J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman (besides sounding like an old timey law firm) have taken a solid foundation for Batwoman and positively run with it, creating a character who investigates her own supernatural, strange corner of Gotham while also having a unique supporting cast and conflicts that set her apart from most Bat-family books. The art on the title, when under the auspices of Williams has also been some of the best, bar-none, in comics. So much so that even the massively talented Francesco Francavilla, I feared, would have a hard time striking the correct tone and tenor of the usual surreal, dark fantasy. I needn’t have worried in the least. The tale of what, Waylon Jones, more commonly known as Killer Croc, has been up to in the wake of Batwoman and Wonder Woman fighting off Medusa’s attempts at a monstrous endtimes fits the muddy, dark, hyper-detailed Francavilla perfectly.
Croc narrates the entire issue, and it’s unusual to hear his inner-monologue but Williams and Blackman write like it’s old hat. The character’s low education level and even lower-class upbringing could have been used to make him seem like a bumbling caricature, if not much worse, but what he lacks in formal smarts and poise, he more than makes up for in experience and a completely unexpected, but welcome, level of self and situation awareness. From returning underground to lead the were-creatures Medusa called to his battle with Batwoman and co., Waylon’s inner-monologue gives us a look at a character not only an outsider, but one of surprising sensitivity without sacrificing his hard-edge.
Francavilla, meanwhile, is at the top of his game, a position I'm not sure he ever leaves, to be fair. I described his style as “muddy,” and I meant it as a compliment, which makes him a prime choice for this issue as a great deal of it takes place in the sewers or the forest, where such visuals are at home. Muddy doesn’t mean indistinct, however, and the art style keeps the usual flowing, oddly shaped panels but the viewer’s eye drifts naturally where it’s meant to go, and the action is always clear and precise. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more issues with this style, personally.
There isn’t anything to complain about. If you’re a fan of Batwoman, superheroes, fantasy, or even horror this book has a little something for everyone. It’s not even a run-of-the-mill superhero book, so if you’re not generally a fan of the genre, I still recommend giving this one a look as it’s even new-reader friendly.
Batwoman might best be described as a “sleeper hit.” I’m not sure what the sales figures are, but they’re obviously enough to keep the book afloat and that’s a relief because it’s one that, while flying consistently under the radar, is also consistently excellent. It’s good to see Batwoman getting back to the more grounded horror themes, but this is a last cry of epic fantasy, but one that stays firmly entrenched in the muck and grime of Gotham’s unseen corners. It’s a masterful blending of fantasy and horror that I highly recommend anyone pick up.