DC Comics presents The New 52
By J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman
First of all, I will fully admit that I am not a big reader of DC Comics titles, I pick and choose certain titles based on the characters that I like. Batwoman being one of those characters. I found Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III to be one of the most stunning books that I had ever read & laid my eyes on artistically in a very long time. For me Batwoman: Elegy ranks up there with Watchmen by Alan Moore with the art styles, the colors & rendering, pacing of the story and the writing as a whole.
This year, in honor of the New 52’s one year anniversary, DC launched an Issue #0 for all titles which would give us more information on their New 52 backgrounds, some even getting new origins.
I’m happy to say that Batwoman was the exception to this whole rule and re-launch. This Issue #0 is an origin that gives us more background information of Kate Kane (Batwoman) but picks up just where Batwoman: Elegy left off…FYI Elegy was pre-New 52, or as I like to call it, New 52 B.C.
SPOILERS AHEAD: We flashback to Kate Kane as a child with her twin sister Beth, showing that, though twins, Kate is the rough & tumble troublesome tomboy and Beth is the sweet little bird; which is a nice twist considering Kate grows up to become Batwoman and Beth…well, dies, and then turns out to be alive and becomes Alice, Batwoman’s first villain out to KILL Batwoman knowing full well that Batwoman is Kate!
Kate talks about how after her mother and sister’s death, she kept it together as best she could by simply wanting to be just like her father: his inner strength, the grades he had in school, even going to West Point (side note, her New 52 B.C. origin mentioned in Elegy of getting kicked out of West Point for being outed as gay, still stands). After being kicked out of West Point thus begins a downward spiral for Kate of one night stands, tattoos, being a borderline alcoholic and she reveals that she liked being drunk because, not only did it take the pain away, but it allowed her father to take care of her again.
She doesn’t give us her true reason or her one moment yet as to what made her want to be Batwoman, she does give a quick little jab at Batman when she says that the moment could’ve been when she heard the gunshot that killed her mother and sister. But she does let us know that subconsciously she wanted her father to find out about her night time vigilante runs. In him finding out, he sent Kate away with his ‘murder of crows’ where she was schooled around the world for about 2 to 3 years. Learning and doing everything from motorcycle chases, boxing while bloody & bruised with a concussion, walking endless miles & near starvation in deserts, living in a basement full of crime scene photos & watching serial killer snuff films, being held in & escaping from torture chambers (yes, she was tortured also). All these things increasing her knowledge of the criminal mind, preparing her body for whatever battles she would endure, to see not only if she has what it takes to do what Batman does, but to see if she can handle it mentally, emotionally and physically as Kate Kane.
While in Africa helping people by administering vaccines, and feeding starved children, she gets her final mission: to save a family in Russia from a group of extremists. Upon getting there, pummeling through the extremists, she comes upon the family who are already dead, and the head of the extremist group still in the room with the dead family. Kate is enraged that she didn’t make it in time and in her blind rage attempts to kill the leader. But she doesn’t. Lucky for her she didn’t because as he unmasks it is revealed that it’s Kate’s father, staging the whole thing as her final test, to see if she would ever cross that line, the line that Batman never crosses, and she passed the test. To bring justice without letting vengeance get in the way.
This brings us to the end of the story. Kate tells us in this final bit of narration that she didn’t leave Gotham City as Kate Kane and returned as Batwoman, she feels she left Gotham a lost little girl and returned as Kate Kane. She then reveals that the significant moment in which she became Batwoman was when she realized that Alice was her sister Beth just as Alice/Beth fell out of a plane, when she realized that her father did not tell her Beth survived, when she knew she’d be in on this whole Batwoman thing alone.
The entire narration of this issue is Kate Kane leaving a voice message for her father via computer, something she apparently always does before a night out in Gotham as Batwoman in case she dies. If she doesn’t die, she deletes the message and creates a new one the next time. There is hardly any dialogue between characters, but when there is dialogue it’s simple & important.
The writing of the narration is phenomenal, again. I was hoping to get superb storytelling with this issue just like I got while reading Elegy, and I definitely got it.
The opening page and the final three pages of artwork are outstanding, it’s beautiful and very Elegy-like.
The rest of the art work? Meh. I understand that the art is a different style because, for the most part, it is a flashback issue and I shouldn‘t compare this issue to its predecessor, but when that is the standard you set for a first run you do have to keep that standard up. At the very least, the artists could’ve done something interesting with the panel layout. For such a compelling story, I feel the panel layout and art just fell flat. It did not, in any way, shape or form, meld with or enhance the narrative. While the narrative was great, the artwork, panel layout and panel pace bored me and I felt like I was using my imagination more for this then enjoying the artwork. Comic books are not only supposed to hold good storytelling but are supposed to be visually stimulating as well, that is what makes it a comic book. One without the other would simply make it either a piece of art or just a book.
Kudos for keeping Kate Kane/Batwoman’s origin the same as New 52 B.C. mythos; it would’ve been a poor decision for DC to change it, considering the one brief Batwoman run we got from New 52 B.C in Elegy which was a part of Detective Comics #854-860 in July 2010. Then, the second Batwoman story arc Hydrology that was supposed to begin immediately following Elegy was put on hold from that time until the New 52 re-launch in June 2011! Needless to say, I would’ve been very upset if I had waited an entire year for a new Batwoman story arc only for it all to be changed.
Bottom line, keep the writing on this issue. Ditch the artists and whoever approved that artwork and panel layout.