There is no stopping the Shadow War train this week as we got a second chapter in the crossover event between Batman, Robin, and Deathstroke. As we saw with Deathstroke Inc. #9, things have escalated to the point that Deathstroke’s Secret Society are on a full on war with Talia Al Ghul’s League of Shadows. In the middle of all this is a person who is running around using Deathstroke’s identity to be the one behind Ra’s Al Ghul’s assassination. With all this going on how will Batman and Robin resolve things? Let’s find out with Robin #14.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Roger Cruz
Inker: Norm Rapmund
Colorist: Luis Guerrero
With Deathstroke’s Secret Society attacking The Demon’s Palace Talia Al Ghul’s new recruits decide to run away. Not shaken by this Talia faces Deathstroke alone.
Elsewhere Batman and Robin have teamed up with Batman Inc and head to The Demon’s Palace on the Ghost-Stream. Batman tries to have Robin sit this fight out but Robin asks his father to trust him. Robin then jumps out without a parachute. Batman jumps and catches Robin so they land safely on The Demon’s Palace together.
Batman and Robin then look for Talia while Ghostmaker and Batman Inc. take on Angel Breaker and the League of Shadows. Batman and Robin find Rose Wilson, who reveals that Respawn was killed by the League of Shadows. Taking this news hard Robin runs off to look for his mother.
In another part of The Demon’s Palace Deathstroke and Talia have a back-and-forth fight until Deathstroke gets the upper hand. As Deathstroke overpowers Talia he calls her out as being nothing more than someone always chasing her father. Talia proves Deathstroke wrong by catching his sword with her barehand and stabbing Slade through his stomach.
Deathstroke ends up bleeding to death just as Robin, Rose, and Batman appear.
Before they can take what happened in the fake Deathstroke shows up ready to take down Talia and League of Shadows. Before doing so the fake Deathstroke takes off his disguise to reveal his true identity: Geo-Force. Geo-Force then uses his powers to cause The Demon’s Palace to start to collapse. End of issue.
It says a lot about a comic book that even with its big cliffhanger reveal that doesn’t really even make contact for a hit Robin #14 is still a great read. That just shows how well-balanced Robin #14 is so that even with a disappointing reveal you are so invested in everything else going on that did not matter.
What Robin #14 in particular excels at is giving an equal amount of time to all the major players of the Shadow War crossover. The previous chapter did understandably lean more into developing Deathstroke’s side of the story. Now reading the seventh chapter of Shadow War you can see how building up Deathstroke’s narrative was needed to make what takes place in Robin #14 have the maximum amount of impact.
Even for how chaotic things get with Batman Inc, Secret Society, and the League of Shadows all fighting you still have a clear picture of what is at stake. Keeping the bigger picture in mind all of the fighting is able to show why there really is no winner of this war between factions. The only thing that Shadow War is resulting is blood being shed and lives lost because of someone else pulling the strings of this conflict.
This is where the fake Deathstroke makes for a strong antagonist. When it comes to antagonist plots that is where Geo-Force’s plan to use a Deathstroke disguise to pin Ra’s Al Ghul’s death on Slade Wilson shines. It does show that Geo-Force knew exactly what string to in order to get Talia Al Ghul and Deathstroke to go to war with the only possible outcomes being one or both of them dying.
The only thing that does not work about Geo-Force’s reveal is that it does come out of left field. Geo-Force is a character we haven’t seen in any major way that unless you know his backstory it’s a reveal that falls flat. Which is why Geo-Force as the pulling all the strings ends up being such a double edge sword of a cliffhanger.
That said, Geo-Force’s puppet master tactics does lead us to one of the best Talia Al Ghul moments. Just as it looked like Deathstroke was going to kill her while mocking everything about her Talia turns around and kills him instead. Not only does she kill Deathstroke but she does so while catching his sword with a barehand, showing that she led Slade Wilson into a false sense of security in order to get close enough to deliver the killing blow. It was a badass moment that had you cheering for Talia, especially with how Deathstroke was mocking her seconds before this moment.
Though it was interesting to see that Rose Wilson reacted to the death of her father in such a calm manner. I honestly expect Rose to try to kill Talia as she now has lost her father and brother hours within each other. While it is a surprise because that is what I’ve come to expect as a comic book reader I do have to give Williamson credit for having Rose’s reaction be in line with how her character has been developed over the years. Rose has become a person that’s been less ruled by her emotions. She isn’t someone to just rush into things and I’m glad that is shown with how she takes in the death of her father.
As big as all these moments are Williamson also works in a lot of strong character work for both Batman and Robin as well. We once again see the tension between Bruce and Damian brought with Alfred’s death still having an impact on their relationship. Given the way they continue to talk to each other Bruce and Damian clearly need time to sit down to talk about their issues with each other. Unfortunately for both of them because of their lives as Batman and Robin they don’t have that time to build their relationship back up so they can have the trust Damian wishes they had with each other. It’s a strong narrative that helps moments such as Damian’s reaction to learning about Respawns death hit harder if we just got straight to that moment.
Roger Cruz’s artwork is such a joy throughout Robin #14. With how action-packed this issue is Cruz steps up to showcase how chaotic things get when Batman Inc., the League of Shadows, and Secret Society all engage in a fight. Even with all of the combatants facing off Cruz makes sure that the notable characters involved are always at the forefront of each panel and splash page. The fight between Talia and Deathstroke in particular is fantastic. Cruz gets across how even of a fight it is and when it transitions to Talia leading Deathstroke to giving her the opportunity to deliver the killing blow.
Robin #14 is as strong of a penultimate chapter as you can have for a big crossover event. This comic book is jammed packed with action that shows how intense things have gotten in Shadow War, all brought to life by Roger Cruz’s energetic artwork. The story developments with two major surprises to conclude Robin #14 leaves me excited to find out how Joshua Williamson plans to end Shadow War.
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10