Women of Action is an experiment exploring superhero series starring and named after women. Which are worth supporting, which aren’t, and why?
Batwoman’s blessing and its curse is its stunning art and design by JH Williams III. I know it’s weird to call it a curse, but in my case, when every mention I hear about a comic begins and ends with the art, it gets me wondering about the story, and not in a good way. Pair that apprehension with a start date that got pushed back several times and I was downright skittish, so it took me a while to check out Batwoman. I probably never would have except for my decision to read more comics starring and named after female superheroes.
I don’t know why more people don’t mention the story in Batwoman (well, I do – see: The Art – but the story’s still not mentioned as much as it should be), because it’s amazing. Williams’ contribution to the comic is more than imaginative page layouts and long, flowing hair. Everyone knows that he’s also a co-writer, but I’m not talking about that either. It’s how the mood of the comic perfectly matches the gothic, spooky tone of the ghost story that Williams and other co-writer W. Haden Blackman chose for their introductory arc. It’s one thing to say that comics are a mixture of story and art; it’s quite another thing to see those two elements work together as well as they do in Batwoman.
As for the character herself, I suspect that a lot of the hard work on her was done by Greg Rucka (I haven’t read Elegy yet, but I’m going to now). Even if that’s true though, Williams and Blackman are worthy successors and present Kate Kane as a complicated, torn, but so heroic woman. The way Williams draws her plays into that too, making her look stoic, but tortured; as much a part of the darkly romantic look of the comic as Gotham’s architecture or the fluid panel borders. Colorist Dave Stewart also adds to this by giving Kane supernaturally pale skin, something I hear is explained in Elegy, but doesn’t need to be understood to appreciate how stunning and moody it looks.
Seriously, Batwoman’s not just one of the best female superheroes with a comic right now; she’s one of the best superheroes period. She’s mature in the true sense of the word – no scare-quotes needed – and that makes her comic grownup too. No decapitations or blood-spitting or fan service; just a multifaceted woman having complex relationships as she helps people and fights some crime.