With J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman having abruptly departed “Batwoman,” it’s safe to say that incoming writer Marc Andreyko’s first issue on the title was going to be held up to some careful scrutiny. But with his debut being an editorially-mandated “Zero Year” tie-in with the storyline in “Batman,” coupled with four different pencilers drawing the comic, it feels like the deck was stacked against everyone right from the start.
It’s a little frustrating because “Batwoman” was right in the middle of a storyline, so shifting away to a “Zero Year” tie-in within a book that had up until now avoided all crossovers feels like a strange choice to make. I understand that the allure of higher sales with the tie-in was a real possibility, but at the same time in a book that was almost certainly rushed into production, not being able to put your best foot forward by having to follow someone else’s storyline seems like potential for disaster. Andreyko avoids a lot of the potential pitfalls, but this is still not his most exciting of scripts. Watching Kate Kane suddenly in the mix with Bruce Wayne and Alfred feels a little odd, but even more so is having her don a hoodie to go fight crime.
The problem is that it’s hard to shoehorn Batwoman into “Zero Year” since she wasn’t a superhero at that point, and short of going the “Nightwing” #25 where everyone is coincidentally out on the town when the blackout hits, there’s not an elegant way to move her into the story. It’s not bad (although her new “first meeting” with an important face from her present day feels a little incredulous) but at the same time it’s very by-the-numbers. There’s nothing that makes this story stand out, and until Andreyko’s had a chance to catch his breath and come up with his own storyline (hopefully next month), I feel that’s to be expected.
The bigger issue is that with four different takes on the visuals (Trevor McCarthy, Andrea Mutti, Pat Oliffe, Jim Fern), “Batwoman” #25 has no artistic consistency. They’re all at varying degrees on a spectrum, with one minute seeing super-clean and polished art, the next minute a rougher and more folded look to the figures. Shifts between artists happen at times in the middle of a scene, and that’s where it looks the most jarring. None of the artists are bad, but they don’t work together with the greatest of ease, and the end result is not that pleasant.
I’m more than willing to give “Batwoman” another chance next month. Andreyko’s written a lot of good comics in the past (most notably his 38-issue run on “Manhunter”) and incoming artist Jeremy Haun has proven himself in the past, too. This feels like a comic ultimately hindered by the restraints put on it between scheduling and attempts for a tie-in sales boost. Not a great debut for Andreyko, but under the circumstances, more than understandable.