Batwoman #38 “Tattered Memories”
Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Juan Jose Ryp
Well, would you look at that? I actually enjoyed reading this issue!… I’m shocked!
For me, this book has been in a downward spiral for a while now. I don’t feel that Andreyko has a solid grasp on who Kate/ Batwoman is as a character, and that alone has damaged this book greatly. On top of that, I feel like his plots are the type that sound great on paper, but his result never meets your expectations, and sometimes fall WAY below the mark. There are moments from his run that are good, but never great, and equally as many moments that are average or terrible (do you guys remember the therapist? Maggie’s ex-husband?). He does seem to do a decent job of creating multiple plots that are relevant to one another, but that doesn’t seem to work in his favor either. Instead of creating layers and depth that build suspense or momentum, these plots just kind of stick around. They don’t really go anywhere, and it never feels like there is a resolve to anything. I’m ultimately left wondering what the point was for certain arcs and characters.
Along with the withering plot, the art has also been on a downward spiral. Batwoman went from having what was debatably the best art in the business, to decent art, to average art, to Jeanty – who, in my opinion, draws bloated characters with little detail. If you’ve been reading my reviews lately, then you know that I’ve been on a big art kick! The art is something I never really paid much attention to, but now that I’m looking at comics more critically, I’ve been approaching them with a different attitude. And more than ever, bad art has become a glaring distraction for me…
So why am I bring up so much from the past? Simply to help support my argument that Andreyko found his “formula for success” a little too late with this title. Granted… that formula is still only delivering average to slightly above average stories, so take it with a grain of salt…
If you remember, there were quite a few elements that I liked about the Futures End issue. I enjoyed it mainly because of how the ensemble was written, with Alice carrying most of the story. That issue contained a certain energy and momentum that the other issues didn’t have, nor was it bogged down by Andreyko’s poor attempt at writing drama. This issue goes back to that formula, and brings that same energy back as this ensemble comes together again (or for the first time, for those of you who are particularly headstrong about remaining linear)!
For those of you that haven’t been following this arc – or just need a refresher – Batwoman began investigating a cult after several of its members were found burned alive, and a girl was killed as a ritual sacrifice. This investigation caused Batwoman to cross paths with Etrigan, the demon, as they were both working the same case from different angles. It’s at this point that Batwoman learns that the cult is trying to resurrect an ancient, demonic being. Members of this same cult then steal an amulet from Ragman, naturally bringing him into the loop. On top of this, we have the added drama of Kate’s former relationship. Kate’s new relationship with Nocturna – who seems to have some type of control over Kate. And Alice, Kate’s (formerly) deranged sister is back in town, but Kate doesn’t know that. Now, while all of this might sound amazing, remember my reference above about Andreyko’s plots on paper, compared to execution…
Batwoman, Etrigan, and Ragman all jump into action to save the day, but are unfortunately too late. The cult has already performed the summoning spell, and called forth Morgaine using Clayface as a catalyst for her arrival, which is where this issue kicks off. Right away, you’re thrown into some decent action. Clayface is pretty much out of commission, but the others strike fast – each of them featured equally. And while I’m not crazy about Morgaine as a character/ villain, she definitely packs some power. The one thing that I was glad to see, was that Andreyko didn’t try too hard to explain why these characters are working together. They acknowledge each other’s presence, then quickly realize they’re fighting the same fight and work together. It’s a great way to start the issue before branching off into the other plots.
The remainder of the book is balanced pretty well with decent character moments, while still progressing the plot. My least favorite scene is between Kate and Maggie, and while it progresses their story in a believable way, it doesn’t seem fitting for the characters themselves. The only thing that nullifies that feeling of dislike, is that they both acknowledge that the other’s behavior is off… then annoyingly pay no attention to their own behavior. This is followed with an interesting moment between Kate and Nocturna, and a closer look into Ragman’s life, before Kate discovers a shocking little secret that we already know.
The Good: So what is Andreyko’s “winning formula” that I mentioned earlier? Its ensembles. Enembles seem to prevent him from falling into some of his bad habits and melodramatic relationships. His scenes don’t seem to linger. They get to the point and move on. And I have to be honest, I’m slightly shocked that I, of all people, am saying that this is a good thing. I tend to like writers to take their time with characters and moments, but when Andreyko attempts to do that, it usually leaves me frustrated and annoyed.
When he writes ensembles though, the characters work off one another, helping drive the momentum and plot of the story. I’m a big proponent for playing to your strengths… Hopefully he’ll continue this stride for the remainder of this book’s run so he can redeem himself a little.
The Bad: The characters. In general, Andreyko struggles to find character’s voices, and that’s honestly what prevents him from ever having a “great” issue. Despite my more positive outlook on this issue, and my comments about him being able to avoid some of his opportunities by focusing on an ensemble, there are still some rough moments. I found the Kate and Maggie scene particularly rough, and then there was even some moments during the action sequences as well.
Andreyko keeps trying to write Kate/ Batwoman as a quirky girl with quick quips… and this just isn’t her. I know I say this every month, but it bothers me. Kate Kane is not Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He even had Batwoman giggle at something Etrigan said after the fight! Whoa, whoa, whoa! Batwoman. Doesn’t. Giggle. If you write that into a script again, the real Batwoman is going to reach through the page and punch the crap out of you. Hard.
Also, what is up with Ragman in terms of continuity? Doesn’t he live with Luke in Eternal? Am I the only one that feels like this character is all over the place between these two books?
The Art: THANK GOD! The art is good! After a few months of suffering through Jeanty’s art, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see some quality, detailed art! But instead of rambling on and on about it, I’m just going to show you!
Actually, before I show you, I’m going to point out that the colors are also good! Guy Major manages to add some really nice, vibrant colors while maintaining a darker tone, and… AND…. Batwoman’s hair and cape are red again, instead of that purple color.
Overall: While far from perfect, Andreyko and team manage to deliver an issue that is enjoyable, and somewhat refreshing considering how bad this book has been.
- You enjoyed the team aspect that was featured in Batwoman: Futures End #1
- You’ve been waiting to see some decent art in this book again.
- You want to see how the Unknowns come to work together.