Thank God for ‘Batwoman!’ This book is so good, it leaves me speechless! It’s been a long and rocky road to get to fans, but it’s finally here and SO worth the wait! Batwoman is Kate Kane, a modern day reinvention of a mostly forgotten figure from that vague time in between the Golden and the Silver Ages. That character was a light (literally, her costume was screaming yellow) love interest/foil for Batman.
Not this one!
Introduced in 2006′s 52 miniseries, the new Batwoman garnered mainstream press coverage because DC announced that she would be a lesbian. Her debut was highly touted, but DC sat on the character for a while before giving her the lead in ‘Detective Comics.’ In 52, she wore a variation on Barbara Gordon’s old Batgirl suit, with the yellow switched to red and the cowl replaced by a pointed domino mask. J.H. Williams III (much more about him later) redesigned the suit to give a more detailed, realistic and utilitarian look. Her new mask featured a nose guard and protective lenses with various functions. Her gloves had removable throwing spikes and gripping on the palms. Williams switched her ridiculous stiletto heels for practical flat boots. And one huge difference this character had from any other Bat Family member… she carried a pistol. And writing pro, Greg Rucka crafted some of the coolest, most intriguing and unique super hero stories I’d read in ages! Her run in ‘Detective’ reminded me so much of James Robinson’s ‘Starman’ series. No other book just felt so smart and lovingly crafted and intricately detailed. Both series had their own voice, unlike any other book on the stands! Simply put, ‘Detective Comics’ starring Batwoman was the most ideosyncratic, unwaveringly excellent mainstream super hero comic out there at the time.
Unfortunately, Batwoman eventually lost the lead spot in ‘Detective’ and DC announced she’d get her own title, but that kept getting pushed back… further and further. Rucka has since left DC. ‘Batwoman’ was scheduled to begin in February, but was then yanked yet again, presumably to tie-in to the new relaunch. But it’s here. It’s finally, finally here.
In addition to illustrating the book, Williams is now co-scripting it with W. Haden Blackman and they haven’t missed a beat. The book opens with the menace, a ghostly woman terrorizing a family, suspending the parents in mid-air while the children stand entranced. Wait… are you kidding me? A hero… a Bat hero actually combating a SUPER foe?! Not a serial killer? Not a terrorist or crime boss? You had me at hello, Batwoman. Despite the hero’s intervention, the spirit vanishes, taking the children with her. This scene is actually intercut with a later scene of the grieving parents giving their accounts of the incident to Detective Maggie Sawyer, a longtime Superman supporting character who recently migrated to the Batverse and who also happens to be Kate’s new love interest. The art in the beginning is painted and stunning, as all of Williams’ work is, but I have to admit it was a tad hard to follow. As it was rendered, it actually appeared that three ghosts were present. It isn’t until Sawyer and Commissioner Jim Gordon are talking later that I realized that it was one ghost shape-shifting.
The story continues, establishing Kate’s supporting cast. The artwork switched from the painted (ghostly) look to more traditional pencils; a brilliant story-telling device! When visiting Maggie at the police station, Kate can’t stop staring at a photo of her ex, Renee Montoya, formerly a police detective turned private eye turned The Question. (I have no clue if she still is in the new continuity. I love the character and would have eagerly bought her own solo series!) I can not even express how gleeful I was in the next scene, when it is revealed that Kate’s cousin, Bette is sticking around as a supporting character! Bette, like Kate, is a re-invention from the old comics, formerly the first Bat-Girl, who, post-Crisis was re-crafted as Flamebird, a nod to the fact that she was a wannabe sidekick for Nightwing, as in many Silver Age stories, Superman and Jimmy Olsen donned the identities of Nightwing and Flamebird when adventuring in the bottle city of Candor. Not only is Bette a fixture in the book, she will be sidekicking for Kate! Alas, Kane torched Bette’s Flamebird costume (Boo!) and she is stuck wearing a janitor-like jumpsuit. Here’s hoping Williams has a sweet new costume ready ASAP! Bette asks Kate about her dad, formerly her benefactor and mentor, but Kate refuses to discuss him.
William changes his art style up yet again for an interlude featuring Director Bones of the Department of Extranormal Affairs assigning Agent Cameron Chase (formerly the star of her own book, ‘Chase’) to head to Gotham to discover who Batwoman really is. Yet another female character with so much untapped potential being added to this book?! I love J.H. Williams! I really do! I may kiss him on the mouth if I ever meet him. Haden Blackman, too!
The next scene, featuring the previously mentioned Gordon/Sawyer conversation resumes the investigation of the children. Thirteen are missing in total, including the three abducted in the beginning of this story. Six others have been found dead and Sawyer explains that the locals believe it was an urban legend called La Llorona, the “Weeping Woman.” Since this sequence ties into the ghostly opening, Williams again renders it in the lush, painted look.
Following this is a sequence which is actually two scenes mixed together. In one, Kate and Bette battle Q-Ball and the Pool Hall Gang, a delightfully ridiculous billiards-themed gang. Bette later states that they were “a total joke”, ”I was a Teen Titan. I even fought Deathstroke.” This is a little puzzling, since we don’t really know if the Titans’ history is intact, but it certainly looks like the NEW Teen Titans, Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s beloved run has been altered, because it doesn’t seem like Vic Stone (Cyborg) was ever a Titan. ‘Justice League’ #1 implies he will join that team from the start of his career. Not to mention so many heroes from the ‘New’ era are unaccounted for like Wally West and Donna Troy, but it was from this time that Deathstroke was introduced. I suppose all will be revealed in time.
Back to Batwoman, in the other scene, Kate laments that she doesn’t think Bette has what it takes to aid her saying, “I spent more time looking over your shoulder than my own.” Their talk is cut short when Kate’s father Jake arrives. Kate recaps her ‘Detective’ run revealing to Bette (and new readers) that her father knowingly let her believe that her twin sister, Beth had died as a child, when in actuality, she suffered great turmoil, a “horrible nightmare” as Kate puts it, to the point that she went insane and became the crazed villain Alice, who seemingly died at the end of Batwoman’s ‘Detective’ run, but who I desperately hope returns. (Villains do that all the time, right?)
The book closes with a cameo by Batman, who meets with Batwoman to make a proposal. It’s left to next issue to reveal what that is. I felt the Batman cameo might have been a stunt to lure readers, just like the one in ‘Batwing.’ But we shall see.
Have you figured out yet that I LOVED this book? It’s just so GOOD! It’s stunningly illustrated. Williams is just a flat-out genius! His use of mixed styles for different scenes literally makes me shake my head in bewilderment! This is clearly not just an assignment for him, it’s a labor of love. You FEEL the love just reading it and taking in just how much everyone involved put into it. This is the most idiosyncratic super hero book there is. It makes me rethink how highly I like the books I have reacted to positively, because they aren’t as good as this one and makes me HATE the books I didn’t like even more! But then again, if every book were as good as this one, then that would take away Batwoman’s uniqueness. Buy it! That is all.
Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
Art by J.H. Williams III
Cover by J.H. William III