Batwoman #1 review

Batwoman 1

It’s Batwoman’s first issue!  After her…first issue. But that was Rebirth and this is just her regular series. I’m not going to pretend that makes any sense at all, but if you’re confused about this No. 1 after we just had a No. 1, well that’s why.

The more important thing is that “Sinnerman” is really good!–even if the title is a bit opaque.

So far Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV seem to be balancing some interesting elements here: international intrigue, giant monster fights, and Kate Kane’s complicated personal life. And balance is key because I think too much of any one of those things could easily derail this book. Instead we get something that’s nicely layered and once again gorgeously rendered by Steve Epting (with a nod, also, to Jeromy Cox on colors).

Kate is chasing down leads in far flung corners of the globe (those jobs Batman is too busy for keeping Gotham under control). Kate’s always had that flexibility and that bent with her military background. As a butler with benefits (for lack of a better word and expression), she’s got Julia Pennyworth.

I’m not a fan of Julia Pennyworth and the relationship between her and Kate makes me cranky, but I’ll give it to the writers that they’ve made the banter and general interaction between the two tolerable–it verges on glommy without quite pushing it and I appreciate their jibes at the venom effect; everything in perspective!

Having seen Bennett’s ability to handle Kate’s relationships in a fairly mature manner through the Bombshells series, I am hoping things will continue on a rational and even keel here as well. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that Kate belongs with Maggie. So there.

Also: yet another tech-toting sidekick. Yawn.

Rebirth didn’t give us much of story, but here we start to see some of the foundation come to together from that collage of events. It’s particularly gratifying that the vignettes we got in the previous book look to be doing some intriguing double-duty in laying groundwork for events going forward–rather than just establishing Kate’s character and retreading her past experiences for new readers.

The venom monster is sort of fun, but it was really great to see that’s it was merely a MacGuffin: Batwoman has a new nemesis who looks like she might make a worthy longer-run opponent. We don’t get to know much about her here, but she’s deadly and we know she’s connected to Kate’s “Lost Year” in Coryana, in a way that suggests some kind of tragedy. Before the end of the issue, that tragedy also manifests in a fresh new way.

And this book is once again full of notable art and some amazing full splash pages, but the brief flashback to Safiyah’s island and Kate’s first encounter with this new nemesis stand out especially. It’s not a innovation for this flashback to go gray with the stark red spot colors, but it’s a look well-worth replicating. It looks stunning, and conveys the somber tone of Kate’s recollection while painting it with just a hint of eroticism. It’s just real dang sexy, that’s all.

Have I mentioned how awesome Steve Epting’s art is?

I feel like I should just leave that above cutline on every second picture of every review I do of this book.

Most of the books I review are on the frivolous/comedic side (that’s what happens when you have a slate full of Harley Quinn and teen-angled Batgirl). Maybe I’m just desperate for something a little more grown up and this nicely fits the bill, but I am loving this book: its aesthetic, its multilayered plot, the focus on Kate’s humanity, and simplicity of a mostly grounded mission that doesn’t require a PhD in engineering to follow. Seriously, the tech in some of these books is absurd and I’m not a fan of science fiction for a reason. Also not a fan of Kate’s shorn head, but as long as she’s got the long locks in the Batwoman outfit, I can deal with it.

Which is the best part of all: Bennett and Tynion make Kate likable without taking any of the edge off of her. She’s still hardened, but we’re allowed to empathize with her (without it becoming a woe-is-me sort of comic book martyrdom). That’s a fine line when you consider how tired many of us are of Batman’s dead parents. Kate’s had a lot of tragedy in her past and this could easily sink into a self-pitying narrative, but so far there’s no sign of that and that gives me hope.

And that closing scene!  We just barely knew the guy, but I really cared. The framing of the sequence gave it an exquisite melancholy. If this team can keep up this level of investment, this book could be a long-running winner.

Recommended If…

  • You’re a fan of Julia Pennyworth. I’m not, but maybe you are!
  • Sex and intrigue! Batwoman’s personal life is definitely mixed up with her professional life and it looks like it’s going to be an interesting combination.
  • Can we ever get enough monster venom-inducing chaos?

Overall

This opening salvo gives me high hopes for the Batwoman series. Bennett and Tynion seem to be approaching this with a sensibility that’s keeping Kate’s older fanbase in mind, while deftly reintroducing her to a new audience. If you like an exotic global flavor to accompany your costumes and capes, this book is showing lots of potential for high stakes international intrigue!

SCORE: 8.5/10

 

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