Ten issues of “Detective Comics,” later, the Batwoman lead feature is temporarily coming to a close. The good news is that the feature returns in July, although for how long and with which artist seems to still be the question of the day. But until those questions are answered, it seems a good a spot as any to stop and re-group to look at where the book has gone the past few months.
I have to give Greg Rucka credit, because when I first heard that Jock would draw “Detective Comics” #861-863, my initial thought was we were getting a fill-in story that wouldn’t be part of the larger Batwoman saga from Rucka and J.H. Williams III. It’s nice to be proven wrong; with the conclusion of “Cutter,” we’re not only seeing momentum in the relationship between Batwoman and her father, but also a change in the relationship between Batwoman and her cousin, Bette Kane. It’s a change in the story that I didn’t see coming, and it makes me all the more curious to see where Rucka goes next in “Detective Comics” #867.
More importantly, the script for the conclusion of “Cutter” makes what was once subtle, now overt. The case from the past is in a strong collision with the present, and the intercutting between the two picks up the pace until we’re shifting back and forth on a panel by panel basis. This kind of storytelling can easily fall apart, but there’s a strong flow and rhythm to the story that keeps moving effortlessly. In the previous issues it felt at times like we were seeing the differences between Batman and Batwoman, but here it’s showing their similarities.
The good news is that Jock’s art is as sharp and jagged as ever, its rough style fitting perfectly with the grim nature of “Cutter.” The slices between the two timelines feel natural, and Jock continues to have a strong visual storytelling sense. As a guest artist for Batwoman, he’s someone I’d cheerfully see back again. The bad news, though, is that Jock only draws half of this issue. Scott Kolins is a good artist in his own right, and on other books I welcome his contributions, but he doesn’t work well here. After two and a half issues of an art style with harsh angles and dark shadows, Kolins’s smoothness is a jarring transition. It’s a very standard, ordinary look for a book that for nine and a half issues has been anything but. There’s also a much more literal take on the mirror images on these pages, and while Kolins isn’t giving “bad” art by any sense of the word (this actually served as a reminder that I would like to see some more Kolins projects down the line), it’s just a bad fit for this story.
Meanwhile, in the second feature, I think that Rucka and Cully Hamner are nailing the limited page count in a way that now serves up small portions of story without feeling truncated or unfulfilling. Hamner’s art is as smooth and graceful as ever, and I like how well he handles the subtle moments like Renee and the Huntress giving knowing looks towards one another after a bad torture session. Rucka’s script treats Oolong Island with logic in a way that we aren’t seeing in other titles like “Doom Patrol,” as it spotlights just what a nasty, dangerous location it has become thanks to “52.” Having the Huntress as an associate in “The Question” is a smart move, and I’ll be sad when her time comes to an end in the feature.
It’s going to be three long months until Batwoman returns to “Detective Comics,” and even with a questionable choice of an artist to help finish up the issue, this is a reminder that it’s one of the best titles published by DC Comics right now. If Batwoman doesn’t move to her own title (there are conflicting reports on that front these days), I hope she sticks around in “Detective Comics” with Rucka at the help. (Plus, hopefully, as much Williams art as possible.) This is a top notch comic.