While I like the idea behind “Batwoman” #15 — one of readers seeing the story from Maggie’s ground level/police force point of view — the execution by J.H. Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman, and Trevor McCarthy leaves a lot to be desired.
On the writing front, Maggie’s narration feels heavy handed, overwritten and not particularly insightful. It’s also wildly repetitive, which is deliberate (I think) but just doesn’t quite work the way it needs to in order to feel both impactful and poetic. The repetition is further frustrated by the fact that as readers we know a lot of this story already since we are seeing parts of the story a second time from a new perspective. When you switch POVs like this I feel like it can bring new insight and revelation to the table, but we don’t really get anything like that here. There’s no amazing missing piece of the mystery revealed to us by stepping into Maggie’s shoes, we just get her point of view and some back-story and that’s that. Add to that the writing (and plotting) between Maggie and the parents of the kidnapped children, as well as an exchange with one parent and the “kidnapper,” is not particularly deft or subtle work and the whole thing just feels a bit like a failed experiment.
While Trevor McCarthy’s work is a good fit for this issue focusing on Maggie and the police force and less the superhero and supernatural elements, on the whole I found it lacked emotion. Though it has a nice gritty feel that is appropriate, and despite the grittiness it was extremely pretty to look at, there were almost no real expressions throughout the book. Maggie Sawyer looks the same whether she is asking someone for help (apparently the first time she’s asked for help since she was a child) or if she’s staring down a gunman. And while I can appreciate the idea of the grizzled cop that constantly has her guard up and is thus emotionless, it just didn’t connect for me here. The story asks a lot of readers emotionally and the art just did not help get us there.
There is also a bizarre page that honestly seems as if it’s been drawn by someone else entirely. Maggie suddenly looks like a man and nothing like how McCarthy has drawn her throughout the rest of the issue. It’s just… odd. Additionally, and I’m shocked by this since Guy Major is an exceptional colorist, there were some coloring mistakes — like the color of Maggie’s eyes changing — sometimes blue and sometimes brown. Things like that made the book feel a bit sloppy, and unworthy of what I’ve come to expect of the visuals on a J.H. Williams book — whether he is the primary artist or not.
The “Batwoman” ongoing always had very big shoes to fill after the exceptional “Batwoman: Elegy” from Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s “Detective Comics” run that set the stage, but issues like this don’t even come close to that quality. It’s not a “bad” comic but it’s hard to not compare it to what we all know it can be, especially since we’ve seen it before.