Shadow War Zone #1 Review

Writers: Joshua Williamson, Nadia Shammas, Ed Brisson, and Stephanie Phillips
Art: Otto Schmidt, Sweeney Boo, Mike Bowden, Mark Morales, Antonio Fabela, Ann Maulina
Letters: Steve Wands, Becca Carey, ALW’s Troy Peteri, Andworld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $5.99
Release Date: May 18th, 2022

Deathstroke killed Ra’s al Ghul, setting off the Shadow War, where Talia al Ghul sends The League of Assassins to kill anyone who worked with Deathstroke in the past.  No one is safe!   Shadow War Zone #1 features 4 stories of varying quality set before and during the conflict.

If you’re interested in this comic, series, related trades, or any of the others mentioned, then simply click on the title/link to snag a copy through Amazon as you read the Shadow War Zone #1 Review.

The Stories

The highlight of Shadow War Zone #1 is the story “Old Friends”, the first story in the book, written by Joshua Williamson with art by Otto Schmidt.  The story primarily features Black Canary and Angel Breaker, with Oracle making a small appearance as well. Black Canary’s obsessed with finding Deathstroke and taking him down, while Oracle desperately tries to talk her out of it.  Angel Breaker shows up then all hell breaks loose. I was curious about new character Angel Breaker and Joshua Williamson makes her fascinating, with her almost demonic look (she looks similar to Marvel’s Satanna) and her weapons.

She and Black Canary have a fantastic fight, neither one of them giving in.   A bit of their past together is revealed, and the two characters seem like two sides of the same coin.  You could easily see Angel Breaker becoming like Black Canary or vice versa.
You get to see Black Canary’s darker side here.  With her past in the Justice League and her breezy past team-ups with Oliver Queen, it’s easy to forget that she’s a pretty dark character, not afraid to be brutal when she has to. Angel Breaker’s ability to redirect attacks with her sword is on full display here, and she’s a great counterpoint to Black Canary.  Where Black Canary is furious and yelling at her as they battle, Angel Breaker is calm and centered.

The story ends perfectly and with the right amount of ambiguity.  A nice little story that reveals more about Angel Breaker and gives Black Canary a chance to cut loose. The second story in the book is “Inner Demon”, written by Nadia Shammas with art by Sweeney Boo.  This story takes place years before the conflict and features Talia al Ghul when she was a young girl. Talia, bored with her life with her father, runs off and tries something super dangerous in order to “live a bit”. 

She ends up meeting her grandmother and getting a wake up call about who her father REALLY is.  It reads like a dark fairy tale, but feels out of place in this book.  It would fit better in an all-ages comic or novel.
The third story in the book is “Panic Room”, written by Ed Brisson with art by Mike Bowden, Mark Morales and Antonio Fabela.  This story features Ghost-Maker, Clownhunter and Black Spider.

Ghost-Maker traps Clownhunter and Black Spider in a panic room with a huge squad of ninjas from The League of Assassins, in order to test Clownhunter’s fighting abilities.  The story has a lot of action but ultimately there’s no depth to it and nothing new is revealed about the characters.  It’s the equivalent of eating a humongous bag of rice cakes when you’re starving.  They taste great but afterwards, you’re still hungry.

The last story in the book is “Ninjas! at the Arcade”, written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Ann Maulina.  The story features Harley Quinn and is a fun little story.
Harley’s chased into an arcade by a squad of ninjas and fights them Jackie Chan-style, using everything in the arcade as a weapon or a shield to take them out.  It’s hilarious and thrilling to read, and would make one hell of a great episode of the HBO MAX animated Harley show. While she’s fighting the ninja, she’s begin monitored by a secret group who are impressed and want to bring her into their group.  It’s not clear who the group is, but they seem intriguing.

The Art

The art in Shadow War #1, like the writing, varies in quality between stories.
Otto Schmidt’s art on “Old Friends” isn’t super detailed, but the ferocity of the fight between Black Canary and Angel Breaker comes out 100% in the art.   Both characters are drawn as acrobatic warriors, and Angel Breaker’s weapon has a beautiful design.
Sweeney Boo’s art on “Inner Demon” is a bit too cutesy for this book.  I’ve liked her art on other books like “Star Wars Adventures”, which fits her better because it’s an all-ages book.   The demonic scenes with Ra’s al Ghul just don’t seem chilling enough, but her colors pop nicely in places.

Mike Bowden, Mark Morales and Antonio Fabela’s art on “Panic Room” reminded me of Walt Simonson’s “Thor” era work.  It’s a little clunky in places, but the fight scenes are dynamic and brutal.  The backgrounds don’t have much detail, but since most of the story takes place in one huge room, it’s fine.
Ann Maulina’s art on “Ninjas! at the Arcade” fits the story perfectly, capturing the playfulness and the violent nature of Harley Quinn.  Most of the issue takes place in an arcade, and Ann draws the scenery with wonderful detail and colors, making some of the panels seem almost psychedelic.  And who better to be on an acid trip with than Harley?  One full-page spread (where Harley uses different equipment in the arcade to take out several ninjas is especially great and another piece of art I’d love to have as a poster.

Final Thoughts

Shadow War Zone #1  has enough good stories and art in it to make it fairly enjoyable, but it’s not a home run.  The first and last stories are the best, but all the stories are enticing enough to see what happens next in the Shadow War.




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