Springing from Josh Williamson’s “Shadow War” crossover event is Shadow War Zone #1, an anthology special. This special features Williamson and Otto Schmidt on an opening story along with multiple creative teams aiming to flesh out what supporting characters are up to during this event. If you’re just joining us, Ra’s al Ghul is dead, creating a war between Talia and the al Ghul army against Deathstroke, but Deathstroke has been framed! Not everyone knows that, but some do and are trying to avoid a lot of death.
The opening story features Black Canary, who has some history with Deathstroke. This story delves into the character and reminds us she’s a Justice League-caliber hero. It also features a character named Angel Breaker who is brand new and seems to have some history with Black Canary. The design is cool, like a ninja mixed with a knight. This story features a fight scene between the two in a great double-page splash not to be missed. Not a lot is given about Angel Breaker, but this story makes me want to learn more.
Following this is a flashback story centered on Talia al Ghul by Nadia Shammas and Sweeney Boo. Talia is in her teens and wants to rebel from the system her father has forced her to live in. Shammas does a good job here showing us how Talia is still young, but her spirit and character are very present. You can see how she’ll grow up to fight against her family. This story also heavily ties into recent events and revelations in Williamson’s Robin series, further validating and enriching the new approach to the al Ghul family.
The art in this story uses a lot of green glow effects with a subtle but pleasing outline around much of what we see in environments and characters. There’s a magical nature to neon colors that creates a good atmosphere and supernatural vibes around the Lazarus pits.
Next up, Ed Brisson and Mike Bowden focus on Clownhunter, Ghost-Maker, and Black Spider. They’re fighting off a bunch of the League of Shadows ninjas who want Black Spider dead. This story does well to show Clownhunter is getting trained and maybe a new official edition to the Batman family. Then again, maybe Ghost-Maker is building up his own family who may not mind killing bad guys. The art has a cartoony look and feels not unlike what we’ve seen in Deadpool comics. It makes it easier to swallow Clownhunter’s rooster-looking helmet.
Stephanie Phillips and Ann Maulina close out the issue with a Harley Quinn tale. She’s also being chased by ninjas, but through the power of her ingenuity, cleverness, and an arcade she lures them into, she’s unstoppable. Phillips tells the tale mostly via captions and they do well to remind us how great Harley is, but also how she’s grown a lot over the years. She’s also a bit bonkers and fun. The end of the story shouldn’t be missed by Harley Quinn fans as it appears more is to come involving some heroes who have their eyes on her.
All in all, Shadow War Zone #1 is a good anthology, although in general, it doesn’t tie too heavily into the crossover event. It reads more like good taste testers and starters for bigger stories to come, which is a good thing, but it’s not quite what this book is selling given the event itself. Pick up this issue if you like any of the characters above, but skip it if you’re looking for Shadow War developments.
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