New 52 Review: Batwoman #1

The long-awaited series might get lost in the shuffle of the New 52, but it damn well shouldn't.  This book is absolutely beautiful.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Batwoman #1

While I've often enjoyed Batman, I've never been hugely keen on the idea of a Bat-Family.  The mere sight of Robin tends to feel like a holdover from a shinier, happier time in comics that doesn't seem to jive with the modern notion of Batman.  The fact that there have been four little black-haired boys in the Robin internship program – not to mention that blonde girl they always forget to mention – and a few different Batgirls and even Ace the Bat-Hound set the stage for me to groan at the introduction of Batwoman back in that 52 series a few years back.  The ridiculous melodrama of her first run-in with Renee Montoya in that series didn't help matters.

Times have changed, though.  Batwoman #1 finally hit the shops this week, after this new series had been teased as a new ongoing for months even before DC announced this New 52, and thus the book was delayed even more so it could step right into that big push.  However, this particular book shines because it doesn't have that 'look how new and different and edgy we can be now' vibe that some of these New 52 #1s have.  Instead, having been written pre-reboot, it feels like a beautiful new pair of shoes that fit like you've already been wearing them forever.

Perhaps that's a mighty gay sentiment, but that's honestly the first simile that came to mind.  Maybe it's appropriate for a review of DC's highest profile gay character.  I'm in touch with my feminine side, and it's a good place to be.  H8ers gonna h8.

(And now I feel dirty for writing that.)

Anyway, the art of J.H. Williams III is the big selling point here, rendering from his own script co-written with W. Haden Blackman, and it's oftentimes breathtaking in its scope and fascinating with its inventive layouts, and Dave Stewart does amazing things with the colors as well.  Batwoman #1 opens with a really creepy ghost story about a spirit we come to know as La Llorona, aka The Weeping Woman, who has been abducting and drowning children.  Is it an urban legend, is it a metahuman, is it magic?  We don't know yet, but that first sequence is unbelievably eerie and sets up a seemingly impossible task for Batwoman to deal with.  How do fisticuff-centered vigilantes deal with ghosts?

Other refreshing signs of being written pre-reboot include the fact that recent issues of Detective Comics which detailed Kate Kane's messed-up family origin and the return of her broken twin sister as the criminal known only as Alice are kept intact, and the set up that her cousin Bette Kane, formerly the Teen Titan Flamebird, wants to be her partner in crimefighting has carried over as well.  One would hope the history of the Teen Titans doesn't get so messed up and reworked in Teen Titans #1 that there will already be continuity burps in the DCnU. 

However, that's not to say that nothing's changed.  Kate's new love interest, Maggie Sawyer, is no longer a captain in the Gotham Police Department, but just a detective, and it's heavily implied that Renee Montoya, Kate's ex, is dead – or at least believed to be dead.  Did she fake her death before becoming The Question?  Is she even still the Question in the DCnU?  And how exactly does Batman fit into all this?  We'll find out soon enough, and I'm completely on board to find out.

Other cool things about this issue:  Williams III is bringing back characters from Chase, the Dan Curtis Johnson book he illustrated in the late 1990s.  Cameron Chase, agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations, has been assigned by Director Bones to investigate a terrorist organization known as Medusa and stick around Gotham City long enough to find out just who the Batwoman really is.  Mr. Bones, people.  I don't care who you are, but a chain-smoking government official with invisible poisonous flesh who wears pink ties with lingerie ladies on them is never anything but fantastic.  There's also the introduction of a great new group of joke villains in Q-Ball and The Pool Hall Gang.  The fact that they exist is a great sign that, for as dramatic and moody as this book is going to look and feel, Williams and Blackman won't lose sight of what's cool and fun about comics.

There may be a bit of curiosity about how often in Batwoman #1 we see the Kanes getting undressed and, to indulge my hetero side for a moment, how often Kate's chest appears to be, uh, somewhat pointy, but in all honesty, they look and seem to move like actual human breasts and not the gravity-defying volleyballs that most comic women are given.   Also curious is how ridiculously ashen Kate's skin is – one would think the shock red hair and that morgue-gray skin would be a dead giveaway to anyone who's familiar with the two of them. 

But have I mentioned the amazing layouts?  I did?  Well, here's more detail.  There's one bit where Batwoman and Bette – whose been forced into plain gray togs and a mask by Kate, who is also referring to her only as Plebe – are running out to fight crime, and the panels are all placed in a cleverly-combined logo mixture of both Batwoman and Flamebird.  The DEO page has a giant logo in the middle so you get the feel of where this scene takes place.  The horrible tragedy of the drowned children is depicted with this deeply saddened skeleton in the center with waves of watery panels flowing out from it.  It's just stunningly inventive and beautifully accomplished work.

Batwoman #1 has helped me do a complete 180 on this character.  Where once I thought she was just another cheap knockoff, now I see the truth.  This book is going to be stellar.