Have you ever gone on a date with a random pretty girl because your friends told you to stop sulking around the house in the same pair of pajamas months after the love of your life broke your heart? Because if so, you’ll recognize that feeling all over again as the new creative team takes over the reins of Batwoman #25 this month. (And if you think that’s melodramatic, you should check out some of my old Skins recaps.) By now you know the story: Creative super-genius J.H. Williams, whose Batwoman page layouts and general art were so innovative and stunning they had the potential to make you gasp out loud, has left the title for good. He had been with Batwoman since her relaunch in Detective Comics in 2009.
Batwoman stood alone in DC’s New 52, not only because of the incomparable art, and not only because it became a beacon of triumphant storytelling about a lesbian headliner, but also because Williams and W. Haden Blackman rebuffed DC’s editorial meddling, month after month, refusing to have their stories dictated to them by whatever sales-stunts the rest of the Bat-family titles were pulling. Much like Kate Kane herself refused to bow to Batman’s whims, Williams and Blackman didn’t fancy being beholden to the Dark Knight. And now they’re gone. And like DC has been wanting all along, the first issue after their departure strips Kate of her independence and mystique and folds her right into Batman’s world with a tie-in to his Zero Year issue.
So, yeah. This isn’t a Batwoman origin story at all. It’s a Batman origin story. And Kate is just a minor player in his major drama.
Kate actually should be at West Point and Maggie Sawyer actually should be working with the Metropolis PD, but a funeral for Uncle Phil brings Kate home and the brewing storm brings Maggie to Gotham as a backup cop. Uncle Phil is an uncle to both Kate Kane and Bruce Wayne (because Bruce’s mom and Kate’s dad were siblings, and so they’re first cousins), so the after-funeral reception takes place at Wayne Manor. Kate and Bruce are cautious with each other, but both annoyed—as am I—when a young Bette sticks her head out into the courtyard and tells them to come inside for some of “Alfred’s awesome German chocolate cake.”
After Bruce kicks all the guests out of his house, because he’s Bruce Wayne and that’s how he does, Kate pretends to tuck herself in with a nice book to weather the storm outside. But as soon as her dad turns off the lights, she slips out the window, darts back to Bruce’s house to steal a motorcycle, and decides to be a good soldier in the city. She gets into a scuffle with some random looters and jumps out of a window to keep from getting shot to death, but the fight ends with Maggie Sawyer busting in and breaking it up. (Cops: 1, Vigilantes: 0). There’s a nice moment at the hospital when Kate and Maggie cross paths and stare at each other with lustful foreshadowing, but that’s their only real interaction.
Jake Kane picks up Kate at the hospital and tells her she’s grounded, which is hilarious on a couple of levels, but you can’t blame a dad for wanting to keep at least one of his daughters from turning into a maniac.
I really wanted to like this book a lot. I picked it up first thing when the comic shop opened yesterday after thinking about it every day for weeks. You’ve got to give writer Marc Andreyko some props. He’s stepped into an impossible situation here with Batwoman. On the one hand, you’ve got the book’s faithful readers who have been enamored with the title’s independence and budding standalone mythology, and on the other you’ve got DC with their dollars and Batman-shaped lightning rod. So in this issue, which was frustrating simply by nature of being an abrupt departure from the arc we’d been following for years with Williams, Andreyko is trying to stay true to Kate and her supporting cast as well as pull Batwoman into the orbit of DC’s more mainstream influence. (The best shout-out to longtime fans was naming the tropical storm “Rene.”) And the book also featured four—four!—artists, who were no doubt scrambling around the clock to get this issue to print on time. But it’s not just the layouts that suffered. The character design is so jarringly bizarre it took me out of the story repeatedly.
So everything was stacked against this creative team, really. But even taking all of that into consideration, the book was a disappointment to me.
I’m still invested in the character and I’ll keep buying the book while the new team tries to find their footing, but if Batwoman becomes nothing more than a webisode about the primtime hijinks of The Goddamn Batman himself, I’m going to end up back in my break-up pajamas, eating ice cream from the container.
Also, did anyone else notice in the “Happy Batsgiving” splash special in the back of the book that Kate is wearing what appears to be a glowing wedding ring, but on the wrong hand? What in the world. (Click for a larger size pic.)
What did you think of Batwoman #25?