New 52 – Batwoman #5 review

Before we get started here, let me make a correction to last month’s review of Batwoman #4. In that article I made a joke about how Director Bones made a “pfft” sound in the comic and there’s no way that’s possible since, well, he’s bones and has no lips. Reader Michael Brown set the record straight and educated all of us, “Bones sure can go ‘pfft’. There was always the rumour that Director Bones was originally Mr Bones, the old Infinity, Inc. ally/enemy. If so, Bones had invisible skin, so he does have lips to say pffft with, you just can’t see them. ;)”

Issue #4 of Batwoman was a turning point for me. It’s a supernatural genre after all and I was judging this series like a crime noir. Do I like ghosts and goblins in my Batman mythology? Hell no. Do I need to accept Batwoman for what it is? Yup. But even though I loved issue #4, Batwoman #5 feels like style over substance to me. Granted, that style is absolutely amazing and it could be argued that it’s worth the price of admission alone. And fortunately the ads in this book never disrupt the flow of the breathtaking artwork. But… now that the first arc is over and I can look at it as a whole…it honestly feels like issue #5 and many of the other Batwoman issues have nothing to say. Sure, I like the down-time, those moments when Kate is out of her costume and we see her personal life, but the central story is the weeping woman and not a lot has happened there. The actual content of the Batwoman series could have easily been condensed to 2 or 3 issues, but with all these splash pages and gloriously painted panels in elaborate layouts the story has dragged– it’s been hard to notice because of the mesmerizing art, but it definitely has dragged.

Reading “Batwoman” at times feels like dating someone who is absolutely stunning physically but has no personality. You ignore the fact that their stories are boring and they aren’t that bright because they are so, so gorgeous.

Look at the opening page:

Sure, those are pretty pictures and all, but what’s actually happening here? She’s meditating on how to stop a water-ghost. She actually sat down, cleared her mind and began to play a word association game that lead her to the conclusion: fire evaporates water. Brilliant. So all she has to do is go to where the weeping woman died (of course she’ll be there, she’s been all over the city lately, but she’ll be at her house this time for sure), hit her with fire (hope she ignores all the gasoline Batwoman brought with her), and it’ll evaporate and the good guys win. That’s it? That’s exactly it. That’s what happens here. But it’s not like this weeping woman storyline has been terribly interesting to begin with. In fact, it’s either put on the back burner or forgotten about entirely in the previous issues. Not that I complained, Kate Kane’s personal life is far more interesting than this case. And it’s a case that clearly could have been wrapped up in one or two issues. Thankfully it ends here.

The true test of this series’ quality will be in the coming months. This, issue #5, is the last time we’ll be seeing J.H. Williams’ art. Amy Reeder is no slouch, sure, but it’ll be interesting to see how well everyone likes the Batwoman series once her looks fade so to speak. Still, the story is heading in an interesting direction after some fun surprises that take place in this issue.

If you haven’t been reading Batwoman, next month will make for a solid jumping-on point. If you’ve been reading Batwoman, then you owe it to yourself to see how this arc ends in part 5, even if the Weeping Woman is defeated rather anti-climactically. And if you’re more interested in art than story, Batwoman #5 is an absolute must-buy.

VARIANT ALERT: DC this month has been releasing 1:25 variants of some of their titles. This week’s Batwoman is one of them, but don’t get too excited. This month’s variants are black and white pencil sketches which typically look pretty cool (well, most of the time) but they are blown-up and stretch all around the front and back cover. It sounds like a cool idea, but not when the blown up image looks like a foggy grey mess on the front cover as it does with Batwoman #5. Also, variants are expensive. This one in particular will cost you anywhere from $12-25 bucks and chances are you’ll want to bag and board it or put it in a frame or something, but if you do that—you can’t see the full image of the cover! I guess maybe DC thought this strategy would make fans buy 2 over-priced variants that way they could be displayed side-by-side, that may look better, but is it really worth it?

SCORE: 7.5/10 (yeah, I dogged on the story a lot, but the art is worth a lot of points when it’s this good)