27 March 2012

"Batwoman" #4-7 (Feb - May 2012)

Batwoman
J.H. Williams III: co-writer (#4-7) & artist (#4-5)
W. Haden Blackman: co-writer
Amy Reeder: penciller & cover (#6-7)
Rob Hunter (#6-7) & Richard Friend (#6): inkers
Dave Stewart: colors (#4-5)
Guy Major: colors (#6-7)
Todd Klein: letters
Rickey Purdin: assistant editor
Harvey Richards: associate editor
Michael Marts: editor
Batman created by Bob Kane
$2.99/issue

#4 "Hydrology, 4: Estuary" (Feb 2012)
Date of Publication: 14 December 2011

Issue #3 left off with Kate Kane arbitrarily firing Bette as her sidekick and I was scratching my head. It was clearly meant to set up something big with Bette and we only make it a few pages into this issue before it happens. While Kate (Batwoman) has a passionate night with her new girlfriend, Maggie Sawyer, hotheaded Bette is out on the streets in her original costumed persona of Flamebird. She encounters a grotesque heavy with a sickle for a left hand who leaves her for dead...and to be found by Agent Chase and the Department of Extranormal Operations.

This is the penultimate issue of the opening arc, "Hydrology," and I gotta say I loved it. The juxtaposition of Kate and Maggie's night of lovemaking with Bette's brutal mauling was heartrending. It was supposed to be, of course, and it worked. Kate's ignorance of the attack the rest of the issue made me a little squeamish--particularly as the DEO establishes Bette's identity.

#5 "Hydrology, 5: Evapotranspiration" (Mar 2012)
Date of Publication: 11 January 2012

Having established the identity of The Weeping Woman as Maria Salvaje, Batwoman finally forces a confrontation with the paranormal kidnapper. Kate is taunted with guilt over her sister's fate, rejects any guilt and then defeats her foe with, um, fire. Somehow. It comes out that Maria was just a pawn, controlled by Medusa and that the children are still alive, somewhere. Kate displays her never-ending battle work ethic by...going home. There, Director Bones and Agent Chase essentially blackmail her into joining the DEO by using Bette as leverage.

I'm conflicted about this issue. On the one hand, it has some nice stuff. The stuff with Maria was interesting, as was the payoff to issue #4 of Kate finally learning about Bette. But I still can't shake the sense that Kate considers Batwoman something of a moonlighting gig. She does her thing at night, goes home and spends more energy on Maggie Sawyer than she seems to put into finding missing kids. There's an emotional filter to Kate that I find just a bit off-putting, which is probably why it was so rewarding to see her react to the news of Bette the way she did. I'm sold on the paranormal aspects of this book, though, which is out of my comfort zone and I left off having decided I was definitely in for at least the beginning of the next arc.

#6 "To Drown the World, Part One" (Apr 2012)
Date of Publication: 8 February 2012

New arc, new art team! Amy Reeder takes over on pencils, with Rob Hunter & Richard Friend inking and Guy Major coloring. I was hopeful this meant J.H. Williams III would have more time to concentrate on writing and that this arc would be more consistent than "Hydrology." This issue features Kate and Maggie both working The Weeping Woman case in their respective ways, as well as continuing their romance. We see more aspects of the two as individuals, and I really liked that. Batwoman confronts the "Freak" who attacked Bette in issue #4, and we see the beginning of her work with the DEO.

My favorite Maggie moment of the series so far is after she's interviewed one of the mothers of the missing children, who (understandably) becomes upset that while their worlds are upside down, it seems the police are treating life as business as usual. "With respect, Detective Sawyer, I don't think a woman like you has any idea what it's like to have a child... ...then have that child taken away. So please don't pretend to know my suffering." As the woman leaves, a gobsmacked Maggie pulls out a framed photo from her desk drawer and we know her pain. The only word on the entire page is a "SLAM" sound effect of the mother's departure. We don't need a thought box.

Also, my favorite panel of not just Batwoman, but all three New 52s to date is in this issue: the last panel on Page 15 (part of a two-page spread with 14). Kate has just reestablished boundaries with Maggie, but reassures her with a kiss that she is still committed to pursuing their relationship. It's the post-kiss panel that got to me. There's a look of complete vulnerability on Kate's face that is absolutely perfect. Kudos to Amy Reeder for this panel. The rest of the issue is great (such as the aforementioned page 9), but this panel is the kind of moment where the comic book medium really shines when done right.

#7 "To Drown the World, Part Two" (May 2012)
Date of Publication: 14 March 2012

We learn more about how Medusa operates by "recruiting" paranormal beings to carry out their sordid directives. This is more of the iceberg under the tip seen in "Hydrology," and it's nice to have back-to-back solid issues. Amy Reeder kills it again, and this time my favorite panel is the last one on page 10: Bloody Mary lunging forward. It's creepy as hell, and makes me want to see her draw an entire issue featuring this character.


Notes about Batwoman
Batwoman was named Outstanding Comic Book at this year's GLAAD Media Awards, which "recognize and honor media for fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community that inspire change."

Batwoman is one of just a few Bat-titles not participating in May's "Night of the Owls" crossover. Instead, issue #9 will be part four of "To Drown the World." Per DC, it will also feature Trevor McCarthy taking over art from Amy Reeder, with J.H. Williams III resuming monthly art with issue #12. That leads me to the following debacle.

Unbeknownst to me, the original plan was for J.W. Williams III to work on "Hydrology," and for Reeder to work on "To Drown the World," with each of them providing variant covers for the other's issues. Reeder finished four of them before learning none of them would actually see the light of day--reasons not offered. They can be viewed on her blog, though, and they're terrific. I really like her variant for #3! Reeder's final work will be in issue #8. She's rather ambiguous about the reasons for this in her blog, but she does say:
The jist of it, though, was that it was a bad situation, and kept getting worse and more intense until it became impossible. I am a long-term project kinda girl and I was so excited about being on Batwoman...I didn't want to let go of it and fought until it was over.
My own remarks in my reviews have noted an apparent instability with this book, and it's a shame there's so much turmoil because it has a lot of potential. I would keep: Kate & Maggie's romance, the paranormal content and Amy Reeder. But then, they didn't ask me.
Batwoman #3 unpublished variant cover by Amy Reeder
Batwoman Vol. 1: Hydrology will be presented in hardcover and available 13 June with a cover price of $22.99. It will include the first five issues of the series, as well as issue #0 which I don't have, haven't read and couldn't tell you a thing about, other than Interwebs tell me it was supposed to set up the series that was meant to begin a year ago but kept getting delayed. It featured Reeder's art, so it seems she was jerked around about working on Batwoman for about a year before The New 52 even launched.

Graphitti Designs has already rolled out a T-shirt featuring J.H. Williams III's cover art from Batwoman #0. You can also get the Batwoman symbol on an adult T-shirt, youth T-shirt, women's tee, a reflective "Metalix" T-shirt, "Metalix" women's tee or on a hoodie.
Perfect for buying Skittles.

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