Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Read This--BATWOMAN #0

Well, now that everyone else on the Internet has had a turn at reviewing this, why not me?

I raved about the first Batwoman collection here earlier this year, and even though writer Greg Rucka was not on board for the series launch, the presence of J.H. Williams III on art was (and this makes me sound rather shallow, I know) what made the difference--like it or not, it's the unique visual style and atmosphere that he brings to the book and the title character that elevates it above being Just Another Batman Family Book, or to be even more snarky, a Batman book for people who didn't much care for Batman books.

This issue--less a story in and of itself and more a "introduction and re-introduction" (which is what first issues used to be, and then zero issues were and the 1/2 issues were . . .well, that's another rant) wherein Batman observes Batwoman in action as well as in her civilian guise. It's a sound enough conceit and disguises that this is pretty feather-light in terms of story, but as it's a vehicle to introduce or re-introduce Kate Kane to comics readers.

Art is split between Williams and Amy Reeder. I'm not familiar with her work, but I like her style a lot because she deliberately doesn't try to imitate Williams' style--Reeder tends to be more detail-oriented with slightly sharper, but softer expressions. The split is accomplished in a very interesting fashion--Williams handles all the Batwoman stuff, Reeder handles the Kate stuff. Each page is split down the middle and while the two styles threaten to clash, they complement each other surprisingly well (I'm very impressed with the composition of the page wherein the two stories link with Kate and Batwoman both kicking the holy hell out of someone--it's a really beautiful page) and I think this pairing will serve the book very well.

As a quick mention while I'm talking art, Dave Stewart is back on colours, and good thing too. The man knows his reds.

Writing-wise . . .well. I think I'm going to reserve judgment for now. Batwoman #0 is an astoundingly verbose book if you're coming off Elegy and reading this--Rucka's economy and use of dialogue to impart information is sorely missed. However, as it's an introductory story written from the perspective of an outsider who is providing an in-depth analysis of the character, I find myself wondering how else you can really do it. The main niggle I have with it is Batman is a pretty dull narrator (that "it's the way her eyes burn . . .they tell me she won't be a victim again" line is . . .unfortunate) honestly, and . . .well, my enjoyment of Batwoman proportionate to how much of Batman's stuff gets pulled into it. In general I find Batman books to be really homogenized and dull at the moment--there was a momentary peak there with Batman and Robin under Morrison, but it didn't last. Rarely are Bat-books allowed to create their own style and voice as strongly as Batwoman has. As I said elsewhere--I dread the day we see Batwoman vs. the Joker, but if we must, it better be damn good and not the same Joker stuff we've been getting since Killing Joke.

Okay, drifted off-point there. While I've been a bit hard on the writing here, I would tip my cap to Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman for only bringing up Batwoman's sexuality twice, and only then as a sort of tossed-off detail that doesn't ever threaten to make her, y'know, Northstar. Not that one couldn't make it a good story without it becoming didactic (witness Elegy) but it's easy for it to be an exploitative detail or become the defining issue of the character and that would be a shame, as it's been previously shown with this character that she can walk that fine edge without falling over into "she's Batman but has boobs, likes girls. OOOH!"

Time (and issue #1, which is on the way soon) will tell, but I think we're off to a good start. I've already added this to my pull list (and this is after several months of having no comics on my pull list at all) and I'm recommending it. It's well worth your time.

No comments: