On his blog, J. H. Williams III has indicated that his run on “Detective Comics” may actually not continue in “Detective Comics” at all. Perhaps that “Batwoman” series will happen after all, based on hints he has dropped, with the return of Bruce Wayne scheduled for next year (an event that will surely put Batman back into the series he began his career in).
I point that out just for the sake of saying this: For what is possibly J. H. Williams III’s final issue on the Batwoman serial in “Detective Comics,” this is a hell of an issue. He goes out with a bang.
It’s not that this issue is flashier than the previous ones, because they’ve all looked astonishing. It’s just that Williams is the best artist working on superhero comics today. And in “Detective Comics” #860, which wraps up the Origin of Batwoman story called “Four Years Ago,” Williams transitions from his Mazzuchelli/Lark style to what might be termed his “base” style (similar to what we saw in “Chase” all those years ago) to the painted-Steranko-times-infinity style of the Batwoman on patrol today. Those transitions reflect the movement through Batwoman’s life, from early gas-mask-sporting vigilante, to years of training, to nightly prowls. Man, it’s impressive to look at.
So impressive, in fact, that a relative of mine was visiting our house for Christmas — and this is a person who never reads comics, and has shown no interest in comics — and I couldn’t resist showing her what Williams was doing inside this issue. I never just randomly accost my relatives with comic book talk, but here I was, showing this person how Williams used various storytelling devices to change the tone of each era of Batwoman’s life. It was something I felt compelled to share. It’s just so exciting.
Greg Rucka writes a strong story here as well, quickly moving from the past to the present, as we see brief moments of Kate Kane transforming into Batwoman. Her Alfred is her father. Her training, similar to Batman, and her tragedy is no less personal. She is, of course, Batwoman, so her character depends upon her symbolic relationship with the Dark Knight Detective, but Rucka has done a fine job giving her a presence of her own. She isn’t a female Batman. She’s Kate Kane, and she’s adopted the symbol of the Bat, as her father says, so “everyone knows whose side [she’s] on.” And though the origin story ends by tying back to the beginning — with the mystery of her sister — it sets up a firm foundation for whatever happens next with Rucka,Williams, and the character. Wherever that story takes place.
Even the Question co-feature is strong this month, with Cully Hamner drawing some impressive pages of Renee Montoya out of uniform, and the always-interesting Aristotle Rodor.
While this may be the final J. H. Williams III story in “Detective Comics” for a while, maybe ever, it’s a wonderful one. And it’s yet another example of why I ranked this series as one of the best comics — the best superhero series — of 2009.