Batwoman #0: Knowing Father’s Best

Kate Kane explains the tragedy of her life and her conflict of heart and mind in a letter to her father.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Batwoman #0

The first major story arc of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman's Batwoman is still ongoing, and she's still dealing with metaphysical villainy – or at least trying to find it to deal with it. The Weeping Woman spectre has led to an evil witch named Maro or Maru or something – I can't rightly remember, which is a sign that the antagonists here aren't the most intriguing of enemies for our hero, and the story's been a bit hit-and-miss in the middle there. However, this book is still a must read, because Williams' art is always masterful and Katherine Rebecca Kane is just that goddamned compelling a hero.

Batwoman #0 is the case in point. This issue examines the complicated relationship between Kate and her father, Jacob through a letter she is composing to him that she never plans to send. It shows us the evolution of their dynamic from their early family days, to being just the two of them against the world in the wake of the tragic deaths of her mother and twin sister, and to his unwavering support for her life choices. He even goes to incredibly dangerous extremes to try to convince her not to dedicate herself to the life of misery that is Batwoman – but those extremes also double as intense training to test her courage under fire, proving to both of them that she will not cross the line when up against the wall, and that's enough for him to be her partner in crimefighting. And all of this reminiscence is under the pall of their current estranged relationship, when it came to light that Kate's twin sister Beth was actually still alive – and crazy as a loon – and he knew about it.

It's everything you need to jump onto this title, because you've got a lot of her life story, and you've got the always amazing artwork from Williams and colorist Dave Stewart, once again using the trick he pulled when illustrating Greg Rucka's Elegy story by mastering two completely different styles, one for the current-day and one for the flashbacks. In fact, there's one particular page where those two looks, the pre- and post-Batwoman, crash into each other at Kate's first sighting of Batman, who is presented in the lush, painted modernity, while she's still in her more traditionally illustrated comic form.

In fact, one of my other artistic questions about Batwoman is answered here (or perhaps has been answered before but I just realized it), about the ashen pale color of Kate's skin – something I always think should give her identity away to any who see her cowled face – no one has that particular porcelain tone. In her childhood, she's shown with a healthy flesh color, but it's only after the tragedy that shatters her family and takes her sister and mother from her that she loses that vibrancy, as if all her blood has gone cold. It's a handy reminder for those of us who spend too much time being analytical about comic books (and that way lies madness, as you can see from this quick analysis of the continuity fuck-ups in the other New 52 Bat-books) that sometimes, art choices are made for us, the readers, and not for the other characters in these stories. When we saw half of Peter Parker's face become a Spider-Man mask, J. Jonah Jameson never saw that. Maybe Kate's skin tone is just a mark of her childhood trauma, to let us know she's always carrying that burden.

When Batwoman is on, it's really damn good. Batwoman #0 is one of those times.

9.5