Kate Kane and her international team head to the Middle East to find dealers supplying a drug that turns people into monsters in Batwoman #1.
Cover Price: $2.99
Story Pages: 20
Release Date: March 15, 2017
Collected in: Batwoman v1: Many Arms of Death
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Batwoman had a prequel two-parted in Detective Comics which was good, and another prequel in Batwoman: Rebirth #1 which was significantly less so. The series finally gets a proper start here with Batwoman #1, and there’s quite a bit to digest. The Rebirth issue’s emphasis on backtracking into Kate’s life before Batwoman continues here, and details from the Rebirth issue start to make more sense. I still think that issue should have been a bit clearer about her past, but I can see now that it is setting up ongoing plot points rather than just giving a quick overview of her history. I am still worried that we might get to a point where her past becomes more important than her present, but for right now there’s a good balance.
The story picks up with the plot originally laid out in the Detective Comics issues: remove the remaining monster venom (leftover from the “Night of the Monster Men” crossover last year) and find out who is distributing it. This gives us our requisite fight scene of the issue, with Batwoman taking down a random terrorist who wants to destroy the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. After that, though, the plot is pretty much setup as window dressing in favor of exploring Kate’s history.
There is actually quite a bit of potential in exploring Kate’s past, fortunately, and unlike Batman there is a lot of uncharted territory. Unlike many of the Bat-family characters who have tragedy in their past, Kate’s was largely self-inflicted. True her being exposed as a lesbian in the army wasn’t something she could have done much about, but how she reacted after that is on her. It is a very different story from what we’re used to, and in many ways a more inspiring one. We don’t have all the details yet, but I suspect that we’ll be learning plenty in this arc.
The “Night of the Monster Men” crossover is still not exactly one I look fondly on, but I am glad they have decided to let it have a lasting impact. Between destroying a large section of Gotham, consistent references to it in the other books, and now Batwoman’s quest to investigate it further DC is putting a decent amount of weight behind the story. I had written it off as a cheap gimmick crossover, but it has honestly done more than most of the heavily pushed crossovers of the past. That doesn’t change my feelings about the story in and of itself, but I can appreciate them sticking to it and getting good stories out of the aftermath. We still have to see exactly how much of it will play into Batwoman’s own story, and how much of it is just an excuse to move her around the globe.
The art comes from Steve Epting and Jeromy Cox, and they are an excellent team together. There are, however, some hitches this time around, and the action scenes early in the issue don’t read as smoothly as they could. There was also a page halfway through the issue showing a younger Kate Kane drifting underwater which I found unusually difficult to follow, despite being only five panels. There are a few other instances of odd panel choices, and this is not a complaint I expected to have about a book featuring Steve Epting’s art. The actual artwork remains lovely, though, and the coloring choices in each sequence are great. The blacks, reds and greys of the flashback sequences are especially noteworthy.
We have essentially had four issues of setup now between this issue, the Rebirth issue and the two-parter in Detective Comics, and the plot hasn’t advanced much as a result of that. The focus is quite clearly meant to be on Batwoman’s enigmatic past, and for the time being I have no problem with that. I do think there needs to be a better balance of past to present, but for the moment it hasn’t become a problem. The art is lovely on a panel-to-panel basis, but the sequencing is awkward and there were two scenes in particular that I had a hard time tracking. There is a mystery established at the end of the issue, and it provides enough of a hook to make me look forward to issue two next month. Despite my mixed feelings on this issue I have high hopes for the series, and I am anxious to see it pick things up as we move along.