Since its announcement in December, DC has been framing the Batman-Robin-Deathstroke Inc. crossover Shadow War written by Joshua Williamson as the League of Assassins going to war with Deathstroke over what appears to be the assassination of Ra's Al Ghul by Slade Wilson.
But hey, this is comics, so if you don't have your questions as to whether everything is as DC wants it to appear, well, you need to read more comic books.
So does everything play out the way DC suggested it would?
Spoilers for Shadow War: Alpha #1 ahead
Sure enough, Shadow War: Alpha #1 by Williamson and artists Viktor Bogdanovic and Daniel Henriques, with letters by Troy Peteri, features a particularly brutal assassination scene. We see a bullet go through Ra's Al Ghul's head, a grenade lands next to his fallen body, and an explosion that turns him to dust (we know that death in comics doesn't always stick, but wow, at least this one makes a bang).
As the shocking incident unfolds, we look to the rooftops of Washington D.C. to catch a glimpse of the sword-wielding, split-masked, deadly assassin responsible for the carnage - Slade Wilson himself, rocking an old-school costume.
Or do we?
Alright, let's back up a bit. What's Ra's Al Ghul doing in Washington? The beginning of the story finds Ra's Al Ghul turning over a new leaf. Reaching the end of his long, unnatural life, Ra's has reconnected with both his daughter, Talia, and grandson, Damian Wayne, and is planning on changing the way he tries to "save" the world.
His first step is to turn himself into US authorities, a move that shocks the entire DC Universe - both heroes and villains. Even more shocking is the press conference he holds on the steps of the Malkovian embassy (don't remember Malkovia? Check out DC's Leviathan event for more), during which Ra's announces he will stop his reign of terror… and share the secrets of the Lazarus Pit with the world.
Of course, as soon as Batman hears that Ra's was turning himself in, he high-tails it to D.C. He, Damian, and Talia are all watching Ra's speak, as Oracle gives the Dark Knight live updates on whether there's any danger coming for the Demon's Head. Unfortunately, her intel is not enough, and the family power trio watch as the great Ra's Al Ghul is killed before their very eyes.
Damian and Bruce retreat from the scene to recover. Talia returns to the League of Assassins headquarters to activate the Demon's Shadow, an elite force of meta-human killers that dedicate themselves to killing Deathstroke, his family, and his entire network of supervillains. There's just one problem…
...Deathstroke didn't do it.
After Talia's vow of revenge, we go straight to the headquarters of Deathstroke Inc., where the team is bristling against their leader's apparent actions. Prometheus and Deadline argue about how to handle Slade after what he's done, and then are surprised to find him in the room with them.
In fact, Slade has been at the Deathstroke Inc. headquarters all day, including the time when an assassin in his costume killed Ra's Al Ghul. Behind Slade's team, a giant screen showcases violent scenes from the earlier assassination, which Slade watches in surprise. The armor that the assassin was wearing is indeed his, he says, though he wasn't wearing it.
What's more, Slade is pretty sure he's encountered this mystery killer before. He recognizes his actions and methods, but before he can consider the killer's identity any further, the first wave of the Demon's Shadow smashes into his headquarters. Slade may be innocent, but unless he can get past the best killers the League of Assassins has ever employed, he's about to face the punishment of the guilty.
Fans keeping up with the lead-ins to Shadow War might hazard a guess that the mystery killer is the newly introduced Respawn, a clone created with the genetic material of Deathstroke and Talia Al Ghul. However, Shadow War Alpha confirms that Respawn was with his biological father at the time of the assassination. Could there be another Deathstroke clone roaming around? Is the assassin dressed as Deathstroke someone we've met before? And perhaps most importantly, why did this person kill Ra's Al Ghul?
We'll have to wait until Shadow War continues in Batman #122 comes out April 5 to learn more.
Deathstroke Vs. Talia Al Ghul is certainly going to be a problem for Batman, but do either of those characters make Newsarama's list of the best Batman villains of all time? Read Newsarama's list to find out.