Detective Comics #953
Cover Price: $2.99
Page Count: 20
Release Date: March 22, 2017
Collected in: Detective Comics v3: League of Shadows
Other pages to check out:
The story of Cassandra Cain continues while cleverly disguised as a story about the League of Shadows destroying Gotham. This leads to a story where Cassandra fights Batman for vaguely defined reasons before trotting off to take a second stab at Lady Shiva (after last issue’s failed effort). Mixed in between we have Batwoman having a conversation with her dad and Clayface making a noble stand against some ninjas. We are only halfway through the League of Shadows story, but already things are more dire for the team than most stories reach by their climax. What that means for the future of the story I am not entirely sure, but if it continues to feature Cassandra Cain in the leading role I am all for it.
At this point we have essentially three threads running throughout this story. The first thread is Cassandra Cain trying to confront Lady Shiva on an emotional level and have a mother/daughter moment. The second is the continued assault on Gotham by the League of Shadows (under Shiva’s command) as a means of distraction. Lastly we have a continuation of the Colony story that’s been running through this series since the beginning of Rebirth. The last of these I am surprised to see since I was sure it was mostly going to join Batwoman in her solo title, but apparently it’s going to be allowed to play out here. The second story revolving around Gotham is mostly there as a framework to run the other two through, and other than it being yet another assault on Gotham isn’t really worth looking at too closely yet.
The story that continues to keep me going here is the Cassandra Cain/Lady Shiva plot. The two have had two physical confrontations now, with Shiva barely being challenged at all. It is the emotional underside of that story that is engaging, though, and there is a lot going on there. Cassandra is upset that she never had a mother growing up, a fact hammered rather heavily by some flashbacks. Even if Shiva is a bad person, and obviously so, Cassandra still wants some emotional connection with her, which is a human feeling most of us can relate to. It is especially powerful given how few connections Cassandra has, even within the Bat-family. That is actually why another scene in the issue where she and Clayface have a brief bonding moment is so important. It is building up the idea that she has a bigger emotional support network than she believes right now, and I suspect that will be important in her final confrontation with Shiva later in the story.
Outside of the Cassandra story some pretty awful stuff is going on, and it will be interesting to see where writer James Tynion IV is going with this. The biggest of these is Batwoman’s confrontation with the League of Shadows, which ends badly for her. Although they would like to at least hint otherwise it is clear they’re not going to kill Batwoman here (not least because she just started her own solo series), so the dramatic tension of the scene is a bit lost. Still, it is a brutal scene and one that will have a lasting impact on both her and her father. Clayface has a similar scene, and his fate is much less predictable. It seems unlikely that he even can be killed, and it would be disappointing if he were taken off the board after he has such a nice moment with Cassandra, but it certainly is possible. Not many details are known about him at this point so we’ll have to wait for part 4 in two weeks to find out more.
There are a lot of plot threads being juggled by the book right now, but it remains cohesive. That said, there is a subplot in this issue where Batman and Orphan fight for a bit which doesn’t come off as well as it could. It is a payoff to a conversation earlier in the series where Batman acknowledges he would lose to Cassandra in a straight up fight, but the reasoning for their fight in the first place is not properly setup. I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to view this as Cassandra being emotionally conflicted and confused right now, and she’s lashing out against anything in her way out of frustration. However the book doesn’t really do much to establish that, and so instead it seems like padding to up the page count.
With that gripe aside, however, this is another strong issue of this series. The small subplot with Cassandra and Clayface is endearing, and Cassandra’s continued attempts to have a moment with her mom are sad, but understandable. Cassandra was written off in the New 52 as a damaged character that they didn’t want to touch, but James Tynion IV is getting a lot of depth out of the character despite that. He clearly understands the character, and has put a spin on her that should be recognizable to her fans from her days as Batgirl, while still going in a new direction. I do wish we could get Spoiler back into the book since Cassandra and Stephanie had one of the best Bat-family friendships from before the New 52 relaunch. Detective Comics remains one of the best books in the DC Rebirth lineup.