At the end of issue #11, Kate announced that now Julia was safe, she could head to Brussels to save her sister from Safiyah. Issue #12 doesn’t really progress the current story much. Instead, it lays the foundation for a dramatic reunion with the Mother of War by answering the principal question we’ve had since the beginning of Rebirth; what went down at the end of the Lost Year?
The events of issue #12 are framed with Kate flying her jet through a thunderstorm. It’s good pathetic fallacy but I can’t help but wonder why she didn’t wait until the weather was better. Her Bat-plane is referred to as ‘The Airship Kónos’ which in Greek can mean ‘cone’ (the shape of the vehicle) or can refer to an ancient Greek conical helmet (which would also be appropriate as Kate is a soldier- once in the US army and then in Batman’s and now I guess she’s a one-woman army or part of the Colony since she was practically kicked out of the Gotham Knights in Detective Comics #974).
The story told in flashback is a very straightforward one. If someone had asked me to predict what happened between Kate and Safiyah, I’m pretty sure that I’d have come up with something close to Bennett’s script. Still, it’s better to have a predictable story that checks all the right boxes than an inconsistent or nonsensical one. One of the chief roles this issue has to play is to build up Safiyah as a dangerous opponent and it succeeds in this by making it clear she knows everything about Kate and will go to any lengths to get what she wants. The actions she takes as Mother of War don’t wither under an analytical eye either- when you live outside the law, your options are limited when it comes to dealing with your rivals. I was initially shocked by her unkind words when things inevitably break down with Kate but on a second read, I can see that she’s just hurt. It’s satisfying that the nemesis we’ve been building towards is a three-dimensional character.
After the issue’s watershed moment that divides Kate and Safiyah, the clothes of both characters change from white to black; it’s the end of their innocence, both literally and symbolically. Contrast Safiyah’s arched eyebrows and military-style blouse in this issue with Kate’s fantasy of her gentle face and beautiful red dress in issue #10; she’s not what out hero likes to pretend she is.
There’s a couple of nice callbacks in this issue I couldn’t help but highlight. Obviously, there are the recurring symbols of the roses and the foxes but do you remember that burnt-out lighthouse we saw back in issue #3? Now we finally get to see how it burnt. Also, as Kate leaps from the top, Safiyah cries, ‘Where are you going, Kate Kane?’ which was a question posed by the main characters in her life in Batwoman: Rebirth.
Godlewski turns in some stylish art this issue, mostly featuring unique, whirl-like shadows which remind me of fingerprints. They’re most evident in the trees in the scene below, which are also interesting because Rauch has coloured them pink. This choice, along with the sepia colour of the clouds, effectively informs us that we’re entering a happy flashback (As the happiness doesn’t last in this issue, the peaceful colour palette doesn’t either; towards the end of the book, Godlewski treats us to some detailed, roiling black waves, complete with white foam and red spray, reminiscent of Kate’s fierce look as Batwoman). The figures in the image below aren’t particularly detailed and this is noticeably the case in some of the smaller panels in the issue; this may be due to time limitations or to the difficulty of having to draw such tiny figures on the uniformly sized pages that all DC artists use. The last thing I’d like to mention about the shot below is how well chosen the title font is; the elegant lettering in harmony with the simple clouds in the background evoke the romantic, pastel, art nouveau work of Alphonse Mucha.
While on the subject of art, I’m not a fan of Panosian’s scruffy cover. It’s appropriately gothic but unfortunately looks like it was drawn hastily with felt-tip pens. I much prefer Michael Cho’s bold variant featuring Kate looking injured but rich in attitude.
• You want to find out what happened in the Lost Year.
• You don’t mind a simple story as long as it feeds the emotion of the overall arc.
• You like it when there’s a marked synthesis between the themes in the script and the artwork.
Overall: A stylish interlude that satisfyingly responds to our questions (albeit with elementary answers) and builds anticipation for Kate’s showdown with Safiyah. If you’re reading Batwoman’s Rebirth adventures, even sporadically, you probably need to read this issue to fully appreciate Marguerite Bennett’s sprawling narrative.