Batwoman #3

Three issues into the rebooted DC Universe, Batwoman's surroundings are starting to congeal nicely, even as it appears that her personal life is shattering. J. H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman give us the third installment of the Weeping Woman saga, but the story in the comic is not limited to simply being another installment. This is a slice of Kate Kane's life -- all aspects of it -- delivered in a jam-packed, quick-reading, begging-to-be-studied twenty pages.

Williams and Blackman give us the whole shebang here: the Colonel returns to these pages, Cameron Chase and the D.E.O. pop up, the Weeping Woman has a showdown with Batwoman, Bette Kane has a career-defining moment, and Maggie Sawyer learns a little bit more about heartache and helps try to heal a heartbreak. The book chugs along nicely, and it wasn't until I started thumbing through for this review that I realized just how densely packed these pages are.

It helps that Williams is co-writing for his own artwork. It's that setup that allows Williams to spend seven pages focused on Batwoman's encounter with the Weeping Woman, but never does that feel like a third of the book is gone before the story finds another gear and Batwoman is confronted by Cameron Chase. Williams has a different style, it seems, for various scenes, and even for different characters, as Cameron Chase is harshly defined by strong lines, dense shadow, and chiaroscuro, much as she was in her own title, also drawn by Williams, way back when. Batwoman -- sharing panels with Chase -- is painted and hauntingly beautiful. Maggie Sawyer is more like a figure from an art nouveau poster, but they all blend together, layering the issue with personalities and subtexts that transcend simple art and words collections.

If there's a better-looking comic book on the new comics rack this week, I didn't see it. Come to think of it, this is one of the best looking comics I've read in. . . well. . . ever. Longtime readers of my reviews (Hi Mom!) might recall that I like art by George Perez, Kevin Maguire, Arthur Adams, Ivan Reis, and Greg Capullo, among others, but J. H. Williams' work is so very different from standard comic book fare that I cannot find any correlation between him and the names I've just dropped, save they're all comic artists. Williams gained my interest during his work on "Chase," but nothing could have prepared me for the gorgeous work I get to consume every month with this book.

Dave Stewart's colors magically merge with the artwork from Williams and make this book that much more of a visual treat. Todd Klein's letters join in on the presentation and fit quite perfectly. If I didn't know better, I would suspect the three visual creators were an arm's length away, sharing notes, nudges, and recommendations to raise one another's work quite effectively.

Perhaps inspired by the magnificent artwork, this story is picking up its pace, adding more problems for Batwoman, more depth to the world around her, and more winks and nods for longtime DC readers, all the while doing a great job looking beautiful the whole way. I know the Weeping Woman tale needs to end at some point, but it truly doesn't feel tired or drawn out yet. Life goes on around tragedy, and Williams and Blackman are doing a great job showing us that.

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