It’s a showdown between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul filled with tricks and daemons. Which one will trick the other is yet to determine but the stakes are high. It’s about the very survival of the planet.
My comment in my review of All-Star Batman #8 about how Scott Snyder writes at another level, much like Christopher Priest and Grant Morrison stands and is applicable for this issue. There is a whole set up of Batman having to find Ra’s Al Ghul as part of a ransom imposed by the Blackhawks that is missing. We just jump in the action and the narrative without having the benefit of the background and exposition to make this conflict possible. Snyder assumes his readers are smart enough to figure out the details for themselves and fill in the gaps.
Filling in the gaps is not something today’s reader is used to doing unfortunately. At once, it is a compliment to readers that the writer thinks he can dispense with basic exposition and start a story in the midst of a conflict. In a way, there has been enough foreshadowing. In another there has not been. Could we have guessed that Ra’s Al Ghul was behind Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and the Mad Hatter’s capers? Probably.
But for this Batman story, it is not part of the procedural detective case. The tory has to be resolved and Snyder has dispensed with such details and instead focused on the masquerade and legerdemain between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul. So we know that Batman is a detective, and as Ra’s Al Ghul says, an illusionist. But we do not see the construction of the illusion which would have been enhanced if more time had been spent with the procedural detective legwork. Perhaps it would have taken an extra issue to tell this story and that may not have been what Snyder nor his editors wanted.
Some of the problems with the lack of exposition and confusion have to fall on artists Jock’s shoulders. In a few important scenes, he illustrates confusing panels that make things appear one way instead of what the writer intended. For example, there is the morphing of Bruce Wayne’s face from having been destroyed by a gunshot into a normal unharmed face. It almost feels as if Bruce Wayne has regenerative powers. He does not. It is a drug that Ra’s Al Ghul was affected with that is wearing off. But instead of a phasing effect Jock drew a morphing effect. Another issue is the harpy creature that jumps at Bruce Wayne while he’s fighting Ra’s Al Ghul. Was it part of the drug-induced trick or real? Where Jock succeeds is with the kinetic motion of characters like when Batman rides the motorcycle in traffic. These were great shots.