Quick Hits: Reviews of Batwoman #5, Frankenstein #5 and Secret Avengers #21

Batwoman #5

Batwoman #5: JH Williams III and W Haden Blackman’s first story arc ends as Batwoman figures out how to defeat the supernatural “Weeping Woman” who’s been abducting Gotham City children. Williams’ lush, creative art is obviously this book’s biggest selling point; simply put, no one crafts comic pages like him. But a conversation I had on Facebook last month made me realize another one of this book’s biggest strengths: story-wise it just has so much going on. The climactic defeat of the Weeping Woman comes only halfway through this issue; we’re not even done with this first arc before Kate Kane must move on to her next challenge. All the concurrent plotlines (child abduction, the DEO, Batman Inc., Kate’s relationships with her father, her cousin and her maybe-girlfriend) both make this book really interesting and inspire a lot of confidence in the creative team. Williams and Blackman are juggling a lot here, but so far every issue’s been executed superbly. It’s clear they have big plans for these characters, and that makes this book feel tight and masterfully structured. The end of this arc brings some serious changes to the book’s status quo, and although our first major villain gets defeated the end results of her actions still have to be cleaned up. I really look forward to seeing where the next arc of this series will take us, but wherever it is it’s sure to be worth reading. A

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #5: Kudos to writer Jeff Lemire for finding a way to script part of a multi-book crossover without making readers actually pick up issues of a series they’re not reading. Though Frankenstein #5 is a crossover with OMAC, each book acts as a different side of the same story instead of a multi-part saga that readers must own all of to understand. I really appreciated that, since I didn’t care to pick up OMAC any time soon (and apparently, neither does anybody else). On its own, this issue — which features our title character tangling with the guy from that other book — is some pretty serious fun. Frankenstein’s a bruiser, and this book gives him a good chance to flex his muscles solo. Not for the first time, though, the art here (primarily the pencils of Alberto Ponticelli) just isn’t doing it for me. It’s very messy and crowded, which can be fine, but I found it to be a real detriment during the battle sequences. Ponticelli tries to convey a cacophonous throwdown in the middle section of this book, with panel barriers broken and various characters’ bandying limbs commanding attention on every page, but it just ends up looking like formless chaos to me. I guess not a lot of other readers have this problem, but it’s definitely holding me back from enjoying this book as much as I’d like to. C+

Secret Avengers #21: Warren Ellis‘ far-too-brief run on Secret Avengers ends in this issue as the team deals with an invading force from a dimension of dark gods. There isn’t a lot to indicate this is Ellis’ finale, but the discerning reader might notice a few changes, like the book making use of most of its cast in one outing (previous installments have focused on smaller groups of 1-3 Avengers) or the fact that a few plot threads from the last six books are here referenced again, like Steve Rogers’ mission in Symkaria. Mostly Ellis’ run goes out by celebrating everything that made it awesome; this issue mashes together all the different types of stories  the book has told over the past few months to great effect, from straightforward superheroics to espionage to science-fiction thriller to Lovecraftian horror, although much like the other issues in this run, it ends far too briefly, almost seeming anticlimactic. That abrupt end is certainly Ellis’ stylistic choice, and sometimes it works, but in a swan song issue it feels strange. Still, of the three writers with a long-term gig on this book, I think Ellis has by far done the best job of realizing the full potential of a book with this premise and this cast of characters. In two weeks we’ll welcome Rick Remender and Patrick Zircher to the title with #21.1, and though I’m hopeful, I can’t imagine it will be easy to surpass Ellis’ high water mark here. B+

tags: batwoman, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., secret avengers

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