The final volume of J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman’s Batwoman doesn’t just feel like the end of their run, but the end of an era that began all the way back with Greg Rucka & Williams in 2006’s Detective Comics. The story never broke! Not when the Detective Comics gig returned to Batman and not when The New 52 reset every other comic book continuity around did this tale take pause. The saga of Kate Kane was a relentless one that paid no regard to the goings-on of the rest of the DC Universe or even Gotham itself. In fact, Batwoman felt like a Bat-title in name only and seemed to exist in its own little bubble like a Vertigo series where nothing mattered but its own grand design. It could be argued that there were no “arcs” but just the one sweeping epic. What started with Detective Comics‘ Elegy storyline all those years ago continues in “This Blood is Thick” and it ends there as well, but not in the way many had hoped.
Editorial differences arose and writers J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman said goodbye to Kate Kane and the world of Batwoman without reaching a finale that was but 2 issues away. Yes, this book is forever incomplete. Here is J.H. Williams III’s farewell letter followed by my review of Volume 4: This Blood is Thick.
Clearing up some confusion as to when our last issue of Batwoman is to be published…
It’s this week in Batwoman issue 24. The big showdown between Batwoman and Batman kicks off this issue. And was going to run into the next 2 issues, a real knockdown heavy hitting battle. This issue was only the first part of it.
I’m depressed over this a bit. And frustratingly the issue will give no arc conclusion, or conclusion to our run. We apologize to you readers for that. It wasn’t what we wanted to happen.
Issue 24 was already written and being drawn by the time fallout came from our decision to leave the title. There had already been an issue 25 written by us and turned in, but at this point I don’t think this will ever be published. Issue 26 was to be the final chapter of the arc and is left unwritten by us currently. So DC isn’t publishing the end of the arc. Or at least not in any way we intended. If there is ever an offering of a conclusion to the last 7 months of storytelling, it most likely will be by the hands of others, and we have no idea how exactly that direction will proceed.
What saddens me about it is that our issue 26 two months from now would have ended in a place that would serve as an adequate end cap to our run in a lot of ways. We knew how we were going to wrap things by issue 26, and felt we would have done so in a satisfying manner, or so we hoped. There was SO much stuff going to happen, some crazy reveals, the reveal of Bones’ past, just how he connects to Kate and Beth Kane, and a confrontation with Jacob Kane and his Murder Of Crows. Batwoman having the final throw-down with Batman. We were going to give large plot points on how Beth became Alice. Bette Kane a.k.a. Hawkfire shocked and horrified by something Alice/Beth does during the rescue mission. Ultimately bring the entire family to some form of a beginning to heal, and how Maggie would fit into all of this. Chase, seeing the horrors of what Director Bones is doing, was going to cause her to make a radical decision that would forever change her life. This was all set up after altering a major plot point to suit DC’s needs. We would’ve been able to end our run at good spot for the next creative team. But that must only be happening in some parallel world. So the first 7 issues of this fourth arc will leave the story in a sort of limbo and not fully resolved, at least by us.
So I guess we have to say goodbye to Batwoman for real now. We love you Kate.
— J.H. Williams, www.jhwilliams3.com
Batwoman, Vol. 4: This Blood is Thick features issues #18-24, the final chapters in the run by W. Haden Blackman & J.H. Williams III. While Amazon originally listed this volume as a softcover, it is indeed in hardcover just like volumes 1-3.
I always had 4 big complaints about the Batwoman series that drove me away from reviewing it each month: it dealt too much with magic, felt totally disconnected from the rest of the Batman universe, was so unfriendly to new readers that you needed to go all the way back to the pre-New 52 Detective Comics days to really get what was going on, and more often than not its stories were more style over substance with great art but a meandering plot. However, while Batwoman, Vol. 4: This Blood Is Thick still meanders a bit it also emphasizes the aspects of Kate Kane’s world that I love: her personal life (her relationship with Maggie is one of the best in comics), her supporting cast (again, Maggie, but also her father and cousin), the espionage of the D.E.O., and her strained connection to the rest of the Bat-family (she and Batman never quite saw eye-to-eye)– plus it retained the great artwork by Trevor McCarthy. Francisco Francavilla, a favorite artist of mine, even joined the series for a single issue, but unfortunately J.H. Williams did none of the interiors of this final volume so I’m sure that will disappoint many. The artwork stands shoulder-to-shoulder among the best in the business and McCarthy and colorist Guy Major do everything they can to give these pages the distinctive look they’ve had since Williams’ Elegy. You won’t see colors and creative layouts like this anywhere else. Even without Williams’ pencils, the art remains one of Batwoman‘s greatest strengths.
