Marguerite Bennett (going solo on this installment) writes Batwoman like a fever dream. It’s disorienting, the logic is nearly impossible to follow, and you come away with a vague sense of there being some kind of inscrutable puzzle for which you have none of the proper pieces.
But to be honest, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Last month we had some weird futuristic death match thing going on and this week we’re back in Coryana and in an almost Dali-esque desert landscape, and some other liminal emotional space in which we see the curious return of little lost sister Beth of all people.
I’m just going to be straight with you guys: I have no idea what’s going on here. But as we’re most definitely entering a storyline in which the realm of dreams will place a big part, I’m just deciding to be okay with the ambiguity.
Your own tolerance may vary.
It’s a nice moment, even if it is some kind of head game
We have very few clues to guide us in this landscape. Kate is hunting down the Many Arms of Death and has been shot down in the Sahara Desert. She is traversing this harsh terrain with no supplies and no apparent gameplan, which makes me doubt the actuality of this moment, but that actually could just be bad writing. For now, I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt because the cover of the book teases our fan-favorite Jonathan Crane, so all bets are off as to what’s reality and what’s, well, an actual fever dream, perhaps.
Scenes of the desert, in which Batwoman encounters and must fight some high-tech “colony soldiers” are interspersed with what appear to be memories or dreams from the past on Coryana with the elusive Safiyah. There’s a lot of interesting imagery where concerns foxes in Safiyah’s rose garden that had to be put down due to some curious infection. We’re meant to draw parallels from this, I think, about Batwoman’s current situation, though the connection doesn’t feel entirely fleshed out at this point.
That said, I like the imagery, I like the interaction with “dream” Beth, and I like the veil of mystery that Bennett has cast. The desert and the colony soldiers? Not that exciting at this point. But this is the introduction to a story that will feature Scarecrow in a big way, so I am looking forward to that–even if the cover is just a big tease for the most part (aren’t they all?).
Throw your cowl! Pick up your cowl! Make up your mind!
Fernando Blanco is the artist for this issue and I like his stuff for the most part. The action feels choppy sometimes. When Kate is fighting the colony soldiers there are literally moments when I have no idea what I’m supposed to be looking at or “getting” from the moment. Also, the details kind of wavers from one page to the next. You have moments that are very intense and clear and others that feel more slap-dash (for lack of a better term). I honestly can’t tell if it’s intentional and trying to convey something more complex about what’s real and what’s not.
And colorist John Rausch introduces some curious use of magenta toward the end that must be purposeful, but at which point I’ve kind of exhausted my desire to make deeper analysis. It’s at this moment that Batwoman seems to distinctly cross over into this dream realm, but I can’t actually be too certain.
I will say, however, that I do appreciate some creative paneling and reading sequences (though they don’t always work digitally). I love the inventive use of space and storytelling and it hearkens back to Batwoman comics of old (you know exactly which ones I’m talking about).
- You are a fan of the Scarecrow and want to see how he messes with Kate!
- Complex puzzle boxes and curious juxtapositions are your jam.
- You’re just glad (like me) that we’re returned to what appears to be the present and left all that future-tense Bat-weirdness aside for now.
If you don’t mind a long strange tease, there’s certainly some interesting things in this book, but you’ll get no answers to any questions this early in the game. In fact, you’ll be relentlessly bombarded with opportunities for more questions. Are the questions compelling enough to make you want to read on? I think some of them are, but your mileage may vary. We continue to chip away at this phantom named Safiyah and the impact she’s had on Kate. We also see Kate in a variety of vulnerable situations as we continue to peel back layers of her past. If you want to see how well she copes under the influence of Crane’s toxins, you might want to check in with this storyline!