Batwoman #26 – #31
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Jeremy Haun
When I found out I was going to be reviewing Batwoman, I knew I wanted to start my reviews with the change of the creative team. Andrew has reviewed everything up to this point, so I wanted to make sure I gave people insight into this new team, how it’s different – the positives and the negatives – and what readers might have missed if they’d just picked up one or two issues of this new team’s run. Ultimately, I’m hoping I can intrigue readers that dropped the book during Blackman and Williams’ run, or with the announcement and drama of their departure, to check out this new team and give them a fair chance. Or, if you picked up the new team’s work, but quickly wrote it off, perhaps this is for you as well. As I started preparing these reviews, I realized that there was a fat chance people were going to read reviews for seven issues prior to the new issue, especially with the flurry of reviews that are being posted these days. Instead, I decided to pull a play from Sean’s book, and just review a collection of issues in one post.
Before I get into these issues though, I want to provide my thoughts on Williams run. I was personally a fan of what Blackman and Williams brought to the table. This might surprise some of you because I tend to like my Batman related stories to be grounded in the streets of Gotham, rather than in mysticism and folklore. But the storytelling was told well here, and the characters were developed enough that I really enjoyed it. Actually, the characters are what made it for me. They were each very distinct in their personality and traits. I won’t lie, there were moments when I toyed with the idea of dropping the book during their run, but I never did, and I’m glad I didn’t. Issue by issue, the story built on itself, slowly adding layers, slowly digging deeper into plots brought up earlier in the book, and really began to feel like an epic. It also gave Batwoman the foundation she needed to stand on her own as a character. She was sure of herself and her abilities, and led her mission with a quiet confidence. The stories were never rushed, and there were often great complexities – which can be rare in comics these days.
And, of course, I can’t forget the art. The art during their run was some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m a writer, so I tend to focus on the script and dialogue before noticing the art (unless it’s glaringly bad). But Williams’ art forces you to stop and notice it. It was that unique and captivating. Some might even venture to say that this book was often style over substance, but I would disagree.
In some ways, the things that worked for Williams and Blackman, also served as a negative. This book existed in its own reality for the most part, and kept a tight story that developed slowly, with arcs feeding into one another. Because of this, it wasn’t friendly for new readers. You couldn’t jump in at a “new” arc, and pick up from there. I loved that aspect, but I know there are groups that didn’t. The style of storytelling also made the story seem to progress really for those that read the book month-to-month. But one of the bigger downsides, in my opinion, was that Batwoman had nothing to do with the rest of the Bat family. She was essentially a loner, and when the Bat family was involved, it didn’t align with continuity, which just raised a number of questions and flags. But that was the past, and this is the now.
Webs: Part 1: Strands
Issue #26 kicks off with a new creative team, a new villain, and a new vibe. There’s an art thief known as Wolf Spider in Gotham that’s stealing paintings created by a painter tied to Gotham’s past. One of Kate’s childhood friends, Evan, who happens to be an art collector – and Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics – also happens to be in town. But when Wolf Spider breaks into his house to steal his paintings, Kate takes it personally and goes after him with Hawkfire. It’s refreshing to see Batwoman become a little more grounded with its story, and I like that the antagonist is a normal person, rather than a mystical being or god. Unfortunately, Andreyko made it blatantly clear that Kate’s friend, Evan, was Wolf Spider. If there was any suspense towards this, it was squashed immediately. I couldn’t help but think that the next six issues were going to consist of nothing but more obvious reveals and encounters until Kate learns that she’s been fighting her best friend. Yawn. That, on top of the fact that the characters feel less developed and have little depth compared to before, made me uncertain of this new team and the fate of this book. But what really bugged me was Kate/ Batwoman herself. She felt like a different person. That quiet confidence I mentioned Kate having previously seemed nonexistent. Before, I would’ve described Kate as a soldier first and foremost, then discuss her other traits. Now, I feel like she’s a younger, less experienced version of the character we’ve been reading, which is an honest shame. Overall, I thought this issue felt “safe” and uninspired.
Webs: Part 2: In the Blood Issue #27 picks up exactly where the previous issue left off: Batwoman being kicked out of a penthouse window by Wolf Spider. She’s been poisoned by some projectile barbs that he has, and as she falls, she flashes back over the past few years of her life. It’s a great spread that covers a couple of pages, and really tries to tie in that trademark collage that Williams’ did so well. Click the spoiler tag to see what I’m talking about!