In “This Blood is Thick,” Kate Kane’s worlds collide and while Kate herself doesn’t get quite as much screen time as she probably should, it’s great to see her entire supporting cast intermingle and cooperate now that everyone knows the truth. Maggie is now Kate’s fiance, her father is aiding in her vigilante crusade, Bette is out of a coma and back at Batwoman’s side, and the D.E.O. is always one step ahead. There’s even a moment in which Kate tries Batman’s tired, cliche move of “I have to do this alone.” only to be shut-down immediately by her friends and family! Everyone helps her out in what’s one of her toughest and most personal assignments ever: discover Batman’s identity and save your sister. Yes, as you can see by the cover, “Alice” is alive and well and detained by the D.E.O. who swear to release her and discharge Kate if she can figure out who Batman is in X amount of time. That’s right, the big bad guy in “This Blood is Thick” is Batman himself and he’s thankfully portrayed as the larger than life figure he should be. It’s a fresh and exciting premise and that makes it all the more disappointing that we won’t get to see it carried out to completion.
While Kate is definitely a bad ass, it’s clear that even she knows she can’t bring down The Caped Crusader solo even if she is one of the most well-trained members of the Bat-family. (Seriously, most of the Bat-family are written as being way too strong and it bugs me. Bruce spends like 8 years practicing every form of combat around the world and then there’s these kids who spend a couple months throwing punches before putting on the tights? Come on!) Along the way we see Batwoman and “Hawkfire” fight the likes of Mr. Freeze and Bane while Kate’s father hires a team of mercenaries (a segment that goes on for far too long and greatly contributes to the “meandering” aspect of Batwoman) and Maggie interrogates an assortment of Arkham inmates all in the hopes that they can build a formidable task force and create a profile on The Dark Knight. Watching a band of other heroes try to formulate a plan to bring down Batman is incredibly engaging and comes with some great moments, but writers Williams & Blackman encounter one big problem: their knowledge of Batman doesn’t extend beyond that of the casual fan.
First up, if you’re the kind of reader who gets hung up on continuity, you’re gonna have a bad time reading this book. Why? The writers try to incorporate Bat-characters, but clearly have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the Batman universe, who these characters are, or what they do. Bane isn’t where we saw him in Talon, Nightwing is still operating in Gotham instead of Chicago, Batwing is in Gotham as well and it’s David Zavimbe (he retired about a year ago and operated in Africa), Kitana and Starling are still members of the Birds of Prey, etc. etc. And as far as capturing the voices of these bigger Bat-characters, the writers excel with Killer Croc (even if he is drawn with a tail) and Batman, but Bane is shown to be a hulking idiot that is brought down far too easily (this is an understatement) by Batwoman while the rest of the rogues gallery is used as little more than canon fodder. And if you’re going to do a story about digging up Batman’s identity, how do you not look in Bruce Wayne’s direction after the events of Batman Incorporated? Bruce Wayne is even a blood relative to a few member of this operation so you’d think one of them would ask “Hey, didn’t our relative admit that he funded Batman? Maybe he has info that could help us?” Why wouldn’t Kate and her dad just snoop through Wayne Enterprises instead of hunt down Bane?
“This Blood is Thick” is a smart and entertaining premise with loads of possibilities, but it’s not used to its full potential and often wastes its time with subplots that go nowhere. This is especially true when we have several pages devoted to Chase’s sister and one whole chapter that serves as a pointless “interlude” dealing only with what happened to Killer Croc after he was turned into a giant hydra at the end of volume 3.
I love the idea behind this book, I love the supporting Batwoman characters, and the artwork is terrific. On the downside, it often loses focus on the storyline that matters, uses more mainstream Batman characters poorly, and doesn’t feature an ending. And let me just make it clear that this isn’t a satisfying kind of abrupt ending like Sopranos. This is a disappointing “oh, what might have been” kind of abrupt ending like Twin Peaks. You’re probably going to be pissed off when you finish reading.
A full, detailed review of Batwoman #18 can be found at the link below:
The Mad Magazine variant cover, full issue #19 gate-fold cover, and the unused cover for Williams and Blackman’s unpublished Batwoman #25 are all featured in the back of the book, but there is nothing else. It’s the least amount of bonus material any of the Batwoman editions has received. Oh, and the cover of the graphic novel itself is the unused cover for issue #26!
Value: Sale Price
I enjoyed it, but was aggravated but was aggravated when I finished it. It’s worth the full $22.99 price for hardcore fans and those who must own the entire J.H. Williams III collection, but even though I read it from cover to cover in one sitting it’s hard to recommend it for full price when it is an unfinished work that left me unfulfilled. Definitely don’t buy it if this is your first Batwoman book! Start with Elegy and work your way up, then be sad that it ended like this.
I liked this, but it definitely concludes on a sour note with a cliffhanger that will go forever unresolved. Batwoman, Vol. 4 has an engaging premise, great characters, gorgeous art, and more than enough action to keep readers engaged, but only if those readers are well-versed in the world of Kate Kane. It is a worthy continuation of Williams & Blackman’s Batwoman saga– it’s just a shame that it’s not a worthy ending.