Review: Batwoman #3 by J.H. Williams & W. Haden Blackman

I’m running out of interesting things to place before my actual comic book reviews. Maybe I’ll start talking about my grocery list here.

Anyway, let’s talk about the elephant in the room in terms of the Batwoman comic book, the sexual preference of Kate Kane. To the best of my knowledge, none of us truly know who decided to make Kate Kane a lesbian. As the DC Universe was riding the ethnic diversity train at the time (both the superhero monikers of Atom and Blue Beetle were handed to Hispanic characters), my guess is that it came from the Creative Board of DC Comics, and not her creator, Greg Rucka. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if he just decided to make her a lesbian, just to shake things up.

As I’m neither a female nor a lesbian, I can’t really state whether Kate Kane is an accurate or admirable representation of a fictional lesbian superhero. I have yet to see any writer exploit her sexual preference, or give her a steamy love-making scene with a buxom scantily clad woman. The current book has concentrated a good deal about Kate’s romantic life, but I don’t think in an exploitative way. In fact, I would say that pairing her with Maggie Sawyer is rather non-salacious, as Maggie has always had a matronly air about her.

So the book does not contain hot sexy lesbian superheroes in tight outfits, which is definitely a good thing. It allows for the writer, J.H. Williams to really examine Kate as a character, and where her sexuality is a plot point, but no less so than any heterosexual female superhero (other than the sexless Wonder Woman, but that’s a different column). And for my money it is being handled in an extremely mature and interesting manner, which is somewhat surprising for the superhero comic book industry.

Batwoman #3: Hydrology Gaining Stream

Publisher: DC Comics
Co-Writer & Artist: J.H. Williams
Co-Writer: W. Haden Blackman
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (by Comixology)

In the last issue, Cameron Chase has been sent by the DEO to capture Kate Kane for her connection with a potential terrorist. A ghost like figure called La Llorona is kidnapping children from parent’s homes for unknown reasons. Kate and Maggie Sawyer of the GCPD go on a date. After confronting Maggie, Batwoman goes to a boat house where she is pulled underwater by an unknown entity.

Synopsis

  • La Llorona uses images of Kate’s sister to try to enthrall Batwoman under the water, but she resists and escapes the watery death.
  • Coming out of the water, Batwoman is confronted by Agent Chase, and is able to shake them off before making it back to her home.
  • Wet and hurting, Kate tells Bette that she is no longer going to teach her how to be a superhero. Bette leaves, but prepares to strike out on her own as Flamebird again.
  • Chase confronts Kate’s father, asking him questions about the file he closed, and about Kate herself.
  • Maggie confronts Kate after she doesn’t show up for their date. Kate breaks down and has a tearful kiss with Maggie, as La Llorona stalks another victim.

Analysis

I’m a substance over style person, and I believe that form follows function. Yet, I generally find myself wanting to overlook the bad qualities of this book, because it is so well crafted artistically. But the more I read this book the less the pieces seem to fit.

Let’s start with the amazing. I keep saying it, but it still bears repeating. J.H. Williams is crafting a visual masterpiece. It is so visually compelling, that I almost feel that DC should be charging more for this title. The bleeding art, the mixing of images, the human figures, the finishing touches are all amazing. The first seven pages of this comic are so beautiful and masterful that I don’t know how to describe them accurately. I will give you one, double fold spread:

He captures perfectly the look of Kate Kane against the ropes, beat up emotionally and physically and yet maintains the lines that make her a visually striking and beautiful woman.

I almost cannot recommend buying this book, as I feel the experience will be more effective if you were to purchase it in trade form in 2012. I think the story will work better as an overall arc, and that the visuals of the art should be appreciated in a more durable tome.

However, there are significant problems to be found in this issue.

After reading the last page, I kept looking for more pages. Normally, this is a good thing in a comic book. But this time it wasn’t because I was left wanting more of what I had been reading, it was because I was still waiting for the action to begin. J.H. Williams had crafted 22 masterfully drawn pages where nothing happens. The last bit of “action” takes place by Kate escaping from the DEO agents, and then the remaining 9 pages is all talking. If the battle was somehow interesting, maybe you go with this, but there was never any doubt that Kate was going to escape.

I like talking books. I read talking books. I have shelves of graphic novels where the characters talk. But they aren’t superhero books. At the end of the day you want some action in a superhero book, or a big reveal, or a real pull for next issue. It was left on the table.

And the story pulls down way to many plots before they have had a chance to ripen, and all of them feel hurried and rushed:

  1. Bette Kane gets “fired” by Kate. Why? La Llorona tries to kill Kate. The DEO is hunting Batwoman. We don’t get some explanation as to why Kate is trying to protect Bette, at all. She just comes home. It’s been a bad day. Goodbye Bette. Pack your crap and get out.
  2. Agent Chase interviews Kate’s father. The DEO has been monitoring him for years. Okay. The investigation starts with him, so Chase decides to chase Batwoman in Gotham and THEN go back to Kate’s dad. Why? What changed that would make her go back? Does she suspect Kate? Where did she come up with that idea?
  3. Kate breaks down on the stairs in front of Maggie. She pushes away her family, but she feels comfortable in the arms of a potential lover? She’s ready to show her vulnerable side to a police detective?
  4. And what indications does the story give that Kate is at the end of her rope, and near tears. What is the final straw that would push her into a temporary mental breakdown? There was little indication that La Llorona really affected her strongly, or that Chase’s trying to capture her really bothered her.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these plots were there, but they weren’t done cooking. Additionally, to pull all four of them down in the same issue just makes it feel like the writer needs to get these out of the way to have a bigger action issue next time.

And why is La Llorona interested in Kate when she enters the water. The ghost has been interested in children before, not adults.

So the DEO knows that Batwoman has a sidekick? Okay, they know Batwoman has red hair and a blonde haired sidekick. They know that Colonel Kane closed the file, and they know that he has a daughter (with red hair) who is living in Gotham City but has army training. But they can’t figure out who Batwoman is. Really?

Verdict

I still love the series very much, and am on board for the future. But this was definitely a bump in the road. A beautiful issue where not enough action happens and too much plot of convenience occur.

Overall Grade: 7.0 (Sloppily Beautiful)

Current Series Grade: B+

 

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