REVIEW: ‘Shadow War Zone,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Shadow War Zone #1 - But Why Tho

Shadow War Zone #1 is an anthology comic published by DC, featuring three stories by a variety of creators. The first story is titled “Old Friends,” written by Joshua Williamson, art and colours by Otto Schmidt, and letters by Steve Wands. The second story is titled “Inner Demons,” written by Nadia Shammas, art and colours by Sweeney Boo, and letters by Becca Carey. The third story is titled “Panic Room,” written by Ed Brisson, pencils by Mike Bowden, ins by Mark Morales, colours by Antonio Fabela and letters by Troy Peteri. The final story is titled “Ninjas! At The Arcade,” written by Stephanie Phillips, art and colours by Ann Maulina, and letters by Andworld Design. This is a tie-in to the Shadow War crossover. All of the stories contain either ninjas or the League of Assassins in some way, following the murder of Ra’s Al Ghul by Deathstroke.

In “Old Friends,” Black Canary is ambushed by Angel Breaker, who tries to recruit her to Dinah from being hunted by more assassins. When the Canary refuses, a fight ensues. This is not only a story with a fantastic plot in itself, but it serves as an excellent example of what the rest of the comic entails. There is quite a long lead-in to the action within this story, more than what the other tales get, but this is for exposition purposes. There is a brief verbal confrontation but then the action is unleashed. This action is awesome with excellent dialogue. The unrelenting nature of both women’s personalities causes neither to want to back down.

The art is also astonishing. The background is practically emptying, saving all of the attention for the two characters and their brawl. Both of the fighters look amazing, powerful, and dangerous. When the fight kicks off, the carnage of the situation is captured superbly. The powers and abilities of the combatants are displayed at a great scale and their moves are crammed into small panels to show particular points of impact. Schmidt makes the women much more angular in these moments, altering how their proportions look for dramatic effect. 

The colours are built out of contrast. There is a lot of darkness and a lot of light, and this can alternate from panel to panel. Dinah and Angel Breaker can either be on a dark gloomy road only illuminated by a beautiful street light, or against a completely white background. When the fight erupts there is a bright, intense selection of reds and oranges that mixes gorgeously with the black. The lettering is easy to read and the SFX are excellent.

“Inner Demons” is set in the past, this story explores young Talia Al Ghul starting to falter in her father’s eyes. She is starting to get restless from constant training, and she learns the true origin of the Lazarus Pit. This story is drastically different from the others within Shadow War Zone #1 as it is set in the past. It doesn’t have the fighting that is found elsewhere, instead focusing on the mysticism and traditions of the League of Assassins. It shows how Talia was brought up to be arrogant and feel invincible, and how that can sometimes go too far. The longing of a young woman to discover the heart of what this cult is built around and how Shammas reveals it to her makes it one of the best-written stories of the four.

The art has such depth to it, able to show beauty and horror at the same time. When Talia is with her friend outdoors, there is a serene quality to the locale. The girls’ eyes are wide and expressive and Talia’s costume is a masterful design. But inside the temple, the art is shadier and more reliant on the shadows. What makes the art shine in this story is the colours, as they are absolutely stunning. The luminescence is breathtaking as the light seems to genuinely shine. Near the Lazarus Pit, the glow of the green liquid is haunting. The lettering is again well done and easy to read.

In “Panic Room,” Ghost-Maker leads Clownhunter and Black Spider to a panic room, bringing six ninjas along with him. Once in the panic room, he forces them to fight. This is much more in line with the first story, as the action is the crux of the situation. It’s a lively and intense comic, mostly taking place in one room. The result of the fight seems natural yet surprising, and the reason ties in with the overall premise of the book. But whether it is the selection of characters or the way it fizzles out by the end that made it not as investing as Canary’s battle. Black Spider’s inclusion is unusual and good have even been avoided, as I personally don’t see what he adds to the situation. 

The battle is enough to make this third chapter exciting, especially through the artwork. The number of bodies involved is accentuated, invoking chaos. But there is also this sense of claustrophobia as the dimensions of the small panic room are clearly outlined. The pressure of the situation is intensified. Clownhunter looks tiny compared to the ninjas and is constantly underneath a tidal wave of enemies. All three of the main character costumes are fantastic. Each move has a point, doing damage to someone. The colours are great, whether in regards to the overly vibrant Clownhunter to the stark white Ghost-Maker. The lettering can be awkward to read, especially for Ghost-Maker’s word balloons. It is too scribbly and uneven to concentrate on.

Hunted down due to a brief interaction with Deathstroke, in “Ninjas! At The Arcade,” Harley Quinn faces down a number of ninjas whilst an unseen observer comments on her life and capabilities. Just as energetic as the other chapters of the comic, Phillips fills this story with Harley’s unique chaos. Alongside the fast-paced combat, there is the narration of the observers watching Quinn. This writer always beautifully gives this character the respect she deserves. There is an acknowledgment of her intellect, her athleticism, and her caring nature, but also an enjoyment of her humour, madness, and youthful glee. The revelation of who is watching is a big surprise and suggests that more is yet to come from this plotline and character.

The art is an excellent demonstration of cartoonish styles. Harley’s facial features are larger and allow her to be fantastically expressive. There’s a constant sense of motion, and the violence is loud and explosive. The colours are simplistic yet so effective. There is this base shade of blue that fills the panel, with purples, pinks, and yellows added. At times, during the summit of the battle, these colours clash and invade. But in other moments they are light dashes and gentle glows in the general gloom. The letters are effortlessly readable.

Shadow War Zone #1 is an anthology with much to love. It is rife with action, interesting characters, and gorgeous art. It extends to the outer reaches of Deathstroke’s associates and sees them interacting in their unique ways. Whilst they are different, three of the four stories could be considered slightly repetitive in their structure, even if their tones are varied. However, they all carry with them the personality of the person leading them. The Talia story is important as it is something refreshing from the intense violence of the other chapters, but it has depth and weight to the storytelling. These are fun, small tales with focus. 

Shadow War Zone #1 is available where comics are sold.


Shadow War Zone #1
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TL;DR

Shadow War Zone #1 is an anthology with much to love. It is rife with action, interesting characters, and gorgeous art. It extends to the outer reaches of Deathstroke’s associates and sees them interacting in their unique ways. Whilst they are different, three of the four stories could be considered slightly repetitive in their structure, even if their tones are varied. However, they all carry with them the personality of the person leading them. The Talia story is important as it is something refreshing from the intense violence of the other chapters, but it has depth and weight to the storytelling. These are fun, small tales with focus.