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Author: John Bierly
August 27, 2009
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OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: "'Elegy' part 3 of 4! Batwoman unites with an unlikely ally to momentarily defeat the fairytale villain known as Alice. But when Kate is forced to attend a high society event, she soon learns that her worlds are colliding as Alice's plans for Gotham's elite put Kate's father directly in harm's way."

Two of my favorite Batman stories are BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN and BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK -- both written and illustrated by Matt Wagner, and both available in collected editions. These modernized retellings of some of the earliest, creepiest Batman adventures often come to my mind when I'm reading what Greg Rucka's doing with Batwoman in the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS. While I'm with the founder of BOF in the sense that I'm not a fan of "Batman in Space" stories, I do enjoy tales that take our favorite hero into the realm of the supernatural.

We're certainly getting that here.

At the end of the last DETECTIVE, a mortally wounded Batwoman and her to-the-rescue dad were surrounded by some seriously sinister shapeshifters sent after them by the very creepy villain Alice, whose leadership role in the Church of Crime makes her Batwoman's Joker and Ra's Al Ghul rolled into one.

An early twist in the pages of issue #856 kicks the story in an unexpected direction that gives Kate Kane an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of one of her first big missions behind the cowl. But she won't have much time for contemplation after she accepts an invitation to attend a high-class fundraiser with the city's elite.

Rucka uses the opportunity to really show us some new and interesting things about Kate's character, from how she dresses to how -- and with whom -- she interacts. Particularly noteworthy is the introduction of her cousin, Bette, who was originally depicted not only as "Kathy" Kane's niece but also as Batwoman's sidekick Batgirl all the way back in 1961. It will be interesting to see how Rucka works her into the current storyline.

Even the twists in this story have twists, and Kate's brief respite from her usual night life gets a scary interruption that also serves as a scary cliffhanger for next issue.

Rucka's words are nimble and effective throughout, and the little flourishes of humor are welcome among the issue's dark, disturbing events and images.

Speaking of imagery, this issue is another eye-popping jaw-dropper courtesy of artist J.H. Williams III, who makes every panel sizzle and every page flow like it's alive. Once the story gets to the fundraiser, his layouts become more conventional, but that doesn't mean there's any less detail or beauty. Kate is absolutely striking out of her costume with huge praise going to Dave Stewart's colors, which are rich and nightmarish in the earlier forest battle scenes and more contemporary when the shift in location calls for it. No matter where she is, our girl certainly stands out in a crowd. There's so much to look at and absorb on every one of these pages; I know I say this in every review, but I can't wait to own this in a hardcover collection.

The book is as visually and as narratively engaging as ever, and the tonal shift in its latter half helps us get to know Kate better.

DETECTIVE #856 is simply another solid issue in this title’s recently “revamped” run.

The Question backup story (written by Rucka and drawn by Cully Hamner) features a daring escape and more of The Question questioning, but we'll have to see what happens next issue to know just how far (if at all) this chapter progresses the mystery.

DETECTIVE still continues to be worth its hefty $3.99 price tag, and it's only getting weirder and more wonderful. - John Bierly

Indiana native John Bierly started writing for publications when he was 17 and never stopped.
His favorite things in life are family and friends, concerts, burgers, Mountain Dew, and of course...
You can read his blog at JOHNBIERLY.COM.

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