It’s been a few years since we last saw Beth in the flesh, and Safiyah’s part in Kate’s story has been teased for over a year now. Finally, with ‘The Fall of the House of Kane,’ Marguerite Bennett is ready to share the tale it’s all been building towards! Issue #13 provides an exciting first act of creepy hallucinations and big surprises.
Clearly the team were confident that this issue would serve as a jumping-on point for those drawn back to Batwoman by the promise of Alice’s return because early on, we’re forced to trudge through a double-page spread that’s all exposition getting us up to speed on everything that’s happened since Rebirth. It’s not a great scene as this is all information Kate and Julia are well aware of so it doesn’t seem natural for them to recount it. I’d prefer a page of text directly addressing the reader, a technique DC’s rivals use very effectively but I know that’s not the publisher’s style. I think the best option would have been to cut this scene as it includes swathes of text that new readers don’t even need, and instead insert important information in short thought-caption boxes while the story unfolds.
Fortunately, after this brief stumble an inner monologue is adopted and the rest of the issue makes for good reading. I know it’s a point that has been drilled into us before in the pages of Batwoman but I actually found it quite affecting when Kate highlights in this issue how she’s lost every home she’s ever had. We’re even shown a few frames of Jacob that make me feel sorry for him; a good reminder that the tragic story of the Kane family is definitely in the same ballpark as that of the Wayne family. I was re-reading Rebirth issues of Detective Comics and it occurred to me that Kate is always penalised and distanced from her loved ones for occupying the middle ground on the matter of lethal force. Her cousin won’t kill at all while her father and Safiyah are willing to kill just to get what they want; Batwoman will only kill when she deems it absolutely necessary.
While Kate delivers her emotional stance on events via the aforementioned monologue, she explores her devastated family home. The title is particularly apt for this instalment as, like the narrator of Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher,’ our hero is summoned by a letter, concerned about a twin sister and finds the house in disrepair. Bennett dials up the gothic by introducing the reader to a locally notorious house of dark rumours and hallucinations. It’s deliciously disturbing stuff, executed with aplomb by Fernando Blanco, who returns after a two-issue break (I can always tell when Blanco is on art duties because he connects the points of Kate’s bat symbol to her cape!). There are murky shadows everywhere and nine-panel grids abound this issue, giving the impression that we’re watching the action through one of the looming house’s grand old windows. Having so many panels per page also allows Blanco to suggest what is real and what isn’t, as in the example below. As you can see in the same example, the panels also get increasingly skewed as Kate gets deeper into the house (in fact, they’re identical in style to those used in issue #9, another occasion on which Kate was hallucinating).
- You dig the spooky vibe of Kate’s very own haunted house.
- You can handle another issue of history weighing heavy on our hero.
- You’ve been waiting for an important antagonist to return.
Overall: All the way back as far as Rucka’s run on the character, horror tropes have been a part of Batwoman and Blanco has fun delivering them throughout the first half of the book. To mention anything from the second half would be to give away spoilers. I noted last month that issue #12 was very predictable; this certainly isn’t the case for issue #13! If you like Batwoman and have been looking for a place to jump back into the action, this is the issue for you.