“Blackstar” concludes the Many Arms of Death storyline, but only in a manner of speaking.  Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV have left a number of critical plot elements hanging, no doubt to resurrect in future storylines or weave throughout the long haul.

And I definitely hope there will be a long haul. However much this series has ambled and rambled and burned slow, it’s been a nice rainy day read. The exotic locale gave it an air of mystery, the romantic leitmotif helped to plump up the stakes, and Batwoman certainly seems to be at odds with everyone–including so many people with whom she would just much rather get along.

Or kill.  One or the other.

Kate Kane can be a very scary bat

We get another brawl with Tahani that’s pretty much every bit as unresolved as the last three, so don’t expect any big conclusion on that score, but I have to say I like what Bennett and Tynion did with setting the bomb on Coryana (a common enough plot point) and making the fight more personal beyond just Kate and Tahani. There’s something very compelling about Kate’s love for this island and the memories of a happier past that definitely had me rooting for her here. And even though I feel like her Resistance friends were sort of sloppily introduced in the previous issues, I like the way they come together to thwart the weirdo-twins’ evil plot.

See? Kate doesn’t need Julia; she has lots of other allies.

Speaking of Julia, there’s a nice moment with her as she contemplates whether Kate is competent for the mission and we get a mice silent sequence in which she makes a critical decision. I don’t like that Julia somehow has this power over Batwoman, but she hasn’t earned my trust or support in any way. I still find her a bit of a nuisance; her only purpose here seems to be a source of friction between Kate and her “handlers”? And why does Kate have handlers anyway? It’s an interesting difference in the usual superhero lone wolf dynamic, but it also feels weirdly artificial. Julia’s managed remain a side dish to the action so far, though. I just hope it stays that way.

Steve Epting’s excellent as always, though I feel he might have had his first big misstep in this issue. Unless Tahani has the power of Thor and Batwoman has the hair of Medusa, this doesn’t really work:

It would have been less crazy if she’d grabbed the cape at least!

Otherwise, despite some crazy physics involving the shape and movement of Kate’s cape, Epting’s work is beautiful as always. His dynamic actions shots are stunning, of course, but he also feels just at home in those quieter moments; his dialogue-heavy scenes are always full of naturalistic body language and interesting facial expressions–his characters look like they think and feel and aren’t just cartoons to be manipulated into place for each shot. The realistic environments also give this book a cinematic solidity. Coryana feels very specific and fully actualized; that’s a rare thing in comics.

And let’s just praise Jeromy Cox’s colors once again. Tiny details like ripples on the ocean water, light reflections on glass, and subtle gradients on every sky show a real attention to the tone of the book, and the dampening of the colors when the power goes out in the cave and then the subsequent light cast from the fire is all handled very effectively. Where other colorists might just block in generically on really small figures, Cox always pays attention to the white makeup on Tahani’s face. That kind of thing always impresses me.

Recommended If…

  • You love a book full of complex adult relationships that don’t feel like teen drama.
  • You love not only the superhero, but the person behind the persona: Kate is written well in and out of costume!
  • What’s not to love about a not-too-gadgety-driven international thriller full of dark undertones and sexy visuals.

Overall

The story won’t blow you out of the water, but this countdown to the destruction of Coryana manages to be visceral and entertaining and even poignant in some places. As this issue concludes the first arc of Kate Kane’s new adventures as Batwoman, I am totally invested in her struggle: with her past, with her current circumstances, with her tragic love life, all of it. I love this new direction and I hope this new teams continues to keep the character grounded and away from the supernatural silliness that the series veered off into the last time. Batwoman is an incredible fighter and keeping her in a grounded world actually elevates her as a hero–as demonstrated right here in these pages.

SCORE: 7.5/10