Featuring a unique story composition that combines the art of Eisner Award-winner J.H. Williams III and Amy Reeder, this special #0 issue acts as a new introduction into the life of Batwoman! Things pick up roughly where the BATWOMAN: ELEGY HC left off, and this issue acts as a primer for the upcoming new series featuring multiple award-winning creators!
It’s been a good week for me and my memories of DETECTIVE COMICS
First, new writer Scott Snyder knocked his debut issue (#871) not just out of the park but into orbit, skipping over the “taking some time to figure out how to write the characters” phase that some new scribes adjust to and emerging instead as a fully formed Bat-writer to be reckoned with. It made me think of the great but all-too-short legacy left by the most recent regular writer who preceded him -- Greg Rucka, whose Batwoman arc couldn’t stop winning well-deserved awards and praise.
I remember how dejected I felt when I first read that Batwoman was taking over DETECTIVE in Bruce Wayne’s absense. Until, of course, I read her first issue and fell in love not only with Rucka’s writing and J.H. Williams III’s art but with the character of Kate Kane herself. Williams’s art was just as much a living, breathing part of the storytelling as Rucka’s words, creating one of the most provocative and mesmerizing bodies of comic book artistry I’ve seen anywhere ever.
With its emphasis on strange villains, odd monsters, dark rituals and even darker origins, the Rucka/Williams run really dug deeply into what the odd, macabre roots of Batman’s own first appearances in DETECTIVE were all about back in 1939. But while Batman’s greatest weapons were strategy and intimidation, Batwoman navigated Gotham’s shadows with a raw, almost vampiric sensuality that was every bit as dangerous as all the gadgets money can buy.
I highly recommend the deluxe hardcover BATWOMAN: ELEGY, which collects issues #854-860. That’s the initial Rucka/Williams run. Then try to find the individual issues #861-863, with art by new DETECTIVE regular Jock, which includes some of THE best Bruce Wayne/Batman moments you’ll ever read as one of Kate’s cases in the present intersects with one of Batman’s nastiest encounters from the past. That storyline is called “Cutter,” and I can’t believe DC hasn’t collected it.
When Rucka left DC and DETECTIVE fell into the hands of fill-in writers, my heart sank. But Batwoman is ready to fight again in the pages of a new series set to begin in February. Williams will be handling both writing and art duties (with script assists by W. Haden Blackman) on the new title.
Can he do it? If this week’s BATWOMAN #0 is any indication, the answer is a qualified “absolutely.”
Recently, artists Dustin Nguyen (pencils) and Derek Fridolfs (inks) wrote scripts (from stories by Paul Dini) for a couple of issues of STREETS OF GOTHAM with great success. And it makes sense -- they’d been working with Dini so long that all of those great scripting instincts obviously rubbed off.
And it’s the same glorious thing with Williams, but to an even deeper extent. When you study his work (and believe me, you can get lost in this man’s pages for days if you let yourself), you’ll see this art is just as integral to -- and as active in -- the storytelling as the writer’s words. He was just as involved in recreating Kate for the pages of DETECTIVE as Rucka, and imagining his imagination as a springboard for telling more stories about her is outrageously exciting.
This issue gets the added bonus of additional art by Amy Reeder, whose style here I can best describe as fairytale Manga. (Those words don’t remotely do it justice, but I think you’ll get what I mean when you see it. It’s beautiful.) Williams handles the Batwoman stuff, while Reeder takes the Kate sequences.
We begin with Bruce Wayne’s Batman, returned from time and space and the dead, on his seventh night of field surveillance designed to help him decide if Kate Kane is, in fact, Batwoman.
At first I was really bothered by this. “Seriously? Batman needs a week to figure out someone’s identity? Come on. I realize he’s recently spent some Omega-Sanctioned days as a caveman and a Pilgrim, but is he that rusty?”
But then I smiled, because I knew his uncertainty meant that Williams is willing to take Kate that seriously. He’s willing to tell us she’s that good. Good enough to make THE Batman doubt her.
What unfolds across the remaining pages is magic. We see Bruce not just as Batman but in one new disguise after another, interacting with (and testing) Kate in her personal life while evaluating her Batwoman missions from afar as Batman. His assessments of her skills and habits serve as a fabulous introduction to the character while giving us important clues about what she’s been up to since she fell out of the pages of DETECTIVE.
My favorite relationship in the Rucka run was the one between Kate and her father, Colonel Jacob Kane, a military man who aids his daughter with training, equipment, and moral support. That relationship has apparently fallen all the way apart in the months since we’ve seen Kate, and I hope it’s for a good reason, and I hope it’s something that can be fixed. But Williams doesn’t dwell on it. He gives us just enough to make us wonder and want more, more, more. Well done.
We also see Kate’s continuing war against the Religion of Crime, a bizarre cult that had until recently been commanded by Alice, a villain who was not only Kate’s Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul rolled into one psycho-sexy package but also her long lost twin sister. Alice’s whereabouts remain unknown, but her legacy seems destined to become the ultimate thorn in Kate’s side.
Every written word in this issue is either narration by Batman or a journal entry by Bruce Wayne. It’s so much fun seeing all of his disguises -- his presence is in damn nearly every panel.
But the star here is Kate, doing what she does best, and doing it very, very well. Williams and Blackman do a wonderful job on the script and the art styles mix well, too, with Dave Stewart’s masterful colors simultaneously holding it all together thematically while also setting it all off visually.
Check out ELEGY, track down the “Cutter” issues, and give BATWOMAN #0 a spin this week. You’ll be cursing the days until her new book begins in February. It’ll be worth the wait. - John Bierly