did, because we get this bit after Ulysses’ eyes nearly explode out of his head:
This reminds me so much of the ending of The Last Of Us, where the player isn’t given a choice to sacrifice the teenage girl, Ellie, they’ve been travelling with for the whole game in order to save humanity from a fungus infection because of her unique immunity to it. The process by which a cure could be developed would kill her, and in the end the player character, Joel, who already lost a daughter in the prologue of the game, slaughters his way through a refurbished hospital and murders some of the last brain surgeons on the planet. I’m not a parent (yet) so for me it seemed odd that there wasn’t a choice here. For players who were parents, they were completely within Joel’s mindset: humanity can shut up and die if they think they can take their child away.
Which, well, that does make sense. You would hope for parents with that mentality, right? So here’s Jacob Kane totally willing to throw his entire career of military service (he kinda already did that but even so) away because he knows full well that his daughter can shrug off stab wounds like a rhino. And even if he didn’t know that, he’s betting the lives of over nine million people against Kate’s. Because he sure as hell isn’t leaving her die to like he did to Beth. That, and he’s not, y’know, a bad father. In case anyone needed a reminder of that.
Oh and then Shiva gets shot to death, and Ra’s basically telegraphs that he’s just gonna dump her body in a Lazarus Pit to torture her for information, so she’ll be back.
Closing Time With Bruce And Kate! Vol 2
Much like the end of Victim Syndicate, we close out our story arc with Bruce and Kate talking one-on-one. Except this time things are a whole lot more calm than last time. For one, nobody died (technically) or left the team! And also Kate’s in a tuxedo and cane, which is a clever reference to that time she was stabbed in the heart and needed a cane to walk around for some reason. It also looks like the same tux she wore during the events of Elegy, almost exactly 100 issues of Detective Comics prior.
Anyway, they’re going to the ballet, Kate is totally fine, Jacob’s gone for now, and Bruce does a very Batman thing: he starts that little “end of episode” one-liner he’s so used to using and assumes the conversation is over. Except, much like that amazing page in Detective Comics #945 where he forgets that Kate isn’t Jim Gordon, uh, Kate sort of breaks the game? And trope? And everything?This might be the single most clever joke in the series so far. I’m not exaggerating. I cracked up so hard at this, because it’s just—that’s how much things have changed. Bruce can’t just run off to do the thing anymore. He’s got a team, and a partner. And sure, it still might take some getting used to for him…but it’s that little pause there that sells it. That ellipses, that just says so damn much. Seriously, if you look at the top panel there you can erase Kate and the composition still works. Which is part of the beauty of it.
There’s a good reason I used that panel of Bruce freaking out at Luke as the banner. It’s because it’s perfect. Jean-Paul and Luke had an amazing cut-away gag, if one can even call it that, while trying to disarm the nuke. Really, aside from us not seeing Bruce’s reaction to Tim’s memorial having been vandalized, which I’m sure we’ll get to when Zatanna (all of my yes) shows up next month, this issue, and arc, were nothing short of phenomenal. Which, I know, big surprise. Still, we’re doing number scale reviews now, so if I had to assign a number…
10 is not meant to be…perfection? I know some people operate like that, but perfection is impossible so this is more like “the best possible execution, within reason, of an already fantastic premise/idea/concept”. So if you’re wondering if it’d be better with, say, a different artist, that’s not what I’m saying. These were the factors and variables involved, and this is the final product we got. Just so happens that it was amazing.
NEXT WEEK: Batwoman #3!
IN TWO WEEKS: Stephanie Brown and Genevieve Valentine make their triumphant return! Also the Wrath, or something.
DETECTIVE COMICS #956
Writer: James Tynion IV
Pencils/Inks: Marcio Takara
Colors: Marcelo Maiolo
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Images courtesy of DC Comics