J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman and Trevor McCarthy are back together again for “Batwoman” #22, as the plotting of both Batwoman and the D.E.O. sets their plans in motion to snatch Alice and Batman’s identity, respectively. In a sudden nod to pre-New 52 history, Williams and Blackman logically have Batwoman go after one of the few characters who definitively took down Batman in the past.
The writing this month is a little slow, which makes sense. This is a story where everyone metaphorically and literally moves their pieces into place. Batwoman’s being a good agent for the D.E.O. even as Batwoman’s father and Flamebird help with the mission to rescue Alice. Between bringing in Bane (whose appearance doesn’t quite mesh with “Talon”) and a new mercenary team called the Murder of Crows, this is a lot of introductions but not that much action.
Speaking of the Murder of Crows, their introduction both does and doesn’t work. These are characters who feel like they’re right out of a Greg Rucka novel (especially since, of course, Rucka wrote the Batwoman stories in “Detective Comics”), with well-grounded and realistic personalities and abilities. At the same time, they’re introduced in essentially a huge information dump. It’s a little clumsy and there was a better way to introduce them other than having “Secret Files” blurbs next to each of their faces.
McCarthy’s pencils are nice, and he brings a mixture of Williams’ layouts and his own to the comic. There are some of the big two-page spreads, but they aren’t the exclusive manner of storytelling; when it suffices, traditional all-on-one-page layouts show up here. McCarthy has fun with the two pagers, though; having Batwoman kick Bane across the center panel row is a nice touch that instantly signals the reader on how the pages should be read as they follow Bane’s body. The two-page spreads are exclusively when Batwoman’s around; if it’s just Flamebird or the Murder of Crows, the book shifts out of the ornate and into the more mundane. It’s a subtle but smart storytelling technique.
“Batwoman” #22 is in many ways a middle of the road comic. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t dazzle either. It gets the job done, though, and there’s a real promise given here of big stories to come in the next couple of issues. If those deliver, the transition time here will have been well worth it.