Yay, it's Batwoman time. Batwoman has been one of my favorite series of the DCNU. It might even be my very favorite of the bunch. Many things make this issue special since there was a triple surprise at the end of the last issue. The least among them was the revelation that Kate Kane's evil twin sister, Alice, is coming back into play. The most important revelation in the minds of the average Joe is probably Kate revealing her identity and then proposing to her girlfriend, Maggie Sawyer, but I have to say I was even more shocked by the news that Mr. Bones is, if his words are to be trusted, Kate's brother. Granted, this is all a bit soap opera, but I don't care because it's awesome. Will Maggie accept? Is Mr. Bones telling the truth? will Alice come to her senses? I must know!
Also noteworthy, J.H. Williams III (former artist for Promethea, Detective Comics, writer and artist for Batwoman, writer for Legends of the Dark Knight and cover artist for Titans) has stepped off art duties for the series indefinitely so that he can work on the new Sandman series, so we will have to see if artist Trevor McCarthy (former penciler for Nightwing and Batwoman and cover artist for Birds of Prey and current penciler for Batwoman) and Guy Major (former colorist for Robin and Red Robin and current colorist for Batwoman, The Savage Hawkman, and Stormwatch) can fill his massive shoes.
Enough build up, let's read this puppy! Does Batwoman #18 answer all our burning questions or does it leave us out in the cold?
In this issue, Batwoman and Hawkfire go after Mr. Freeze with Jack Kane and Cameron Chase backing them up over com.
There are a lot of unknowns in this issue. Perhaps the most interesting though it the four way relationship between the four main protagonists. It is not clear whether Batwoman knows that Hawkfire is working with Jack, but it does seem fairly clear that Jack and Hawkfire are unaware of Batwoman's involvement with the D.E.O. It's an odd dynamic which builds a lot of tension. However, both Batwoman and Hawkfire are clearly talking to someone else, so this should throw up a red flag to the other parties unless we assume that there is too much ambient noise for one side to hear the others. Also, there are a lot of actual names being thrown around in the room with a super villain, so that might be something they need to fix. Still, there is a really interesting dynamic between Batwoman and Hawkfire now, and though I don't see this dynamic remaining for a long period, it is quite exciting for the moment. Add Batman's involvement in this situation, and you have a lot of secrets being kept between theoretical allies.
The next big unknown is in the department of Kate and Maggie. The two are indeed engaged, and I'm not going to spoiler over that announcement since I am apparently the only person on Earth who did not expect Maggie to accept the proposal. However, this issue seems to take place at least a couple of weeks after the events of the last issue as evidenced by the fact that Hawkfire and Batwoman have gone on several missions together, and we do not therefore see the immediate aftermath of Kate's proposal. I just cannot picture Maggie agreeing to marriage without some serious discussion first. I mean, the two were more or less on the rocks before the proposal, right? Am I misremembering? I am covering a lot of comics here, but I thought they had pretty much agreed to take a break in their relationship. Granted, part of their problem was due to Kate's deception over being Batwoman, but there are still some serious issues to be worked through. Is Maggie okay with Kate breaking the law on a regular basis seeing as she is an officer of the law? Also, recall that Maggie pulled a gun on a guy who tried to save his own kid just a few issues ago, so it's fair to assume she has some issues with vigilantes. Is Maggie okay with Kate having lied to her all this time? All I'm saying is that there are some serious issues here, and they better darn well be addressed at some point. However, Williams III and Blackman (current writer of Batwoman) have demonstrated a tendency to tell important narratives in flashback, so maybe that is how they will deal with this plot point as well.
The characters are another layer of mystery in this story. The nature of several characters is most definitely in question right now. Chase seems like a very morally gray character leaning towards the dark side of things whereas Mr. Bones seems to be getting progressively worse in every issue, yet I find it hard to believe he will be a clear cut bad guy. There is also another party introduced (sorta) in this issue whose allegiance and identity are a mystery. Trying to figure out the shape of things in Batwoman is like trying to make out objects in a sea of fog, but I love it!
The M Squad
McCarthy and Major do an admirable job trying to step into Williams III's shoes. McCarthy mimics William III's page layout by placing panels in unpredictable places, blending panels together, and garnishing the space in between panel walls with various thematic symbols and imagery. This is a mixed blessing. In one respect, it is nice that he keeps the same visual feel for the book. It would be easy to do a more traditional panel layout, and I admire McCarthy's ambition and skill at doing this less traditional approach. The only problem is that it reminds me of Williams III who has perfected, in my opinion, the untraditional style, and it kind of makes me miss him. At first, I thought that McCarthy's pencils would constantly remind me of what I was missing, but I actually came to accept and like it pretty quickly. I especially liked the pages which used Batwoman and Batman's symbols as a centerpieces.
Major also does a great job though once more I felt Williams III's absence. Whereas Williams III's colors always seemed perfectly blended with the images, Major's work feels much more traditional, but traditional does not equal bad, and Major does throw in some neat little tricks along the way. For instance, the first page features a close up on Freeze in simple black and white. I have no idea what this is supposed to signify, but it looks cool, so who cares? The last page is also a standout piece with a beautiful pink sky and haze and glare effects that set the scene perfectly. On the other hand, the whole first half of the book is dealing with Freeze, and the same pale blue color can be found in nearly every panel. It's not bad, but I just tend to think J.H. Williams III would have thrown something completely unexpected into the mix.
I would probably be going out of my way to praise these guys if they were taking over for any other artist, and this is meant as mostly a praise, but it is just difficult because I have fallen in love with Williams III, and I apparently want to have his babies, so nobody seems to quite stack up to him in my eyes.
1. I assume the title of this arc, The Blood Is Thick, will tie in to the old saying, “Blood is thicker than water,” which is appropriate considering the family issues taking place in this series. Heck, Mr. Freeze and Cameron Chase appear to be the only characters at play in this issue who are not family. That reminds me, does Batwoman know the identity of Batman? I do not think she does.
2. I'm not sure what I think of Hawkfire's costume. As much as she was in this issue, there was not really a panel that showed a nice, full shot of her. I do think that the helmet looks like something out a B sci-fi movie.
3. I love the way Kate took down Freeze. In fact, I love it every time Kate gets especially brutal. Somebody should do a Batwoman's Greatest Hits list.
4. I noticed that Mr. Bones' ship was called The Serpent's Wake and he has a statue of two snakes coiled around an anchor. Were these snake references always around the ship? Regardless of whether they were or were not, what is their purpose? I looked in to the symbolism of snakes around an anchor and found it was a common design, but I could not find anything explaining the significance.
5. I liked how Jack Kane's wife handled her discovery. It's so much nicer than the typical media approach of making every conflict between a couple end in at least one party acting juvenile.
6. Obviously, Mags accepted Kate's proposal, but it certainly does not appear that she is overly happy while apartment shopping. Is something amiss?
Great fun as usual. This is a jumping on point, so anybody who has been contemplating giving Batwoman a try should do just that.