Too soon this book seems to be entering a sophomore slump. With its first arc behind, it’s already committing artist-of-the-month inconsistency and taking story plunges that seem too radical (at least, certainly, for my tastes).

The whole of the first arc, Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV took us on a little trip to Kate Kane’s past, but all in context of Batwoman’s present. Now we leap into the future–by years, but we don’t know how many.  Long enough for Batman to have become a de facto tyrant of Gotham (we’ll see this creation of a “Bat-state” in the big event Batbooks coming soon).  Long enough for Renee Montoya to be the new commissioner. Long enough to etch lines of age in Kate’s face, though her body and physical abilities don’t seem diminished at all.

Long enough for me to completely not care because it will all eventually be retconned by whatever actually does happen in Batwoman’s “future”.

So we went from a really interesting background that touched on Batwoman’s humanity and helped to establish how she got to the place she is, and then we leap into this speculative projection of where she’s going to end up. To be fair, this direction was teased at the beginning of the series. Still doesn’t make it any less irritating.

And the costume change is….eh?

I tried to put my biases aside, but it’s hard to get engaged with what’s going on in this book: it’s a huge leap from where we just came from, and immediately puts us into a strange position of wondering who to root for. Additionally, while It’s nice to see Harvey Bullock and Renee Montoya, they’re just sort of dropped into the mix and I don’t feel like we had any time at all to establish relationships or figure out the dynamics before the writers are pulling sort of “shocker” game-changing events.

While I sort of came away feeling, ah, well, bummer.  The emotional connection feels hugely lacking. It’s just not earned. Which is really curious to me because this team pulled that off on Coryana much more successfully at the start of the series with a character we didn’t even know.

I’m going to try to not be fatalistic, but this just feels all-wrong in terms of direction. The big guns, the creepy Batworld. And just to be nitpicky, “Pax Batmana” feels like a poor riff on Multiversity’s sublime “Pax Americana” in which Batman has been bizarrely Latinized. I’m honestly not even sure that makes any sense whatsoever.

Kate’s now a crusty old veteran waging war on Batman’s Batinized Gotham full of Battech and police soldiers who have bat ears on their helmets. All of it looks goofy to me, and reads full of rage in a generic “oh gee yet another police state” sort of fashion. I’m honestly at a loss to know what it is I should be excited about in this story. Batwoman flying around with a hand cannon? Someone help me out here.

Renato Arlem takes the reins on art for this outing and it’s a mix of competent renders with bad and unnecessary “special” effects and inconsistent inking.

That blur effect has got to go!

I like his grittier scenes of Gotham–the station demonstrates some lovely backgrounds. But his Kate is frankly kind of ugly and the action sequences are interestingly choreographed, but pretty flat for their lack of dynamic use of space and speedline environments. Proof, perhaps, that a just so-so, or even moderately good book can be elevated by amazing art, perhaps? If Epting had drawn this, would I have been more engaged? More willing? More excited?

It’s impossible to know, but again. I want to admit my bias here. Because I just didn’t like this book for too many reasons. Did I mention the army of gun-toting Bat cops? See above. Sigh.

Recommended If…

  • You like futuristic stories with an emphasis on crazy flying tech and big weapons.
  • Kate and Renee is your favorite Batship.
  • Undertones of evil Batman make you feel all warm in your tummy.

Overall

Renato Arlem does a serviceable job following in the footsteps of previous artists who set the bar very high for this book. It’s not an easy thing to follow, and the change is deeply felt, unfortunately. But more disconcerting is that Bennett and Tynion have taken this book on a hard left that’s left this reader lurching uncomfortably. I have a feeling this book will absolutely divide readers. Some will love this new crazy violent direction and others will be baffled and consternated about the future direction of the series. Meanwhile, I’ll just sit here on the fence and watch closely as to how it develops.

SCORE: 5/10