I’ll say this much for “Batwoman” #35: it’s not your typical Batwoman comic. Written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Georges Jeanty, the Rafael Albuquerque cover asks readers, “Who are the Unknowns?” By the end of this issue, readers have an idea, but no solid rationale providing a “how” or a “why” this title has made such an absurd and deliberate shift to something resembling a rejected 1980s script for “Batman and the Outsiders.”
That’s not to say this is a bad comic, it’s just weird. Titled “Mystery in Space,” this story throws the reader into the midst of a melee between Batwoman with her bizarre collection of allies — her sister (Red Alice), Etrigan, Clayface and Ragman — against the hordes of Morgan Le Fay. In space. With a green, glowing rock at the center of the calamity.
Andreyko still uses Batwoman as the point of view character, providing snippets in caption boxes, but at no point does he afford the readers the luxury of any explanation. Nothing about how the team came together, why they’re in space (other than to fight Le Fay), or if they were even successful before the end of the issue. Furthermore, the writer doesn’t explain why Batwoman’s erstwhile allies — Ragman, Clayface and Etrigan — don’t have spacesuits. Yes, part of the answer, certainly, is that it would not only hinder their powers, but also totally compromise the visual impact. Somehow, without the suits, that trio still manages to communicate — audibly! — in space. Andreyko takes suspension of disbelief to an entirely different level here, especially since a critical plot point involves another character and a compromised spacesuit!
Jeanty’s art, while clean and crisp, doesn’t completely fit the oddball nature of this story. If this same group were on Earth, it might be a little more on pointe, but in space, fighting Morgan Le Fay, it just seems off. It is almost as though Jeanty needs more to ground his characters, which simply doesn’t happen in space. His characters are distinct (even Batwoman and Red Alice in their spacesuits) are display a nice range of emotions and body types, but some of the characters, like Ragman and especially Etrigan, are too neat and tidy. While Etrigan still bears the horns and fin-like ears, the rest of his face is hardly hideous and almost not even demonic. Le Fay is more sinister in appearance than Etrigan.
The inking trio of Karl Story, Scott Hanna and Dexter Vines has more than enough room to prove their worth as they fill the dark void of space in nearly every panel in “Batwoman” #35. Guy Major colors the spots in and around the characters in space and does so with a very heroic palette, but the darkness of space and the choices in Major’s palette cannot stop the story from blending right into the goofy “American Dad” advertisement in colors of the same timbre. Letterer Todd Klein balances the voices in this comic nicely, and assigns the obligatory “medieval” font to Etrigan’s speeches. Klein employs no shortage of sound effects, which because it is in space, seems like wasted effort, but elevates the comic book science quotient significantly.
While there is absolutely no solid indication that their mission was successful before “Batwoman” #35 runs out of space (no pun intended), this may wind up being a much better story once more of the foundation is under it. For right now, “Batwoman” #35 seems like the idea wall after ideas have just been thrown at it and these are the pieces that were sticky enough to not fall to the floor. With this ragtag bunch of characters in place, I’m willing to come back for a couple issues to see how this all shakes out, but presently, it seriously seems as though it could all end with Kate Kane waking up saying, “I just had the strangest dream!”