Wolf Spider manages to escape, and we learn that he’s not in this for himself, as he meets with his employer to deliver his heist. But who is this benefactor, and why is he collecting these paintings? Meanwhile, a beaten and drugged Kate manages to get herself to Maggie’s house, where she loses the costume and desperately tries to clean herself up, until she inadvertently creates some family drama.
This issue was much better than the previous issue. The story was tighter, with more momentum, and showcased that Andreyko had the potential to create a story that branched out and could build upon itself. Some of the concerns I had after the previous issue faded, but this book wasn’t out of the woods for me yet. My favorite part of this issue, was the twist at the end where Maggie’s daughter walked in on a bloody Kate in the bathroom. I wasn’t expecting that, and it was a nice person tie-in to bring the worlds of Batwoman and Kate Kane crashing into the reality of coexistence. Like the previous issue, this issue ended with a cliff hanger… and I couldn’t wait to see the result the next month.
Webs: Part 3: Tangled
Kate is pissed! Having Maggie’s daughter walk in on her while she’s in her “Batwoman mode,” was the last thing Kate wanted or needed. She’s mad at herself for letting it happen. She’s mad at Wolf Spider for getting the best of her. And all she really wants to do, is hit someone. Which is exactly what she’s doing at the beginning of issue #28: taking it to some low level thugs. The opening is actually really nice, as it flips back and forth between the realization of what Kate’s jeopardized with Maggie in that moment, and the anger she still carries concerning the incident 12 hours later. But it’s not just ruthless violence, she’s trying to find Wolf Spider. With her search unsuccessful, Kate decides to confront her personal life head-on by going to meet and talk with Maggie. While she’s there, she sees her friend Evan. We get another blatantly obvious hint that he’s Wolf Spider – yes, we know already, someone please teach this team how to do this well – before meeting and speaking with Maggie. I have to say, I was curious to see how they dealt with this situation, and then when I read it… I was let down. It was great at first because Kate actually talked to Jamie, which I enjoyed. And when Kate spoke with Maggie, it too started off decently, but then turned sour when it went from “your lifestyle is becoming a reality” to “you should go see a therapist” and “PTSD is serious.” …You can’t see me, but I’m rolling my eyes. This all just seems out of place. I feel like it was additional drama that isn’t needed, and would’ve been much more impactful without it. Kate’s still angry, and is punching things again (Oh no. She’s turning into Barbara Gordon) The redeeming part of this issue actually involves the art heists that have been going on. We already know that Wolf Spider is stealing the art, but that it’s not for self-gain. He has a benefactor paying him to steal these pieces, and in this issue, we find out why. There’s also two paintings left, and the places their documented to be are quite interesting. I was back and forth with this issue. Parts of it were, strong, but others made me cringe a little. When writing relationships, sometime less is more. Hopefully this is just a one-off instance, because I was really hoping to see Kate and Maggie be a successful couple for a little while – the Jamie situation aside, which I think is great storytelling.
Webs: Part 4: Art Attack
Wolf Spider is close to completing his collection of paintings as we head into issue #29. There are two paintings left, and with one at the Kane estate, and one at Arkham, getting them should be pretty interesting. Wolf Spider’s benefactor, Grantham, wants the paintings because there are clues hidden within each painting that leads to a hidden fortune. I know it sounds like a pirate’s hidden treasure tale, but it’s not. I promise. The plots are actually layered and textured much better than I expected them to be after this team’s first issue.
The negative aspect of this issue, as well as the previous issue, is honestly coming from the relationships. I know I hound on relationships a lot in my reviews, and I’m sure most of you think that I think emotions are gross, but that’s not the case. The reason I’m so critical of relationships and characterization is because I think these aspects are what can take a story from good to great, or good to ok. After a melodramatic conversion in the last issue, Kate is now meeting with a therapist to help her move past her demons. Honestly, I feel like this could be great, but Andreyko is making too big of a deal about it. The whole situation just feels cliché and out of character.
That aside, Kate and Maggie work together to discover Wolf Spider’s pattern, and uncover his next target as Arkham Asylum. Batwoman manages to intercept Wolf Spider in Arkham, and it’s a fun ride for the rest of the issue. I really enjoy seeing these two go against each other, and even though I’m still waiting for the negative moment where Kate realizes it’s Evan, I like the challenge they give each other. Wolf Spider really seems to enjoy the challenge of Batwoman, almost as if he’s amused by her. They’re both evenly matched physically and mentally, and that helps create the idea that Wolf Spider might actually “win” even though this is Batwoman’s book. The difference is that Wolf Spider isn’t afraid to play dirty, and once again does so when Batwoman has him backed in a corner.
