I was nervous about reading “Batwoman” #1. I don’t think it’s much of a secret that the character’s run in “Detective Comics” by Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, and Jock was a favorite of just about the entire CBR reviews staff at the time, and that was hardly a unique position. It’s been a year and a half since it came to a halt in “Detective Comics” #863, though, and Rucka has since left the project. So the promise of “Batwoman” has always felt a bit uncertain since then, that it could live up to the expectations it created before.
Here’s the good news: if you read the stories in “Detective Comics” before, you’re going to love “Batwoman” #1. Williams and W. Haden Blackman are now co-writing the comic, and it feels like they’re on the same page that Rucka was when it comes to Kate Kane. Batwoman is still doing her own thing, now with a protege under her wing while trying to find a mythical figure that’s kidnapping children. Kate Kane is also doing her own thing, trying to begin a relationship with Detective Maggie Sawyer even as her relationship with her father continues to crumble.
Williams and Blackman have paced the book out perfectly; in a matter of pages I felt fully drawn into the world of “Batwoman,” one where deadly strangeness lurks around the corner even as you want to stop and gawk at the beauty around you. And while it feels like the story’s just getting started when it comes to a conclusion, it’s not because of a slow pace but rather because so much is going on in Batwoman’s world. The only time the pace doesn’t quite work is when the book briefly stops for a massive dump of exposition about what happened in Batwoman’s ten issues of “Detective Comics.” I understand why it’s there (not only has been a year and a half, but with the re-launch of DC Comics chances are high there will be a lot of new readers who don’t know Batwoman’s story to date), but it is a slightly weak portion of an otherwise well-written comic.
And as for the art, well, it’s fantastic as always. Williams continues to play with page layouts; a series of panels with Kate and Bette in Kate’s home are fit into the structure of her building, with the rest of Gotham still existing outside of it, for example. Or when the pair run across the rooftop, it’s in a long two-page spread shaped in the form of Batwoman’s and Firebird’s logos combined. Within that stretch, Williams places thin, almost invisible panel borders around each position the pair is in as they run, but they’re subtle enough that you can look at it as a long unbroken single image with them appearing four times across its distance to show their movement. Of course, it helps that Williams isn’t just clever with page layouts; he’s an amazing artist, period. The grace of their movement along the rooftops flows perfectly, a great sign of how well Williams handles movement. And then there’s the chilling opening scene that (with help from the always great colorist Dave Stewart) feels like it’s actually taking place underwater, with the dreamlike blurs and drifts of the characters, coupled with the blue-green icy colors.
“Batwoman” #1 feels like it could have just as easily been “Detective Comics” #864. Aside from a tiny tweak or two to fit into the new setup of DC Comics (the most notable being Maggie Sawyer is now a Detective again, instead of a Captain) it fits in perfectly with what Rucka did up until now. More importantly, it’s very clear that “Batwoman” is in excellent hands. The character’s appearances in “Detective Comics” was one of the crown jewels of DC Comics, and “Batwoman” looks determined to follow in those footsteps.