At the beginning of DC Rebirth, both Tom King and James Tynion IV were putting new spins the Bat-mythos with their respected runs of Batman and Detective Comics. Based on their first volumes, Tynion’s Detective was more ambitious in making it more about the sense of family with Bruce Wayne pairing up with his cousin Kate Kane/Batwoman to recruit a team of vigilantes that would protect Gotham. However, it’s been over a year since DC did their big relaunch and although the Dark Knight Detective will always come out on top, every subsequent installment from this run fails to stay strong.
Following the departure of Stephanie Brown/Spoiler who is still coping with the apparent death of Tim Drake/Red Robin, Batman still tries to maintain order with his fractured team, with new members including Luke Fox/Batwing and Jean-Paul Valley/Azrael. However, another evil strikes at the heart of the city when what started as a rumor is now a reality with the arrival of the League of Shadows, led by Lady Shiva, who has a personal connection to Cassandra Cain/Orphan.
The first problem that immediately comes up with this volume is the title "League of Shadows" — despite some slight retconning and trying to play up a big mystery, Tynion sticks very close to what came previously, whether it be Batman Begins or any story that involves the Dark Knight battling ninjas. Although it sets up Lady Shiva as the central antagonist who has a personal history with the likes of Batman and Orphan, Tynion seems to sidetrack her by setting up a bigger story coming in later issues with a huge ensemble being thrown to the mix, causing you to forget what the story is.
Considering that this title is more a superhero team-up than a detective story, it occasionally struggles to give every team member a moment to shine and in this case where there are huge machinations in the plot, the heroes are just reacting and never do we get to see any intimacy. Most notably, Azrael is just kinda there, and it’s only one boring backup feature where he discusses science and religion with Batwing.
What has worked about this run is the interactions between the young heroes who are more than mere sidekicks, such as the touching romance between Tim Drake and Stephanie Brown. With them now out of the equation, however, the only youthful spirit that lies within the team is Cassandra Cain.
In the prologue issue of "League of Shadows," we see Orphan — born and raised to follow her father’s footsteps as an assassin — is fascinated by a ballet dancer and as someone who can rarely say a word and communicates through physical movements, she tries to imitate the choreography from this other girl. This internal conflict from Cassandra being more than what she was initially trained to be is something that is evoked throughout this arc and is the closest to being the beating heart of this overt extravaganza.
Although the book’s initial artist Eddy Burrows only does a backup feature for this volume, the predominant artists here are Marcio Takara and Christian Duce, both of which have distinct art styles. As such, the transition between one another is very jarring. However, Takara’s art stands out the best as although his illustrations are loose, he crafts impressive action sequences, mostly comprising of hack-and-slash ninjas, that is reminiscent of Frank Miller’s work from the 1980s.
Third time is sadly not the charm, as James Tynion IV is once again evoking too much of Batman’s history, causing this story to get sidetracked by an even grander story on the horizon, which frankly negates the team dynamic that made this run of Detective Comics interesting to begin with.