I think it’s fair to say that ‘The Fall of the House of Kane’ has crumbled under the weight of expectation. Issue #15 is action-packed but still feels a little flat because the threat at hand feels manageable for a superhero and lacks the epic grandeur we’d expect with the return of Alice.
Last issue, Kate’s estranged sister unleashed a virus on Gotham, carried by hundreds of bats. She makes a good point that you can’t ‘beat bacteria to a bloody pulp,’ and this is promising because its an important rule of writing that a good villain should be immune to the hero’s strengths. However, as I mentioned last month, this plan is pretty standard supervillain fare; it’s hardly as personal as, for example, Batman v Joker in ‘Endgame.’ Kate starts working on a solution immediately and half of her plan was so predictable that I prophesised it in my review for issue #14, while the other half of her plan is straight out of Batman: Year One. It’s a straightforward response to a surmountable problem so there’s no real tension.
After explaining her plan in the previous issue, Alice continues to build it up over the course of this one. And then, all that hyperbole turns out to be pointless as Kate resolves the situation in the space of a few pages. It’s abrupt and drives home my previous point about how easy Alice is to beat in this arc.
While enacting this simple attack, Alice performs another great textbook action of the arch-villain by goading her opponent (confusingly, sometimes her feelings are expressed in red text boxes and at others they are in black. I think the black ones are her thoughts but it’s hard to tell because in both types, she seems to be addressing Kate). Since Rebirth, Kate has been even more caught up with her past that usual so trying to get under her skin by exploiting her emotions seems a wise choice and for the most part I enjoyed this section. Unfortunately, Alice mentions the fate of Clayface in Detective Comics, which though an effective method of attacking Kate, makes a mockery of the Rebirth timelines. Up until this point, I’ve satisfied any concerns I had about continuity by assuming that the events in Batwoman take place before most of the arcs in Detective Comics but that theory is out the window now.
Batwoman’s second ‘lost year’ is finally coming to a close and I’m grateful. I understand that history, legacy and family are important to her, but I think she has the potential to be more than the sum of her regrets. As a reader, I’m definitely ready for Kate to look to the future for once (This issue does feature some growth for the character but it seems a bit late and a bit rushed to me). As usual, there are flashbacks in this issue but, in an exciting departure from the norm, the old news is delivered via Beth’s demented perspective. This gives Blanco the opportunity to illustrate a storybook section with beautiful artwork akin to the Bayeux Tapestry; these must be my favourite couple of pages of Batwoman in months as I couldn’t stop smiling as I read them.
Elsewhere, Blanco should be applauded for painstakingly drawing dozens of bat silhouettes but even more so for a gorgeous, detailed, full-page spread of a bat which is being used as a unique layout device for the other frames. I’m not as keen on his designs for the multiple airships in the series because they all look the same to me, which increases my confusion whenever one of them is mentioned. However, there’s one less airship to concern ourselves with by the end of the book and it’s exit is suitably dramatic, with a great sense of scale and explosive colours from John Rauch. On the subject of the art, have you seen Rafael Grampá’s striking variant cover? I love how Kate looks like a stylised vampire and that background reminds me of Anton Furst’s Gotham City in Batman (1989).
- You’d like to see Blanco’s best work since that beautiful shot of Safiyah and Kate in issue #10!
- You’re up for an action-packed issue which nonetheless makes space for the villain to taunt the hero.
- You’ve been on this ride throughout Rebirth and need to see what it’s all been building to.
Overall: This arc isn’t all it was cracked up to be but it’s still enjoyable to read. Hopefully my frustration with the simplistic story will end with the introduction of everyone’s favourite caped crusader next issue.