Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chronic Review: Batwoman # 0!

Batwoman # 0
DC Comics

Script: JH Williams III/W.Haden Blackman
Pencils: JH Williams III/Amy Reeder
16 main feature pages + 7 Detective Comics preview pages

I'm a little surprised this issue escaped the "Bruce Wayne Road Home" treatment, since it follows the formula. Well, it almost does. Batwoman # 0 avoids the ridiculous cyclopean cyber suit Batman, replacing it with a more down and gritty Bruce.

I guess it makes sense, since the newest incarnation of Batwoman has consistently held itself above the fray as it were, and I'm not being pejorative. One thing this issue does well is make a case for Kate Kane's legitimacy in the best way possible - by treating the character with respect and producing quality work. No need for silly one-eyed Batmen or crossover banners here, the content speaks for itself. Batwoman assumes that it matters, and makes it easier for the reader to believe it as well.

Quite a lot is made regarding JH Williams, his pencils, and his panel compositions. I understand what the pundits are talking about now - there is rarely a page that follows a traditional bricked out page layout. Is it great art? Is it pomp and circumstance? I don't know. The non-traditional organization and tilted panels didn't do anything so avant garde that I was confused. It reads just fine, although the jagged red bat bleeding into Kane's ass whup on Bruce Wayne probably distracted more than it added. Whatever.

Another potentially interesting twist is the split art duties on this issue. Williams handles the art chores where Batwoman appears, and Amy Reeder tackles the scenes out of costume. These are bells and whistles that are lost on me, because I'm a neanderthal. My art sense isn't developed enough to critique these moves or appreciate them.

As for the script, I think it's perfectly functional. The zero issue is to be introductory, and the reader is introduced to the basic Batwoman concepts. She's a good fighter. She's got some tech. She's gay. She's pissed. She's mixing it up with the Religion of Crime, and they don't appear to like her either. It imparts information.

What it doesn't do is compel me to be interested enough in the character to continue. I think the weakness in the script is that Kate never has anything to say for herself. The dossier-style overdub tells me what I need to know, except why I should care. Bruce talks about her, and the resume is impressive. She sure does know how to punch people. There might be somebody interesting in there somewhere....but we're denied it in this issue, because the only things Kate Kane expresses in Batwoman # 0 are kicks, punches, and sneers.

Perhaps we could have had some of that characterization with a full issue's worth of content? The book is a little light at 16 pages. There are also four pages of preview artwork for Batwoman # 1, and more preview pages for Detective Comics. Blah. Keep all that. Sell me on Batowman # 0 and I'll make sure I see the issue one pages then. And even if one considers the Detective previews a worthwhile concept, these same pages are available in multiple other books, and lots of folks are probably "paying" for this commercial over and over again. It's not a good value.

For those worried about the future of the Kate Kane Batwoman after Greg Rucka's departure, I think you can allay those concerns. There's nothing broken or amateurish about the new regime. The art is at least fantastic and possibly genius. I think those who were hooked from Elegy will find that they are in good hands, and I wish Batwoman the best of luck. As a newcomer and a character guy, I didn't find anything in this issue that would require me to jump on board, though.


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