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Batwoman #1

Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV, writers
Steve Epting, artist
Jeromy Cox, colorist
Deron Bennett, letterer
DC $2.99

Batwoman is back front and center in her own solo ongoing and damn if it isn’t great! Bennett and Tynion are two of the hottest writers in comics and they each have written interesting and varied LGBTQ characters so I was very excited to see them working together here. Neither is new to Batwoman, with Tynion including her as the most important part of the Bat team in Detective and Bennett working her magic with an alt universe take in the World War II era DC Bombshells.

Right from the start with the opening page Bennett and Tynion drew me in with the quickened pace they used to drop Batwoman into the middle of action far away from Gotham in Istanbul’s Kapaliçarsi market. That feeling of being pulled in to the story didn’t let up despite a strange woman abruptly snatching victory from Batwoman nor as the tempo slowed as the rest of the story unfolded to reveal the new partnership between Batwoman and Julia Pennyworth. Speaking of Julia, my god! How have I not paid more attention to her character? Tynion and Bennett made her just as riveting as Kate is, thanks in part to the sparkling dialog between them and also due to her role as tactical backup. But is Julia something more as Kate asks her: “Are you my babysitter, my Q, or Batman’s spy?”. She’s sly regardless of whatever capacity she’s working in. And I can’t be the only person who felt (or wants) a little sexual tension between them, can I?

The writers give us not one, not two, but three strangers intertwined in a part of Kate’s past that we’re given only glimpses of to pique our interest for the rest of the arc. The most intriguing of these three is Safiyah, a woman who uses her corrupt power to hold sway over the Mediterranean island of Coryana. What makes me curious about her is the relationship she and Kate had at some point after Kate is dishonorably discharged from military service for being a lesbian and before her involvement with Renee Montoya (whom I’d love to see appear occasionally). Fleshing out Kate’s romantic and sexual history is both a welcomed development and an affirmation that queer characters deserve compelling pasts — and hopefully futures too.

With the venom from the Monster Men mini event driving the plot line here I thought Victoria October might appear since her introduction in Detective #948 was as a consultant working for Argus as it dealt with the aftermath of the Monster Men debacle. The first issue is chockful as it is with Julia, a terrorist, and three strangers all from Kate’s past, so I’m hopeful October will appear soon. Devoted Bette Kane fans will be disappointed that she receives only a passing reference though I suspect she too will be seen at some point.

Kudos to Bennett and Tynion for using the phrases white supremacists and nationalists to describe some of the unsavory people Batwoman has encountered while on trail to learn the identity of the monster venom dealer. If only news media would have the courage…

Epting’s cover is a stunning composition with Batwoman plunging through darkness with an array of other characters separated by her leg breaking through stylized “lightning bolt” elements. The energy says she’s not going to be held back in any way. My god, have I missed seeing this vibrantly designed logo atop a cover page! While the inclusion of Batman may have been for marketing reasons I interpret his solo placement in the overall design as a visual cue that Batwoman is breaking out of his shadow (again) and won’t be used on future covers.

Epting proves himself a good artistic choice by likewise matching the script’s pacing and tones in his solid interior art. A keen anatomical knowledge makes his figures look real and substantial while strong draftsmanship believably integrates them into a variety of settings throughout the story. A sense of sexiness and sensuality abounds minus the smarmy pandering. That’s a kickass power stance if I ever saw one! The mix of page layouts is deceptively simple and effective. Landscape oriented panels offer the widest view with the most visual information while vertical oriented panels are often used for close ups. On two sequential pages Epting tilts the traditional x y axis to emphasize the chaotic feel engulfing the market. Slightly staggering the panels in the three page flashback scene gives the impression of memory being affected by the passing of time. Each panel feels composed with just the right amount of detail to set a scene or to provide information about Kate’s operation. Look at the yacht interior scenes that show several vehicles, skidoos, a couple motorcycles, extra costumes, and her very own Bat computer that would make a certain masked detective drool if he didn’t have one just as sweet if not better. Some pencilers or series benefit from highly rendered coloring and multiple light sources. Batwoman doesn’t strike me as being one of those. Jeromy Cox’s moody and atmospheric palette contributes to the solid feeling of Epting’s pencils. The selective spot color amidst the gray tones of the island flashback sequence is just exquisite.

I’d been excited about a second Batwoman series since it was announced, and while this review is several days after its release, my hopes were exceeded and my enthusiasm was kicked up several notches by the team’s work! I’ll be looking forward to Batwoman every month!

March 19, 2017
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