Well, that took awhile.
If you’re like me, you’ve been anxiously awaiting the return of J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman to comic racks since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving last year, when the series’ #0 issue hit. Delay after delay plagued the book, until DC just figured “screw it” and roped the series in with their line-wide reboot. It would be difficult to justify waiting ten months for any comic book, but Batwoman #1 is good enough that it almost doesn’t matter.
Let’s be honest: the star of this book is the art. No one in the business composes his pages like J.H. Williams. Every segment of the book is like a new painting to discover, part collage, part action narrative, all beautiful. You can just stare and stare at the ways Williams lays out his panels and not get bored. Brilliantly, while all the scenes of protagonist Kate Kane in her civilian life are presented in a pretty standard comic grid, the Batwoman action scenes explode on the page (or in two-page sequences, which Williams loves). You never know what you’re going to get from one moment to the next, what unifying object or design will carry the narrative forward. Here’s my bold proclamation: Williams is the best superhero artist working right now. I suppose greatness can excuse a month or two of being tardy.
With art like this, the story in Batwoman could merely be okay and you’d still have a book worth buying on your hands. Happily, Williams and co-writer W. Haden Blackman don’t just settle for “okay.” The two do a great job of setting up a lot of compelling first-issue scenarios that hopefully will hook new readers into the book’s world. The opening segment establishes the first arc’s antagonist, a spectral woman based on an urban legend, seemingly with water-based powers, that likes to kidnap children. She’s creepy as all get-out and immediately presents a serious foe for Batwoman, and I like that Williams and Blackman bring our heroine into a supernatural world already — it gives the book a welcome moodiness.
Besides that villain (referred to by a cop as the Weeping Woman), lots of other plot threads rear their heads: the Department of Extranormal Operations gets wind of Batwoman and wants to know her story, allowing Williams to bring in a character he created over a decade ago. Kate trains a new partner, a former Teen Titan who doesn’t take street-level crimefighting as seriously as she ought to. In her personal life, Kate refuses to speak to her father after learning that her sister, long thought dead, was still alive — and her dad knew it — and she also tries to put together a dating life (with Detective Maggie Sawyer) while getting over her last love, Renee Montoya. Oh, and that Batman guy wants something too.
Despite everything that’s going on, Batwoman #1 doesn’t feel overly busy or frantic. It’s paced quite deliberately and very well, giving us only tantalizing bits and pieces of Kate’s life. What results is a compelling heroine who hopefully makes readers want to stick around and learn more. If nothing else, you won’t get better looking pages from any other book on the stands. At this point, my pull list verdict should be obvious.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more