With “Batwoman” #12, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are kicking off their third storyline, and it’s ultimately a relief on many levels. With so many DC Comics titles wrapping everything up this month to close out their first year (and get ready for next month’s #0 issue), it’s nice to see a book blatantly ignore that structure as to not sacrifice storytelling. And even more importantly, the guest-star this month is a good one.
I’m referring, of course, to Wonder Woman. Williams and Blackman cleverly call this storyline “World’s Finest,” a reference to the old team-ups between Superman and Batman. And for a book that has always been steeped in the mystical — both in its current incarnation and in Batwoman’s appearances pre-“Flashpoint” — this logical step of having Batwoman seek out Wonder Woman in order to find Medusa makes perfect sense.
What’s nice, though, is how Williams and Blackman make it more than just a simple team-up. We’ve got the great opening sequence illustrating how Batwoman comes to this conclusion involving a similar urban legend to the one that started this whole mess, and the subplots involving Kate’s love life and Bette’s slow recovery from a near-death experience are also integrated well into the narrative. Nothing feels left out or outstays its welcome, and it’s a reminder of how well Williams and Blackman have come to work together as writers over the past year.
What’s better than nice is Williams’ art, which is outstanding as ever. It’s great to see Williams back for this storyline (before theoretically taking a break on the art chores to draw next year’s “Sandman” miniseries) as he plays with storytelling and the overall look of the comic. I adore his “split-screen” pages early on, with Batwoman’s and Wonder Woman’s worlds side-by-side. The bat and star emblems coming together is a smart way to begin the look, and the circular path that Batwoman takes in the hall of mirrors with Wonder Woman’s panel trapped in the center is gorgeous. Williams is known for his inventive panel and page layouts; having something like a writhing snake serving as a page divider is not only clever, but it serves a purpose of guiding the eye across the two-page spread and telling the reader on a subconscious level what order to read the panels. And of course, the details themselves are amazing. The warped reflections of Batwoman and Abbot in the funhouse mirrors, the intricate and monstrous serpent creature Wonder Woman fights, or even the stark realism of the protest over the missing children outside the GCPD headquarters. Everything has its own distinct look, and they’re all top-notch.
As much as I appreciate Williams getting the extra time between the storylines he draws to have someone else step in and give him some breathing room (and I’d love to see Trevor McCarthy back on art again), there’s nothing quite like having Williams draw “Batwoman.” His and Blackman’s stories just shine a little more under their care, and the book changes from a “really want to read” to a “must read” in terms of priority. Great stuff from the duo, once again.