To Drown the World tried to go for the non-linear narrative but failed. It was really disorganized and with the month-long gab between each issue I simply couldn’t keep track of what was going on in the story. And since Batwoman is basically a bat-title in name only I decided to “trade-wait” this title. So here we are! Now that issues #6-11 of this arc are collected in a lovely hardback it should be a much easier story to follow and a more enjoyable read.
J.H. Williams III takes a break from drawing but continues to write Batwoman’s tale along with partner W. Haden Blackman. When we last saw Batwoman she was trying to find some missing children stolen away by a weeping ghost. She brought down that ghost with fire (as you do) but the children were still MIA. To Drown the World continues Batwoman’s quest to find the missing and brings more attention to the supporting cast in a non-linear narrative that can get rather confusing.
Batwoman’s tale always takes place NOW in every chapter, but all other characters jump about. Jacob’s story is a month ago, three weeks ago, Kate’s is a week ago, hours ago, a month ago, etc. etc. It made me flip back a lot but it’s definitely easier to keep track of everything in a trade because everything is collected together and I don’t have to fetch a back issue out of a long box. That’s where a lot of my frustration came from that led to me dropping this book from the review rotation in the first place. Still, even though I can now flip back and piece together what happens when and where…there’s no payoff for it. Sure there are a couple examples in which the non-linear storytelling works
So what is the story in this beyond Batwoman trying to find the kids? Well from the very first chapter we see that Kate has already found the kids at the book’s finale and the flashbacks show us how we got here in the first place. These copious flashbacks not only take us step by step into how Medusa was tracked down but more interestingly, how things are going with Kate and Maggie’s relationship. That romance was easily the best part about volume 1 and I’m glad to see it get plenty of attention here. There are also a number of touching scenes with Jacob and Bette in the hospital, but even though those are really well done scenes…they don’t really jive with the rest of the book. Other narrative threads we follow include the rise of Maro, one of the story’s main villains, but even though we flash back to him creating monsters out of legends we never learn how he came to be or what his real motivation is. The writers have put a lot of effort into making Kate and Maggie, Jacob and Bette compelling people but Batwoman vs. Medusa has little to no depth at all. We know that Medusa is an evil cult but we don’t know what their goal is other than to be evil and I guess…maybe take over the world? I’m guessing there. We don’t know how Maro became a warlock or how he got involved with Medusa in the first place, either. Motivations aren’t clear at all and after 11 issues it’s only getting more noticeable. So while we have complicated and emotional plots to follow with characters outside of their masks, the superheroics, even with all the monsters and magic, don’t really hold my interest. Especially when they drag Killer Croc into all of this as a giant 6 eyed, 5 nostriled, stegosaurus monster.
Batwoman has pretty much nothing to do with the Batman mythology. It didn’t play a role in Night of the Owls, it didn’t play a role in Death of the Family, and anytime it brings in a character like Croc or Gordon it just feels…off. They could’ve given this character a different gimmick than bats and planted her in a different city and it would’ve been almost exactly the same. However, I don’t think it would’ve survived without the Bat-name and that seems to be the only reason she carries it. The ghosts, goblins, alien-tech, and bizarre cult/gangs don’t really fit in with the rest of Gotham City.
One of the big things people will want to know about is the art. The main attraction of buying Batwoman has always been J.H. Williams’ artwork and with him taking a break a lot of people dropped this book entirely. That’s how important he was to the series’ success! Well, let me say that Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy do a fine job! While I did miss the gorgeous and extraordinarily versatile illustrations of Williams’ I think that Reeder and McCarthy did their best to maintain the overall style and page layouts that we’ve grown accustomed to with this series. Many of the monster designs they came up with are extremely creepy too. The only thing that stood out to me was that sometimes McCarthy would draw the forehead of Batwoman’s mask a bit too high and it didn’t look good. Other than that and the occasional problem with the binding everything still looks better than many comics on sale today. Yes, I’m afraid that the binding is indeed a problem again. It’s a major problem with Batwoman’s title because the artwork is always relying on creative page layouts that weave back and forth between 2 pages or it is using a giant 2 page spread with a focal point right in the center that can get lost to the spine. With so much of the imagery getting lost to the spine it can get hard at times to know how your eyes should trace the page in the 2 page layouts or even identify if what you’re looking at is indeed 2 separate pages. I often found myself reading panels out of order because the panel borders were vanishing into the spine of the book making two separate pages look like they were part of a giant 2 page spread.
- Not a good jump-on point– READ VOL. 1 FIRST
- More magic and monsters than volume 1
- Great protagonists with lots of character depth
- Creepy, cool looking villains but no character depth
- Art is solid all around, but far from the masterpiece volume 1 was
- Terrible use of Killer Croc
- Bat-title in name only
- Batwoman’s adventure is more interesting than volume 1
- Unclear narrative had me flipping back frequently
- No payoff for the confusing narrative choice
- Binding is too tight, images get lost to the spine
Three pages of script by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman with corresponding early sketches by Trevor McCarthy. This is always a great choice of bonus material. I enjoy looking at what the artist had to play off of compared to the finished product. It’s fascinating. Sure, there isn’t much of it here but it’s really good compared to the bonus material in other books I’ve reviewed recently. And for a series that’s often seen as being style over substance these extras are a perfect example of how much work goes into making a book look this good.
I would have to say that this isn’t worth the $22.99 cover price. For me, the story isn’t something I would ever have the urge to revisit again and whereas the first volume has pages of artwork that I totally want to flip back to and admire from time to time, there’s far less “wow-factor” with this one. Amazon has the better deal at $13.64. That price, to me, is totally worth it. More than worth it, really. When you figure it’s 6 books at $2.99 a pop in the local comic shop you can do a little addition and see that you’re coming out ahead.
It was easy to justify buying Volume 1 of Batwoman on the artwork alone, but even though this book has great illustrations by Amy Reeder and Trevor McCarthy it’s not going to blow your mind the way that Williams’ work does. So without the jaw dropping visuals of Williams the story has to pull some extra weight and the story has never been Batwoman’s strong suit. To Drown the World is an incredibly quick read that takes a chance on a non-linear narrative and falls way short of tying all the threads together. Batwoman’s adventure is more interesting, but the villains fall flat and many other story elements don’t feel necessary at all. If you read Volume 1 and enjoyed it then you’ll want to see where the greater story goes but by the end of To Drown the World the story is far from over and if you’re like me you’ll feel a bit unsatisfied.