Batwoman’s rebirth pulls no stops in this stunning opener that’s more a feast for the eyes than for the intellect–but that’s hardly a bad thing. If you have never read a Batwoman comic, this would be a great time to start as Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV bring Kate Kane back to her own solo book.

And they definitely do it in style.

For those of you who have been reading Detective Comics as it worked it way toward this spin-off, you should be aware that there is no immediate connection or continuation of that tale. Not in an obvious way, anyway, though I suspect eventually things will dovetail.

This comic is mostly just about Kate: who she is, where she comes from, what makes her tick. But it’s not all answers either. It asks far more questions: about Kate’s mother, about her “lost year” after washing out of the armed forces, about what the heck she’s doing right now!

The closing page of this book left me a little stymied and unsure, but without context, we’ll just have to see where it goes. That moment of fannish outrage I had at Kate’s look was quickly quelled by the realization that whatever mission she’s on currently–and whatever the reason for it–she’ll be back in the Batsuit soon enough.

Don’t mess with Safiyah, even if you’re Batwoman!

Again, there’s not much story here: mostly vignettes about specific periods in Kate Kane’s life: her traumatic childhood, the death and loss of family, her career in the military cut short by her refusal to lie about her homosexuality, her relationship with her father, her various lovers over the years, and of course her connection to Gotham and the Dark Knight himself.

There isn’t a great amount of detail, but there’s just enough to get the full flavor of Kate’s journey–to connect her to real-world events as much as certain supernatural elements, and to ground her as a person who has loved and lost and been challenged by her choices and her circumstances.

For those of you who like those inspiration training montages in sports movies–this kind of has the same effect: through her trials and tribulations we see Kate become the woman she is today, and because we can empathize with her grief and her desire for purpose, we root for her along the way.

Have I mentioned how awesome Steve Epting’s art is?

Steve Epting’s work is worth the price of admission, folks. From the gorgeous cover to the dramatic interior splash pages, Epting recalls the lovely baroque aesthetic of J.H. William III’s award-winning art, while nonetheless being wholly its own. I love that Epting makes Kate sensuous without being a sex-object, which has always been a hallmark of the character. Her scenes of passion aren’t overplayed–they’re tastefully done and none of the female characters is put on display in a way that would make your grandma uncomfortable.

It’s also especially nice to see this juxtaposition of her personal and private life with her crusade in the larger world. Tynion has grounded her nicely within her family and colleagues and lovers in a way that will provide her undercover operations (as Batwoman and otherwise) that humanity she will need for us to empathize with her. In the wrong hands, Kate can come off as bloodless and cold and dispassionate, but here there’s a nice balance of her hard edge and her softness as well.

Because there’s so much exposition in this book, there are a lot of very glossy splashes throughout–but I’m not complaining. I think the way the images carry the narrative is fantastic. Bennett and Tynion avoid the trap of over-explaining and allow Epting’s work to carry the narrative in delightful ways. If you were a reader of Batwoman in the past, the visuals are a nice reminder of the journey she’s taken, the people in her life, the phases she has been through. If you didn’t read Batwoman before, and maybe Detective Comics’ recent run is your only experience of the character, you get a lovely flavor for what Kate Kane’s life has been like.

Yes, there are many particulars which are not explained, elements and characters introduced only to be snatched back into the ether of time, but the effect is sound, I think. It’s a collage of Kate’s life and a springboard for this new incarnation.

Recommended If…

  • You just love really fine comic book art.
  • You’re excited about seeing Batwoman back in her own book! Huzzah!
  • Special-ops-type stories intrigue you.

Overall

I’m not in love with how this book ended (which is really the beginning), but I trust this team to make this book great even if it suffers a few lumps coming out of the sifter. Kate Kane looks amazing under the attentions of Steve Epting, and the while there’s not a whole of indication as to where this book is going just yet, it’s a very exciting prologue just in terms of reacquainting us with Batwoman’s cast of characters and putting Kate up to an assignment that looks to be sort of left of center of her usual fare. I don’t know about you all, but I’m very excited to see where this goes!

SCORE: 8/10