Thursday, 25 June 2009

Detective Comics #854 review

She's the Batwoman . . . and she's pale. Very pale. I suspect Kate Kane is wearing pancake make-up for her nights on the town, all the better to scare criminals, my dear. With ruby red lips, red wig stark against the black night, and that pale, pale skin, she's a new ghost on the Gotham streets.

But Batwoman is no ephemeral vision; she does, as the Americans say, kick butt. And head. And anything else that gets in the way. And when not Batwoman, she's equally vampish, with her new do, a Twenties-style Louise Brooks bob. Well, she looks vampish; in her current relationship she seems rather meek. Or maybe just too tired to fight back when new girlfriend Mallory accuses her of cheating and dumps her. Let the moaning Minnie go, I say, when you're ready for love there's a rather lovely woman just down the comic. But we'll get to her later.

In her first outing as lead star in Detective Comics, Batwoman is a woman possessed, continuing her efforts to shut down the Religion of Crime which tore her heart out (literally) in a mini some time ago. And I wish her luck, because as visually interesting as their apparent new leader, Alice, is - think a Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz femme fatale, with creepier word balloons courtesy of the great Todd Klein - I found the Crime Bible mini rather senseless and just want the whole thing to go away.

Still, that's not putting me off the comic. Not when Kate Kane is such a potentially interesting character - I like what we've seen and can't wait to find out about her past with the Batman Family, her motivation for crimefighting, where she shops . . . I'm already intrigued by her military dad, who seems to share her secrets, and why there's such sadness in her eyes.

Because while the mirror-lensed Batwoman is a grinning fiend for good, artist JH Williams III makes Kate a smoky-eyed siren with the weight of the world on her shoulders. I want to know her private sadnesses and, if not see her overcome them, learn how she deals with them.

Williams is on stonking form throughout, and when not drawing the comic may as well build a shelf for the awards he'll win. The layouts are imaginative yet not so fiddly they halt the story; the action is kinetic and clear; the quieter moments are full of fascinating detail (I want to move into Kate's flat right now).

Dave Stewart is equally pulling his weight with the colours - between them, the men give us a distinct separation between the books two worlds: Batwoman stalks the grainy streets, her costume sleek, while Kate wanders the daytime world, in fabulously feminine chic, tattoos proudly displayed. Actually, there's a middle ground as we follow Kate and her father into her mini-Batcave. The art is wonderfully well-thought out and a perfect match for Greg Rucka's smart script.

Mind, Rucka had me at 'Bette'.

Rucka stays on for back-up strip The Question. Happily Renee Montoya - Batwoman's favourite ex - is away from the global intelligence force she hooked up with in (Oh God If Only It Were) Final Crisis, and is taking on small, street-sized cases with Tot. I believe Tot was an associate of the original Question, but no one bothers mentioning it. Oh well, Rucka and artist Cully Hamner give us enough set-up to get into the story, a mundane episode of Renee looking for a missing girl. It's nicely paced but strictly 'uh-huh' stuff. Points to Rucka for not hammering us on the head with 'Renee is an alcoholic' when she comes across a roomful of empties, but that was the only moment I sat up and took notice.

Maybe the story will go somewhere amazing but on the evidence here, and nice as it is to see an actual detective in Detective Comics again, I'd prefer a $2.99 book featuring Batwoman alone.

4 comments:

  1. Am looking forward to reading it! Have been badgering my comic book store for about two months. (;

    Sara

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  2. Excellent review, Martin.

    I couldn't agree more, on pretty much every front. Between JHW3's stunning art and Rucka's grasp of the character of Kate (and her dad!), this book looks like its future is bright (well, actually, dark -- but you know what I mean :) ).

    And what stuns me is that I'm just as interested in Kate outside of her Bat-outfit as I am when she is in it. The second arc is supposed to be Kate's origin, and I think we will get a view into the whole Kate/Dad relationship.

    This is just a wonderful, beautiful, fascinating book. And Kate, as Batwoman, is SCARY!

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  3. Thanks Aaron, I never knew the origin was coming up next. Roll on. Oh, I do hope she owned a circus!

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