W. Haden Blackman and J.H. Williams III have been building masterfully to this confrontation between Batwoman and Batman and what we get in this issue was absolutely worth the wait. The D.E.O. sets loose some of Bats’ most dangerous enemies to draw him out of hiding (and to keep his supporters occupied) while she springs her trap on him. I’ve always loved Kane’s inner-monologue because of the way she could’ve been written, like so many, as a joyless, self-serious and dire character, but while her dialog is very proper and straightforward, she has this rich inner voice that’s full of wit and even a little sarcastic humor. We get TONS of that in this issue and it never fails to entertain. We also get an interesting segment where, during the criminal’s attack, the D.E.O. declares martial law in Gotham and takes over the police headquarters. I don’t know if this is going to have long-term ramifications or if it’s just all part of the plan, but I actually hope it’s the former. It always struck me as odd that the state, or national, government never did anything about a city that is routinely under siege and suffers casualties in the triple digits every time an insane clown breaks out of jail and forms a posse.
The art, by series regular Trevor McCarthy is perfect for this issue. As much as I absolutely ADORE when Williams draws the book, his art lends itself more to the surreal and supernatural stories that Batwoman often tells, but this is a story grounded firmly in "reality" and as such, it wouldn't necessarily benefit from the strange style, which they seem very aware of. McCarthy's work is gorgeous in its own right, with a premium placed on fluidity that looks more like action viewed through rapidly blinking eyes than still images. Sandu Florea and Derek Fridolfs make their own contributions on certain pages and since they're pages where the focus shifts to another scene (with the exception of the final page), it mostly works, particularly with Guy Major's dark, moody color palette remaining across the entire issue, lending it a great feeling of continuity.
There's a third storyline going on here: Bette rescuing Batwoman's sister with the help of the Murder of Crows, and I didn't mention it above because, honestly, I felt like it got in the way of the main story. I've always felt the subplot of Kathy's sister was one of the book's weak points, but never felt it was a real weakness until now. This is an issue that, I feel, should have had the battle between Batwoman and Batman squarely in its cross-hairs (with the police station story still occupying a few pages) rather than splitting focus across two plots. I understand there were parallels being drawn between the two women fighting their battles, but it just didn't feel needed at this point. And while the art and writing are still very good in this divergence, I had to stop myself from rushing through it to get back to the main storyline. This is also J.H. Williams and W. Haden Blackman's final issue, and while I didn't factor that into my score, it definitely, squarely, belongs under this heading.
It’s not the best issue to go out on, being that it isn’t the end of the arc, but that can hardly be blamed on the creators since their run was supposed to last two MORE issues, but as exits go, this one definitely leaves its mark. I don’t know what the new creative team has planned, but it’s got a massive legacy to live up to as this issue continues the high quality storytelling and gorgeous art that made the previous issues such stand-outs. Even though it isn’t fully resolved, finally seeing Batwoman and Batman throw down is an absolute treat and must be seen to be believed, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the B-story, it’s still well executed enough that it doesn’t even come close to ruining the issue. The payoffs in this issue were well worth the wait.