Webs: Part 4: Home Field Advantage
Andreyko and Haun stuck with their standard cliff hanger ending in the previous issue with Wolf Spider freeing the Arkham inmates from their cells so he could escape with the painting. Now, I know some people are going to think this is awesome, however, I feel like this has been done a million times… So I’m not too excited. I think we all know that there’s going to be chaos, some inmates will escape – most likely Nocturna since she was featured and is the main antagonist for the next arc – and the other inmates will be swept up and put back into their cell. All show and excitement, with no real threat or danger.
So am I right? Mostly. There’s chaos, and of course, in typical Batwoman fashion, the inmates are all creepy: an acid-spitting fairy lady, a cockroach guy, blob guy, etc – not your usual suspects. But the action is essentially the same, with no dire consequences. The GCPD are notified of the situation, but before Maggie can respond, she get’s served with child custody papers! Now, THAT is good drama. It’s not melodramatic, and it feels justified and believable!
Wolf Spider was able to escape Arkham, but not before Kate could snag him with a tracer. She follows him to the next target – which we all know will be the Kane estate, and we all know the two will get into an altercation. The question this time – since it is the last painting – is will Wolf Spider get away, or will Batwoman stop him? And will Kate finally learn that Wolf Spider is Evan? I keep waiting for the “shocking” reveal to happen so I can pan it because it’s been made so obvious, but it keeps slipping by!
Webs: Part 5: Blood Money
Batwoman #31 is the last issue of this arc, and I must say, I’ve been decently surprised. I read the first issue of this arc and had a lot of not-so-exciting presumptions of what I thought would take place throughout this story. Thankfully, none of those presumptions have actually followed through (yet), so I’m curious/excited to see how Andreyko and Haun wrap this up. Issue by issue, we’ve learned more about the history of this art, and it’s ties to Gotham’s past. At the same time, Andreyko has nicely layered in multiple subplots, and because of that, he’s able to give the final issue in this arc a nice pace.
Batwoman and Wolf Spider were both able to figure out the message of the paintings that Grantham has been collecting. As this story is coming to a head and closing out though, Maggie’s personal struggle over the custody of her daughter is ramping up, and Nocturna is being released from Arkham after being acquitted of murder. I love this style of storytelling. I get a greater feeling of accomplishment as the story provides resolution and set-up, as the plots all interweave nicely.
The issue reaches its climax with Wolf Spider and Grantham racing for the fortune, and Batwoman awaiting their presence. Andreyko has built to this moment each issue, giving readers a little bit of a curve ball here and there along the way. There are three agendas, and a number of possible outcomes that could occur. After assuming many things throughout this run, and then being proven wrong, I honestly have no idea what will happen. Will Batwoman stop them? Will someone find the fortune? Is there a fortune? Will there be any betrayals? And is this the issue where Kate finds out Evan’s dirty, little secret?
- You’re interested in Batwoman, but weren’t a fan of Williams’ and Blackman’s run.
- You’ve been wanting a more reader friendly version of Batwoman.
- You like the idea of Batwoman being a little more grounded in reality.
The Art: Hauns art doesn’t really compare to what we had before, but it’s not bad. Overall, I would say his art is pretty solid. Obviously there are exceptions here and there, but he fits the tone of the book decently. As with the story, it looks as if Haun followed the same strategy as Andreyko by opting with the “simpler can be better” method.
The Good: The highlight of these issues for me came from Andreyko’s ability to weave multiple plots together, but still push the story forward at a quick pace. Despite a few hiccups here and there, I was surprised on a few occasions, and tended to really enjoy my time spent reading these issues. I also liked that Andreyko didn’t feel the need to wrap everything up at once. This collection of issues feel like the day-to-day life of Kate, without being too convoluted within itself.
The Bad: The relationships? Is anyone surprised I’m really saying this? Where there were wins in the dramatic areas of these issues, there were also some misses. The dialogue from time to time also suffered as it felt out of character. There were also times early on that I felt that these issue were predictable, but I was also proved wrong on some of those occasions. Also, if you sit down and really try to figure out the Grantham connection to all of this, your probably going to scratch your head a little because the logic seems to be a little off.
Overall: I thought Andreyko and Haun brought a decent effort to their first arc. It’s clear they got more comfortable with the story and characters from issue to issue, and while I would consider their effort “safe” overall, it was still enjoyable. If you didn’t give this team a fair shot, then you really should. I would give this book a little bit of a higher rating, but the rocky start, and some questionable moments are keeping it from receiving higher numbers. It doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there though, because I strongly believe it is.