After 18 months of haphazard adventures, it’s time for Batwoman’s Rebirth series to end. Unsurprisingly, the finale is not aimed at occasional readers or newcomers; it’s a love letter to readers who have stuck with Kate throughout Marguerite Bennett’s run.
It’s tough writing a 20 page issue that ties up both the current story and the series as a whole. That’s why the Clock King proves a wise choice of villain for this last adventure. The current incarnation is no master of time; he’s weak, he isn’t frightening and I suspect no-one picking up this issue doubts Batwoman’s ability to bring him down. I won’t confirm whether or not she succeeds but I will say that after their confrontation, there’s still plenty of space left for a series epilogue. Additionally, the presence of Clock King provides a theme for the issue, allowing Kate to legitimately dwell on the past and whether or not she’s wasted time in her pursuit of the Many of Arms of Death.
Her belated, redemptive streak continues this issue; this is a far more confident Batwoman than we’ve seen for most of Rebirth. She congratulates herself on past adventures (possibly attempting to reassure the reader that their dedication hasn’t been in vain) and talks way too much whilst fighting with the Clock King and his cronies. At least one of the puns is satisfying but this new Batwoman also strays into uncharacteristic levels of indulgence, at one point even describing Tockman’s audience and henchmen as ‘the rabble you done roused.’
And it doesn’t stop there. After making Clock King’s ears bleed, Kate continues to monologue for the rest of the issue. How you feel about motivational posters will probably determine how much you like the second half of Batwoman #18; it’s an occasionally profound, consistently cheesy meditation on the past, present and future. On my first read through, I felt appropriately touched by the emotional nature of the ending but on each subsequent read, I’ve felt the series farewell to be a little overblown; reading it aloud, it sounds like a lengthy epitaph.
A few more miscellaneous points of interest:
- It turns out Harvey Bullock uses textspeak. He strikes me as the kind of guy who wouldn’t deign to do anything this new-fangled.
- The Clock King tells everyone his drugs work. Batwoman doesn’t believe him. The Clock King tells Kate again that his drugs work. Suddenly, she believes him and finds herself tempted by them. It’s annoyingly inconsistent.
- During her final monologue, Kate asks, ‘Where are you going, Kate Kane?’ This ties the issue nicely to the page below, which appears in Batwoman: Rebirth #1 (February 2017). Finally, she has an answer to this question.
Issue #18 is brought to you by the classic Batwoman Rebirth team of Marguerite Bennett and Fernando Blanco (it’s not always a given that the principal writers and artists of a series will work on the final issue; the New 52’s Justice League and Grayson ended without the involvement of Johns, Fabok, King or Janin), with Dan Panosian supplying another excellent cover (I don’t like the Halloween mask Kate is wearing but I love the lithe figures and the suitable inclusion of the Dalí-esque clock).
Blanco doesn’t just deliver a series of boring henchmen for Batwoman to fight in this issue; instead we’re treated to a creepy collection of masquerades and clockwork robots. The action flows well in these scenes and the inclusion of the mechanical villains means Kate can really cut loose. The latter half of the book is primarily made up of large, dramatic, mould-breaking layouts. Though these have evidently been painstakingly planned so the reader’s eye tracks across the page in a pre-ordained order, some of them are so busy that they become hard to look at. Blanco’s beautiful Renee is far easier to behold than his Kate, who he imbues with large, crazy eyes when out of costume. My only misgiving regarding Renee’s portrayal is her prominence in Kate’s initial flashback (where are Julia and Beth?) and how similar she appears to Safiyah. I mentioned in my review for issue #17 that Rauch had opted to colour Kate’s hair a paler red; I was glad to see that this issue (with the exception of a couple of pages) it had returned to being the traditional blood-red. Lastly, the final page is a joy, complete with a painted sky worthy of Turner himself.
- You like to see heroes grow and learn from their experiences.
- You like to hear Batwoman talk. A lot.
- You like long, emotional endings (à la The Return of the King).
Overall: Appropriately, Batwoman #18 is an issue of varied quality to close out a hit-and-miss series. However, if you’ve been reading throughout Rebirth and you love Kate Kane, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.