Sunday, September 18, 2011

Batwoman #1 - A Review

This is one of the few New 52 titles I was able to go into completely clean. You see, I’ve inadvertently avoided Batwoman since her introduction a few years ago. This was partly due to a general lack of interest in what was going on in the Bat-Books at the time and partly due to my skepticism that the character was a simple publicity stunt vis-à-vis her status as a lesbian and all the hoopla around the introduction of the character.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: this is a gorgeous comic. The artwork by J.H. Williams III is astonishing, not only because of its’ quality but because of the layouts that spread across two pages to great effect. Portions of the art look as if they were done in watercolors and it is amazing. I don’t know if the credit for this effect goes to colorist Dave Stewart or not but every page of this comic looks like it should be hanging on a wall somewhere. Indeed, I have only two complaints about the art. First, that there are several gratuitous scenes of our heroine and her sidekick changing into and out of their costumes and second, that our heroine is continually colored like an albino or a vampire, even in her secret identity! Is this a stylistic choice or does Kate have some medical condition we new readers should be aware of?

This brings up my main problem with the issue: there’s far too much going on and if it’s disorienting for me, I can only imagine how confusing this must be for new readers. We do learn a little bit about Kate Kane the woman, as she asks out a police detective named Maggie Sawyer, who is also investigating The Batwoman and a series of kidnappings caused by a spectral creature dubbed The Weeping Woman. But then there’s also the introduction of Batwoman’s new sidekick – Kate’s cousin Bette, who was once a superhero called Flamebird and apparently something of an embarrassment. Then there’s the subplot with the return of Kate’s estranged father, who apparently trained her to become a superhero. Finally – and I may be one of the few who recognized, remembered or cared about this character – there’s a subplot with Agent Cameron Chase of the D.E.O. who is sent by her director Mr. Bones (who is not identified in the art or text) to capture Batgirl in a scene that has nothing to do with the rest of the comic. If it weren’t for my own love of the old Chase series, I’d have no idea who the talking Skeleton is or just what a big deal his showing up is.

Sadly, even the promise of more Cameron Chase isn’t enough to keep me reading this beautiful but tangled mess of a book. As I said before, the artwork is some of the best we’ve seen so far in the revamp. But I fail to see how new readers can possibly get into this book and have any clue what is going on beyond the kidnapping plot. As it is, I’d much rather see a book centering upon Flamebird or Cameron Chase than I would read any more about Batwoman.

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