Hot on the heels of a two-parter in Detective Comics, Batwoman moves to her own solo title with the introductory issue of Batwoman: Rebirth #1.
Batwoman: Rebirth #1
Cover Price: $2.99
Story Pages: 19
Release Date: February 16, 2017
Collected in: Batwoman v1: Many Arms of Death
Prior to Rebirth Batwoman was one of those characters that just happened to be around every once in a while. Her New 52 solo title was an artistic vehicle for the talented J.H. Williams III, but was not particularly well known for its story content. It did give us the important return of her sister, Beth, but that plot fell off rather quickly before getting picked up again near the end of the book’s run. When Rebirth came around Batwoman got a new lease on life as the hand-picked leader for Batman’s group of wayward sidekicks. He treats her as an equal, and she has proven to be worthy of that honor time and time again. With that team going through changes it seems natural then that Batwoman herself would be ready to take the limelight in a solo title once more. This time she has a clear purpose: track down and dismantle her father’s organization, the Colony. Not that you would know it from this issue.
So far the various “Rebirth” titles have gone one of two ways: either they treat it as the first issue of an ongoing title, or they act as an introduction to the characters. Batwoman: Rebirth #1 takes the former approach, and can largely be viewed as a character study of our protagonist. The issue concerns itself with her motivation, and what has brought her to this point in her life. It remains light on the details but throws in just enough clues to establish a baseline reference for new readers. Oddly the book never does namedrop the Colony or her father’s involvement with it, although the final panel is definitely about that team. Instead the issue gives us a crash course in her life history, from seeing her mother and sister seemingly killed, to being kicked out of a military academy for being gay, and then going on a self-destructive streak in the aftermath.
Several key characters appear in the book, but instead of detailed backgrounds we get quick glimpses into their impact on Batwoman’s life. It is a thin line that writers James Tynion IV and Marguerite Bennett are walking here, and I’m not entirely sure they stay on the right side of it all the time. I sit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to familiarity with the character, so I know what her history is with Renee Montoya, but who Safiyah and the mysterious woman (assassin?) lurking in the background are remains a mystery. I am intrigued enough that I will be looking to see them return in later issues, but I also feel frustrated because I feel like the comic expects me to know who they are. I realize that is not actually true since the book is upfront about the fact that we are not supposed to concern ourselves with the details just yet, but I still feel that way about it.
The art comes from Steve Epting, and I will have to admit that I have always been partial to his work so I may be a bit biased. He is complimented well by colorist Jeremy Cox, and together the two have produced an exceptionally good looking book. They are clearly drawing inspiration from J.H. William III’s work on the previous Batwoman series, but there is enough of their own style that it feels like ita new book. This is a good looking comic, and my only fear is that it cannot maintain this standard over time, although I certainly hope it does.
For me Batwoman: Rebirth #1 is a frustrating issue. It does a good job of diving into Kate Kane’s mindset, and charts her course in such a way that makes us understand why she became Batwoman. But by the same token it merely hints at the stories that have come before, and infuriatingly refuses to expand even small details on them. For instance, we see early on that her sister, Beth, was seemingly killed by terrorists, but in a later panel she is apparently alive and falling from a bridge. How did she survive? Is she a bad guy? Why is she falling? These answers are, I believe, in the New 52 Batwoman series, but the book never tells us that and nor does it tell us the significance of these events. There are things in this book that I want to know more about, except not in the “please let the next issue come out already!” sense, but rather in the “why aren’t you giving me the information I need?!” way. Granted there is a metric ton of information to convey here, and the story would get bogged down if it stopped to explain every detail, but I think this missed the middle ground it needed to hit.
Overall this is a beautifully drawn issue with an interesting, though incomplete portrait of Batwoman. I suspect it will read much better in the trade format with the next six or seven issues to bolster it and fill out the details. Until then, though, I would consider Detective Comics #948 and #949 a better introduction to the character and this series. Go read the rest of the Rebirth Detective Comics issues, too, while you’re at it. They’re the best comics to come out of Rebirth so far.