BatWatch Review: Batwoman #19
This Blood Is Thick
I'm not really in the mood for much of a preamble on this one. Batwoman has been exceptionally good with never a bad issue, and I love good comics, so I don't really want to waste time babbling about what might be coming; I just want to read it. However, I will restrain myself to speak briefly about how excited I am.
I was nervous about the series losing J.H. Williams III (former artist for Promethea, Detective Comics, artist for Batwoman, writer for Legends of the Dark Knight and cover artist for Titans and current writer for Batwoman) on the art because his work is so phenomenal, but I've got to give major props to artist Trevor McCarthy (former penciler for Nightwing and Batwoman and cover artist for Birds of Prey and current artist for Batwoman) for his work because, though I still feel Williams absence, it's a big comfort knowing that I'm not losing a great artist for a bad artist but rather I'm losing a great artist for another great artist who just is not quite as accomplished yet as Williams III. (I hope that came off as a compliment, Trevor. It was meant as one) The current arc has not disappointed continuing to bring more supernatural goodness, mystery, intrigue, awesome fight scenes, and a smattering of personal drama while adding a brewing conflict between Batwoman, Hawkfire, Batman, The DEO, and Mr. Kane. Even that is not touching the resurrection of Alice and the revelation of Mr. Bones' relation to Kate, and both these secrets seemed primed for revelation based on the cover of this issue. I cannot be sure this issue will deliver on everything I hope, but it's certainly poised on the edge of greatness.
Does Batwoman #19 leap off that edge of greatness and swing across the rooftops of Gotham, or has the narrative cable for this story been stretched too thin and do we find Kate Kane's crumpled body at the bottom of Gotham's Gothic chasms?
Taking Form from the Shadows
It appears that this arc is beginning to take form. I think I have the basic idea of what the main points of conflicts will be now, and I'll elaborate on that here in a minute.
Whereas I said the last issue would be a great jumping on point for somebody wanting to give this series a try, I have to say the exact opposite of this issue because it is nothing but plot development from previous plot points. I love it when books have a good sense of their history and identity, and Batwoman seems more involved in continuity navel gazing than most perhaps due to the fact that she seems to be the only character not to have her history wiped out via the Flashpoint reboot. However, I do wonder if this issue could have been a little more friendly to new readers because even I, as someone fairly experienced with the Bat verse, had to scrunch up my face as I tried to remember some of the aforementioned plot points in this issue.
This issue also lacked a narrative punch because it both begins and ends on fairly weak moments in comparison to the average comic fair. It starts by revealing the identity of the mysterious figure rising out of the ocean to meet Agent Chase that was shown at the ending of Batwoman #18, but instead of this being a new supernatural player as I thought, it is simply Agent Chase's sister who had been surfing and was coming out of the water and onto the beach. The issue ends on a similarly anticlimactic note which is nothing more than Kate discovering something that readers already knew. Compared to the standard big action piece at the beginning and big reveal at the end format that most comics follow, this issue feels much more subdued.
This is not necessarily a fault of the comic as much as it is a limit of the comic book medium. After all, both the revelation at the end and the conversation at the beginning play an important role in story, but it simply doesn't hit the typical rise and fall of the average comic which provides the eagerness to read the next issue. In some ways, I respect Batwoman's creative team for breaking away from that typical format and thinking outside the box, and I'm sure this pacing will work well for the inevitable trade, but as a standalone issue, it does not work quite as well.
Impatience Is Not a Virtue
Perhaps I'm being impatient, but I can't believe that this series has gone two issues since Kate's proposal to Maggie without disclosing anything about the immediate exchange after Kate's proposal. Kate had just revealed her identity as Batwoman and proposed marriage, and Kate and mags had been on the rocks before this. Surely, there must be a massive discussion that went down after Kate's huge revelation. Though we know they are now engaged, I'm really annoyed that we still have not seen that discussion. All I'm saying is that the conversation better be coming because the writing has been far too clever to just sweep a massive issue like, “You've been lying to me about being a masked vigilante, and though I now know the truth, the truth is that you put your life on the line each night by working for a semi-legitimate government organization which has used extortion to make you their black ops tool, and technically, I should immediately report this because I a law abiding citizen and I am also a police officer, and you are clearly violating a crap ton of laws.” I'm just saying.
Things do seem a bit tense between Kate and Maggie though, so maybe this conversation is still brewing.
It appears the DEO is going to ask Kate to infiltrate Batman, Incorporated. At the same time, it appears Chase is going to flip loyalties, so in the end, I suspect that Mr. Bones will become the ultimate villain of this arc.
1. I know Agent Chase had some significant history in the DCU, but I've not looked into it. Her grudge against capes makes sense from what little was shown, and I'm interested in seeing it explored more clearly, but if this ties into previous continuity, I would not mind in the slightest if someone dropped me a line and explained.
2. Agent Asaf is kind of conspicuous in just being an extraneous character. I'm wondering what Williams has in mind for him.
3. The art continues to be high quality. The panels that Kate annotated for Hawkfire was especially clever.
4. What the deal with Mags child? Has this ever been explained? Forgive me if I missed it or forgot. Where is this daughter? According to one online source I found, she lives with her father in Star City, but it is kind of odd how she is often referenced but never seen.
This was not quite the thrill ride I had hoped from this issue, but it was still good. Basically, it did some necessary legwork to connect point A to point B, and I suspect the next issue will be much more full in terms of action and drama. I did enjoy this issue, and I recommend it for anybody who likes Batwoman and has been following her story, but I do wish the creative team had thrown in some new revelations for us to chew on in this instead of just resolving some of the fallout from the last issue and building the framework for the next issue's adventures.
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