by Greg Rucka and JH Williams III
There’s only one reason I picked up this issue of Detective Comics: J H Williams’ artwork. Even just the preview pages were enough to show me this one looked perfectly gorgeous. It’s well worth it just for the art but as almost an added bonus Greg Rucka’s turned in a really good story to go with the oh-so pretty pictures.
But back to the art. J H Williams just does things with layouts that make me want to make “oooh” noises each time I turn a page. because every page needs at least 5 seconds to stare at the overview, the structure, the way Williams’ panels drag the eye almost physically around the page in ways few mainstream artists really try to do anymore. Yet he does it in such a way that it doesn’t really feel like he’s showboating. And whilst pages might be incredible, kinetic eye exercise, the actual panels themselves, the actual art is something quite marvellous as well. He masterfully shifts his style to look completely different in the three settings of the story. There’s the ever so dark and ever so red and incredibly angular design of the pages with Batwoman in costume. But once out of the costume Williams adopts two different styles around an almost clear line look. Quite beautiful stuff.
With no prior knowledge of the back story I initially worried that I’d find Batwoman a mess of continuity and mystery. But that’s when Greg Rucka’s tight story really works well. Every important aspect of Batwoman is here, laid out carefully and with enough detail to make it an enjoyable read yet never losing the correct sense of mystery and intrigue that comes with the character. There’s no need to know the Bat-universe inside out here, Rucka is telling us a cracking self-contained story.
He carefully yet quickly introduces Batwoman’s world; chats with Batman on Gotham’s rooftops; a new villain leading the Religion Of Crime, a group with an near deadly obssesion with Batwoman; the potentially soon to be ex-girlfriend who makes the obvious assumption about Kate’s sleepless nights and her partner in crime father, ex-colonel by the sounds of things, running the background tech and fully aware of his daughter’s nightime activities. There’s stories to tell in both of Kate Kane’s lives it seems.
(if you didn’t know, Batwoman is DC’s most high profile gay character – it’s big news outside of the book, but Rucka writes it without hype, almost without comment, it’s just an aspect of the character and no more. Credit to him for making it so.)
Perhaps the key moment for me, the moment I knew Greg Rucka was onto something here besides giving Williams something to draw came early on with Batman’s final advice to Kate before taking off. A small thing, but so well done it leaped out from the page:
“I’ll be watching if you need help.”
“Do something about your hair.”
“One pull, the fight’s over for you.”
“I’ll take it under advisement”
And with a narrow smile flashing across blood red lips Kate heads home where the first thing she does is slip off the flame-red wig to reveal the close crop. That moment was enough on it’s own to see Rucka had got the character right. That it all took place on Williams’ incredibly laid out page was icing on the cake. Look at the way the page flows across, eventually slowing and breaking as Batwoman becomes Kate once more. Sublime work that has only gotten better each time I’ve looked at it writing this.
I’d have recommended this for J H Williams’ artwork alone. But it’s a wonderful surprise to realise that Greg Rucka’s story may well be just as strong. Together I think we may have a Batman book I’ll be picking up each month – and I haven’t been able to say that for many years.