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Detective #854

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Detective #854
Greg Rucka
J H Williams III and Dave Stewart
$3.99
DC

It’s been quite a while since the first rumor of a revived Batwoman surfaced to this issue of Detective. There wasn’t even a hint that the character would be reconceived with a lesbian orientation in that initial bit of gossip reported by Rich Johnston in his old Lying in the Gutters column. In between then and now were more rumors, hints, stories including the shabby treatment of original series developer Devin Grayson. At least once it was reputed to be an ongoing series, but here Batwoman finally is, headlining in Detective in the wake of Gotham’s first guardian’s absence.

While not an ongoing series of her own, this is in its way a first issue. Rucka’s script succeeds in making this feel like the start of a fresh series by mostly keeping to fundamental basics (hero on patrol, failure with love, the hero’s secret headquarters, and fights!) while addressing the Crime Bible thread leftovers of 52 with the introduction of its new leader, a malicious Wonderland-ish Alice who’s brimming with her own particular brand of evil sexiness.

Rucka also starts to flesh out Kate’s back story here with the intoduction of Anna, whose relationship with Kate seems put on hold, if not dashed to bits. I have to mention it’s nice to see Kate kiss Anna in the space of two panels. Anna’s character may seem like an ill-fated match, but we’re only seeing what is presumably the end of it. The scene leaves me wondering why Mallory thought the two were a good pair (and who is Mallory?), what was their first date like, did they do anything wild and crazy as a couple? Maybe Kate will work to fix things with her. Maybe Anna is as reserved generally in life, not just when she’s distancing herself from the woman who hurt her feelings. Or mayb we’ll never see Anna again. Couples date and break up all the time so I don’t consider it a fault in the story so long as Rucka doesn’t keep Kate romantically unattached. There’s also Kate’s father, affectionately called Pop, to whom she is completely open with about her sexuality and being Batwoman. He seems to be former military and committed to helping his daughter be a successful crimefighter. Rucka places one source of tension between daughter and father, Kate’s stepmother. Perhaps the stepmother is one of the relatives alluded to some time back who disapprove of Kate’s sexuality.

J H Williams III is the perfect choice for artist on this series. Williams creates two looks in this story that will no doubt be used throughout the rest of Batwoman’s tenure to establish its tone. At night it looks sleek, a little blurred yet cohesive and almost as if there’s dampness in the air. Batwoman’s skin is pale, almost as white as her new nemesis Alice. In the day objects are decidely distinct and everything seems to have an odd flatness from the sunlight somewhat washing out color. Of course Dave Stewart’s impeccable talent as colorist make these visual tones successful. I’m very much in awe of Stewart’s work here.

Does anyone else think that the way Kate appears in the second panel on page 16 resembles the mask V wore in V For Vendetta? Apparently not, as Joe McCulloh noted it in his review as well.  Speaking of which, McCulloh writes the most remarkable and spot on description of Williams’ and Stewart’s art. I can only sit in awe of it because he states exactly the aesthetic that has been achieved by this pair. Just read his assessment of panel and page layouts and look at them in the story. See how those dynamic layouts for Batwoman affect you and the story differently from the traditional page designs used for Kate. Brilliance from Williams. He’s given it his all and telling us “you will take notice.” They’ve no doubt worked hard to create a new standard for other artists to look up to and readers to appreciate.

I’d written a paragraph thinking whether or not Batwoman is being visually sexualized. True, you won’t see a male superhero drawn with both legs posed in this same manner as Batwoman, and thankfully those CFM high heeled boots are replaced by a pair of authentic ass kickers. The sexual energy here simply seems to be an outward manifestation of the charge motivating the character. Kate also appears to be one of the few DC heroes I’m aware with body art. The only other one I’m aware of is James Robinson Starman.

It’s been a hell of a long wait for Batwoman, and at times I thought she’d slip into limbo. Thank god this first issue makes up for the wait.

I’ve thoughts about the first installment of the Question as well, but reserving them for another post seems better.

June 25, 2009
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