Medusa the Gorgon is revealed as the abductor of Gotham’s children. Realizing she’s in over her head, Batwoman enlists the help of someone who has experience slaying beasts of Greek mythology, Wonder Woman. Together this all new take on the World’s Finest travel the globe seeking answers and the location of Medusa before she has a chance to conjure even more mythical monsters.
Batwoman, Volume 3: World’s Finest collects issues #0, 12-17. Right off the bat I’ll say that if you haven’t been reading since issue #1 then you need to go pick up Volumes 1 and 2 before even considering this graphic novel. Batwoman’s first new 52 storyline began in issue #1 and it didn’t wrap until the final page of the book we are discussing here today. The only chapter of this collection that is actually new reader friendly is from issue Batwoman #0, which is probably my favorite single issue of any Bat-title of 2012.
It’s emotional, it’s smart, it’s gritty and action packed, and it’s beautifully illustrated in a variety of unique styles that bring out the best in every setting, character, and emotional tone of various scenes. Oddly enough, #0 wasn’t featured as the first chapter of the book and was actually slipped in as the second. I found this to be rather poor planning and quite disruptive to the overall flow of the graphic novel. The first chapter has Batwoman and Wonder Woman teaming up and it sets up everything for the rest of the graphic novel but then you turn the page and all of the plot lines from 12 issues worth of story are sidelined for the next 20 pages. Issue #0 would have been a terrific way to kick-off the graphic novel since it actually details the rich origin of the character dating all the way back to Greg Rucka’s days writing the character for the pre-New 52 Detective Comics title plus it adds even more to the mythos. It’s the best of any of the Zero Month comics by far and it’s easily my favorite issue of Batwoman. Ever. Unfortunately, issue #0 also has an entirely different atmosphere than the rest of the ongoing series and isn’t a reliable indicator of what you should expect from this comic. Batwoman #0 focuses heavily on the personal life of Kane, which I love, and it has some very intense, real-world action that I most associate with a comic that features the Bat name. But that’s not what Batwoman, Vol. 3 is all about.
Batwoman is truthfully a bat-title in name only and I would probably like it better if it didn’t try to associate itself with the rest of Gotham at this point. Had she been called something else and never been connected to the rest of the Batman saga in the first place I would enjoy all of this much more. It could easily be its own Vertigo title with its own city and cast of characters. The supporting cast that Batwoman does have is phenomenal and more often than not I enjoy the personal drama more than the superhero stuff. Anytime Gordon, Bullock, Gotham, or Batman are mentioned it actually takes me out of the story for a moment because nothing at all about Batwoman’s world resembles the rest of the Batman universe. Even Killer Croc is depicted as a 10-eyed stegosaurus monster. And with the giant, city-leveling action that occurs in Volume 3 it’s impossible not to wonder exactly where the hell Batman and the rest of the Bat-family are during all of this! The Court of Owls and Joker never did anything half as destructive as what Medusa does to Gotham in this story.
