The first story arc of Detective Comics, “Rise of the Batmen”, raised questions about Batwoman, and now Detective Comics #948 sets out to try to answer some of them. More details about her father’s clandestine organization, the Colony, also emerge.
Detective Comics #948
Batwoman Begins Part 1
Writers: James Tynion IV, Marguerite Bennett
Artist: Ben Oliver
Cover Price: $2.99
Story Pages: 19
Release Date: January 11th, 2017
Collected in: Detective Comics v2: The Victim Syndicate
Other pages to check out: Detective Comics #949
Katherine Kane has been part of Batman’s mythology for longer than most people know, although the incarnation of her that was created in 1956 was removed from continuity in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. She reappeared in a retooled and updated version in 2006, and has been struggling to make a name for herself since then. Prior to the Rebirth cycle of books Katherine has been notable for two primary reasons: first, her ongoing monthly series as part of the New 52 was drawn by venerable artist J.H. Williams; and second, she is one of the few DC characters who is openly gay. While both of these are certainly valid reasons to take a look at her New 52 book she needs more of a hook for long-term growth, which she lacked for quite some time.
With “Rise of the Batmen” the character was given a more defined purpose by being the trainer to the various younger heroes (and Clayface) of Gotham. More than that it also began to flesh her character out as it explored her military background and relationship with her father. The twist to their relationship was perhaps not the most elegant, but it created a foundation for future stories that she lacked before that.
Although this is Detective Comics #948 in name, it would be better to read this a prequel to the upcoming Batwoman ongoing series by guest writer Marguerite Bennett. That does mean that this is a story focused exclusively on Batman and Batwoman, with their younger charges nowhere to be found. The kids have earned a break between “Rise of the Batmen” and “Victim Syndicate”, not to mention “Night of the Monster Men,” so that’s not really a problem.
This story does rely on you having a certain degree of knowledge about these events, though. The main antagonist for this story is a member of the Colony, which is presumably setting them up to be the main focus of Batwoman’s book. On top of that a good chunk of this issue is given over to Batman and Batwoman working with Argus to try to contain the lasting effects of “Night of the Monster Men”, which may have longer reaching consequences than it originally seemed.
There is a lot going on in this story between fleshing out Kate’s past, checking in with the monsters and reintroducing the Colony. It is to the credit of both James Tynion and Marguerite Bennett that even with all this going on the book never feels rushed. Spreading the story out over two issues helps with that, but you can also tell that both writers know what they’re doing. It is certainly a good sign of things to come with Batwoman’s upcoming solo book.
Ben Oliver carries the art for the issue, and it looks good. The panel layouts are dynamic without being confusing, and Oliver has a strong sense of action. The coloring seems a bit off in places, especially in regards to flesh tones (even factoring in Kate’s pale appearance), but it is not distracting. Even if it misses the mark in a few places there is a wide enough range of colors used that the book maintains a distinct visual identity. We’ll have to wait to see how it holds up against Steve Epting’s work on the Batwoman ongoing, but I suspect it will invite favorable comparisons.
This issue, and presumably this story arc, works well both as an introduction to Batwoman and as a continuation of plot threads laid down in previous issues. I think it is a stronger issue if you have already ready “Rise of the Batmen,” but for fans who are just interested in seeing where Batwoman will be going this holds up admirably. This is a good jumping on point for either Detective Comics or Batwoman, and I give it a strong recommendation for Batman fans who have been avoiding Rebirth so far. James Tynion and Marguerite Bennett have used Detective Comics #948 to give Katherine Kane a sorely needed direction, and the future is looking good for the character as a result.