Surprisingly, even with all of its goblins and ghosts and beautifully painted splash pages I fell asleep while reading Batwoman, Volume 3: World’s Finest at about the midway point. I find the supporting characters and Batwoman’s personal life are all more engaging than Batwoman and her quest to battle Medusa. Those side stories and the much-lauded artwork have always been what I latched onto with this title but unfortunately for me World’s Finest moves the mystical stuff to the forefront and the romance with Maggie and the drama with the injured cousin are put on the back burner. Even Wonder Woman couldn’t capture my interest and I’m a big fan of the New 52 Wonder Woman series. I mean they go on a quest to find where Medusa is and it just leads them right back to where they started– and by the time the figure it all out Medusa had already revealed herself to be there anyway so all the globe-trotting was for nothing. And the actual final confrontation is the most anti-climactic thing I’ve seen in some time. After 17 issues we needed something better than that. I’m sure you know what Medusa’s weakness is. Well, so does everybody else in the DC Universe. It isn’t anymore complicated than that! Anyone could’ve defeated Medusa. Anyone! They didn’t even need to bring Wonder Woman into this. In fact, it’s a miracle that Medusa didn’t destroy herself by accident since reflective surfaces are a hell of a lot more common nowadays than they were back when she was chasing down Perseus. After 17 issues, it’s apparent that Batwoman, Maggie, Wonder Woman, and all the other heroes involved literally could’ve sat back and did nothing and things would’ve turned out okay because the big bad behind everything is THAT easy to beat and because her power is connected to everything else– BOOM. If you can beat Medusa then you can save the day entirely. It’s one of those Indiana Jones sort of endings where you go… Wait, if Indiana would’ve just stayed at home the Nazis would’ve opened the box and still died or crossed the seal and still died or used the crystal skull and still died. (Temple of Doom is the only movie where he made a difference)
I can’t quite put my finger on why I dont’ love Batwoman and everyone else does. I found this 17-issue arc to be overly long and Williams and Blackman’s dense, purple prose to bog down the story more often than not. I even did an experiment where I skipped the narrative boxes for 2 issues and found it to be a more enjoyable experience. Then I went back and read those 2 issues again WITH the narration and found that the ample prose added little to nothing to the story. And there are a lot of times when the character voices don’t sound all that different. If it were not for the various fonts and colored lettering to designate who is speaking, many lines could be interchangeable.
But these are all problems that I’ve gone into detail about in previous volumes. Honestly, if you’re a fan of Batwoman then you don’t need to hear my opinion on it because obviously the book just isn’t for me. I can appreciate that they’re trying to make this title stand out from the rest by having it deal with the supernatural as opposed to street crime like all the rest, but I just don’t like the writing. What I can totally see though is the artwork, which I am in full agreement with. It’s the best there is and it’s a big reason why I still can’t bring myself to give this book less than 2 out of 4 stars.
While Trevor McCarthy does fill in for a single issue (one that was great for the Maggie character, who I love, but otherwise killed the momentum of the grander story) this volume sees the return of the masterful J.H. Williams III. When it comes to visual experimentation, nobody beats Williams. The level of quality he delivers on a monthly title is unmatched and such jaw-dropping images should easily distract readers from what I see as a lackluster plot. Nothing else in DC’s lineup or Marvel’s lineup or anyone else’s compares to what Williams creates. Many will buy this book just so they can admire the artwork alone. Even though I didn’t care much for the story I can definitely see myself opening this book up again simply so I can gaze at these panels once more.
Seven inked pages by J.H. Williams III from issue #12. I’m sure a lot of folks would be disappointed if such a visually stunning book had no supplemental material. I know I would be! Thankfully, we get something, but I wish we had some notes by Williams that offered a little insight into his creative process. The artist uses so many different styles that it would be amazing to hear exactly how he chooses which style for which scene, etc.
Value: Sale Price
I don’t see myself ever re-reading this book, but I will definitely flip back through it and admire the artwork. I already own the #0 issue and that is something I will absolutely re-read again and again, but I simply didn’t care for anything else in this collection. If you enjoyed the previous two volumes then this is an absolute must-buy at full price because it wraps up everything we’ve seen since issue #1. Casual fans of the character such as myself can wait for it to go on clearance.
- Volumes 1 and 2 of Batwoman are already in your personal library. You’ll be lost without them
- You’re a fan of Brian Azzarello’s New 52 Wonder Woman
- You’re interested in magic and monsters
- You were more involved with the mystic plot than you were the D.E.O, Maggie, or the other subplot
- J.H. Williams is one of your favorite artists
It has the most beautiful artwork in comics and the chemistry between Batwoman and Wonder Woman is an interesting change of pace, but the grand finale to a 17 issue long arc shouldn’t leave me saying “That’s it?” I understand that a lot of people love Batwoman as one of their favorite comics. I look around and see other reviewers giving this book 9s and 10s (and then the scores plummet as soon as anyone else tries to draw this series) but it seems like style over substance to me. I love the stuff with Kate Kane’s cousin and father and the relationship with Maggie, but I get bored watching Batwoman fight magical monster.